A financial analysis of lime application in a long-term agronomic experiment on the south-western slopes of New South Wales

Guangdi Li, Rajinder Singh, John Brennan, Keith Helyar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Management of Acid Soils Through Efficient Rotations (MASTER) is a long-term agronomic experiment commenced in 1992. There were 3 fundamental treatment contrasts in this experiment: (a) annual systems v. perennial systems; (b) limed v. unlimed treatments; and (c) permanent pastures v. pasture'crop rotations. The soil was acidic to depth with pH (in CaCl2) below 4.5 and exchangeable Al above 40% at 0.10'0.20m when the experiment started. Lime was applied every 6 years to maintain soil pHCa at 5.5 in the 0'0.10m soil depth. A financial analysis was undertaken to estimate potential benefits and costs involved in liming acid soils on the south-western slopes of New South Wales, based on data from the MASTER experiment. The most important finding from the current study is that liming pastures on soils that have a subsurface acidity problem is profitable over the long-term for productive livestock enterprises. The pay-back period for liming pastures, grazed by Merino wethers, was 14 years for both annual and perennial pastures. More profitable livestock enterprises, such as prime lambs or growing-out steers, were estimated to reduce the pay-back period. This gives farmers confidence to invest in a long-term liming program to manage highly acid soils in the traditional permanent pasture region of the high-rainfall zone (550'800 mm) of south-eastern Australia. Results from the current study also confirmed that the total financial return from liming is greater if the land is suitable for operation of a pasture'crop rotation system. The positive cash flows generated from cropping in a relatively short time can significantly shorten the pay-back period for the investment in lime. But cropping without liming on soils with subsurface acidity was worse than grazing animals. Crop choice is crucial for the perennial pasture'crop rotation. Inclusion of high-value cash crops, such as canola or a wheat variety with high protein, would lead to a rise in theaggregate benefits over time as the soil fertility improved and soil acidity was gradually ameliorated
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-23
Number of pages12
JournalCrop and Pasture Science
Volume61
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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