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Increasing N fixation in pulse crops through improved rhizobia, inoculation and crop management practices
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The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is a statutory corporation established under the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989. It is subject to accountability and reporting obligations set out in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. It is responsible for planning, investing in and overseeing research and development, and delivering improvements in production, sustainability and profitability across the Australian grains industry.
As well as generating useful income, pulses provide significant benefits to following crops, including nitrogen (N) fixation boosting N supplies to following crops. Pulses are estimated to fix about 120 kg N/ha or more than 220,000 tonnes N across Australia, worth about $220 M each year. However, not all pulses are well nodulated and fix N to their potential, especially on acidic soils. It was recently estimated that N fixation could be increased by 25%.
Apart from narrow-leafed lupins, pulses prefer neutral to alkaline soils and their performance declines on soils below pH 5.5 (measured in calcium chloride). Compared to current commercial inoculants, rhizobial strains for faba bean have been identified with improved tolerance to soils between pH 5.5 and 4.5, which could also be useful for lentil, field pea and vetch. Acid tolerant rhizobial strains were first identified in the glasshouse and limited field experiments have shown their potential to double nodulation and the amount of N fixed by faba bean on acid soils. The improved strains increased faba bean yields significantly and have potential to expand its production in medium and high rainfall areas. Similar improvements in chickpea rhizobia may increase its area of adaption.
Crop protection and trace element seed treatments, herbicides and soil constraints other than acidity are also factors that may be contributing to the underperformance of legume inoculants. Limited tests have shown that the seed fungicides Thiram and P-Pickel T carry a high risk of killing rhizobia and inhibiting nodulation of faba bean, lentil and field pea, while Gaucho is of relatively low toxicity. Zinc sulphate seed treatments are also highly toxic to rhizobia. Herbicides, particularly residues of Group B herbicides, are known to damage legume roots and can potentially decrease infection sites for rhizobia and nodulation. However, such effects are easily overlooked in the field and have not been thoroughly investigated. A recent study showed that field pea crops are sometimes well nodulated, but N fixation is sub optimal. The cause of this poor fixation is not understood, however herbicide effects are suspected. The impact of crop protection chemistry on N fixation and the implication of herbicide tolerant varieties needs to be better understood, especially as pulses expand onto less favourable soils in low and high rainfall areas. In addition, improvements to rhizobial carriers and inoculation methods may be possible, especially when sowing pulses into dry soil.
The GRDC seeks to enhance nitrogen (N) fixation of winter pulse crops through improved rhizobial strains for hostile soils and enhanced inoculation practices that minimise the potential impact of fertiliser and crop protection applications, and maximise rhizobial survival, nodulation and nodule function. These improvements will broaden the adaptation of pulses onto soil types and areas where they are currently not widely cultivated. This three year R&D investment, starting early 2018, will be supported by a separate extension and communication investment to promote awareness of nodulation and N fixation in pulses, and adoption of best inoculation practices.
By June 2022, growers in the southern region have access to improved rhizobial strains compared to the current commercial inoculums for winter pulse crops, plus best management practices for optimising nodulation and nitrogen (N) fixation, including minimising the impact of fertiliser and crop protection applications.
These innovations will enhance N fixation and production of pulse crops with flow on benefits to following crops, and enable expansion of pulses onto soil types and in agro-ecological zones where they are currently not widely grown.
The indicative GRDC investment is up to $1.56 million. The GRDC is focused on delivering value to Australian grain growers; therefore, your application must demonstrate fair market value. Leverage of GRDC funds through in-kind and cash co-contributions is viewed favourably. Applicants should comply with the tender requirements and draft GRDC standard Two Party or Multi-party Research Agreements.
Applying for GRDC investments is now done using the GRDC Grains Investment Portal. Once registered, users can visit the Portal anytime.
To register as a user, please visit https://access.grdc.com.au/
- Click on the register button at the top right side
- Complete the Registration Form. Fill in all the fields: your email address, a password and the captcha. Your password must be alphanumeric with at least one special character (i.e. not a letter or number. Click register to continue the process
- Registration is confirmed by the system sending an email to you, with details to complete the registration process.
- Once the registration process is complete, you can sign in and review all investments open for tender.
Once you have located this investment, you can commence the application process by completing the details for each field available, until you reach “Submit Application” on the last page.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact Denni Greenslade – Business Support Team Leader via email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the online support function available.
1. The Applicant must be a single legal entity or recognised firm of partners.
2. The Applicant must be financially viable. For the purposes of this condition, “financially viable” means that the Tenderer has not had any of the following events occur in respect of it:
a. a meeting of creditors being called or held within the past five years;
b. the appointment of a liquidator, provisional liquidator or administrator within the past five years;
c. the appointment of a controller (as defined in section 9 of the Corporations Act (2001)), or analogous person appointed, including in respect of any of its property within the past five years;
d. a failure to comply with a statutory demand in respect of the payment of any debt;
e. an inability to pay debts as they fall due or otherwise becoming insolvent;
f. becoming incapable of managing its own affairs for any reason;
g. taking any step resulting in insolvency under administration (as defined in section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001);
h. entering into a compromise or arrangement with, or assignment for the benefit of, any of its creditors, or any analogous event.
3. The Applicant and any proposed subcontractor must be compliant with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
4. The Applicant must include in its application details of any known circumstances that may give rise to an actual or potential Conflict of Interest with GRDC in responding to this procurement. The Applicant's response will be taken into account in the evaluation
5. The Applicant must be a recognised research institution with a proven track record in agronomy, farming systems and/or soil science.
30 March 2018 to 30 June 2021
By portal submission only at https://access.grdc.com.au/