An economic analysis of the field performance of North Carolina reactive phosphate rock compared with single superphosphate for selected sites from the National Reactive Phosphate Rock Project Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Summary. An economic analysis was undertaken using pasture yield data from 8 selected sites from the National Reactive Phosphate Rock Project, that encompassed 7 different performance scenarios for North Carolina phosphate rock. The aims were to determine whether the use of North Carolina phosphate rock in place of single superphosphate might result in a positive financial benefit in the 4th year, and after 4 years of annual applications of fertiliser. The analysis was carried out using annual P applications of North Carolina phosphate rock and single superphosphate, that resulted in pasture yields equivalent to 50, 70 or 90% of the maximum yield response of single superphosphate in the 4th year. Annual pasture dry matter yields, produced by these fertiliser applications, were converted to stocking rates, and dollar incomes were derived by applying appropriate gross margins. The analysis was also undertaken to determine the financial benefit from large, year-1 applications of North Carolina phosphate rock. Single superphosphate was priced at $168/t while North Carolina phosphate rock plus sulfur was priced at $180/t. The economic analysis found that a positive financial benefit with North Carolina phosphate rock occurred for only one scenario where the agronomic performance of North Carolina phosphate rock and single superphosphate were equivalent in the 4th year of annual fertiliser application. For 3 other scenarios where the performance of North Carolina phosphate rock and single superphosphate were also equivalent in the 4th year, the economic performance of North Carolina phosphate rock was poor due to (i) a ‘lag’ effect where pasture yield with North Carolina phosphate rock was generally less than that with single superphosphate in years 1–3, and/or to (ii) a seasonal effect where the autumn–early winter pasture responses with North Carolina phosphate rock were less than those with single superphosphate, necessitating a reduction in annual stocking rates on the North Carolina phosphate rock-fertilised pasture. A key finding was that large, single, year-1 applications of North Carolina phosphate rock generally overcame these seasonal and/or yearly lag effects, and led to positive financial benefits from North Carolina phosphate rock applied in this way. Annual applications of North Carolina phosphate rock were economically viable at sandy, high rainfall sites where water-soluble P from single superphosphate would be readily leached from the root zone, provided that the soil P status was adequate and conditions were conducive to reactive phosphate rock dissolution. However, North Carolina phosphate rock was not an economically viable fertiliser to apply annually at (i) non-leaching sites where the soil P status was low and marked yield penalties occurred in the first few years of North Carolina phosphate rock use, (ii) where the soil had a very high P-sorption capacity, and (iii) where North Carolina phosphate rock dissolution was restricted by low rainfall or high pH. The inclusion of estimated residual P value had only a small impact on the economic outcome for scenarios which had not already performed poorly due to seasonal or lag effects.

publication date

  • 1997