Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australia's horticulture industry. Its role is to advance Australia’s $16 billion horticulture industry by investing in research and development, marketing and trade to build a prosperous and sustainable future for growers.
2024 Nuffield Scholar
Finding a nitrogen fix for vegetable cropping systems
As a horticultural researcher at Applied Horticultural Research, Stephanie Tabone identifies solutions to challenges that growers experience in vegetable crop production. She supports growers through a range of communication and extension activities to try, and adopt improved practices to increase the productivity, profitability and sustainability of their farming operations. Now, having received a 2024 Nuffield Scholarship supported by Hort Innovation under the Vegetable Research and Development Levy, she will investigate the use of legumes as an alternative nitrogen source for vegetable cropping systems.
Stephanie says growers have experienced rising input costs, changes in climatic extremes and increasing consumer demands for more sustainably grown produce, requiring them to become more resilient and able to adapt to these emerging trends.
"Nitrogen fertilisers have a large greenhouse gas emissions footprint through the manufacturing process, transport and in-field use, highlighting the need for alternative nitrogen solutions," Stephanie says.
"Legumes can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere through a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia bacteria. They can also help to improve soil health and offer other rotational benefits. The challenge is knowing when the nitrogen will be released into plant-available forms.”
Stephanie will explore the factors that drive nitrogen release, and the practical strategies that can be used to sync the release with the nitrogen needs of a succeeding vegetable crop. She hopes to visit researchers from Auburn University in the US, the ICAR Central Soil Salinity Research Institute in Karnal, India, and Aarhus University in Denmark. She says these institutions have conducted research looking at nitrogen release from legume residues using different management practices and predictive models. She also hopes to visit leading growers who are effectively using legumes as an alternative nitrogen source to learn about their management strategies and growing environments.
Stephanie's research aligns with the 2022 – 2026 strategic plan for the vegetable industry, which aims to enhance supply, productivity, and sustainability of farming systems.
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