29 Nov 2013

Digging up scientific data to better design Regen Nitrogen

Every week, we release a story directly told by those who are at the very heart of the creation of ReGen Nitrogen. This week, we begin with Sonia who tells us about all the research she is leading at ReGen to make Regen: Nitrogen the most efficient nitrogen tool available on the market. 

Sonia has a background in environmental science with a keen interest in soil management. She graduated with an honours degree in Environmental Science from Lincoln University in 2000. The last eight years of her career has been spent in the field of greenhouse gas reporting. She wanted to get back into soil science so she’s delighted to be given the opportunity to work for ReGen in an area of science she is passionate about.

I’m currently working for ReGen to collect and analyse the publicly available research on nitrogen that has been conducted over several decades in New Zealand. This includes pasture response to nitrogen fertiliser and the impact of environmental variables, such as soil conditions, on pasture growth. This research will underpin the new tool ReGen Nitrogen that we are developing.

 The scientific literature confirms pasture response to nitrogen fertiliser is dependent on a number of factors, such as soil conditions, soil fertility, pasture specificity and other factors that ReGen staff is either determining or refining.

My work over the past two months has focused on two major areas: nitrogen fertiliser application rate and the effect of soil conditions on pasture growth.

There are many studies on the effect of nitrogen fertiliser application rates to pasture response that have been conducted around New Zealand. While collating the research it has become clear that there is a general trend that pasture response rates decline at higher nitrogen fertiliser application rates; yet, there is a lot of variability in the results

Among the factors that explain this variability is the diversity of types of trials that have been undertaken. They have been made on different soils types, pastures, seasons, regions, soil fertility and most of all over multiple years. It is thus no surprise that there is such a variability. 

So, we decided to work with a team of talented statisticians to fine tune our pasture response curve to nitrogen application rate that will take this variability into account.

Collating research on soil conditions has thrown up some different challenges. For example, there appears to be very little research specifically about soil temperature effects on pasture growth in New Zealand. There are general principles/rules of thumb around expected growth rates between 5 and 14˚C.There is not much else out of this type of research. 
Moreover, it is worth noticing that so far there have not been many studies found on how ryegrass pastures in New Zealand respond to soil temperatures between 18 and 30˚C, when no other factors such as soil moisture are limiting. 

So, if you have access to or know of research in this area we would love to know about it!

Our research is ongoing and as more studies are collated and analysed, the data in ReGen Nitrogen will be refined to ensure it reflects the best science available.

Sonia Petrie


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