Agricultural services in Australia launch arginine testing for grape growers to improve understanding of nitrogen levels and boost application methodologies.

Famed for its wine exports, Australia is also developing new markets for the export of table grapes to countries in neighbouring South East Asia, United Arab Emirates and Russia. With a combined cultivation of 153,000 ha, equating to 1.7 million tonnes of grapes, the fruit is one of the country’s most economically significant horticultural industries.

Maximising Yields

As with any cropping operations, adequate nutrition is essential to help drive maximum yield potential and some 16 essential nutrients are required to sustain plant growth. In the early stages of crop growth, nitrogen is one of the most important of the essential elements required to promote vegetative production. It helps a plant to maximise its phytosynthethic capacity and thereby ensures the production of sufficient carbohydrates and sugars in the end product.

Traditionally, little thought is given by the industry to nitrogen levels at the end stages of the crop. It is commonly believed that increasing vegetative growth at the later stages of the crop cycle is detrimental to sugar accumulation. However, its application to promote growth either at, or just prior to harvest, may not be such an issue.

Foliar application of nutrients at postharvest, just prior to leaf fall, is a common agronomic technique in many horticultural sectors. The loading of key trace elements such as zinc, boron and manganese, is commonly practiced to create adequate plant reserves in the following season’s flush in Australia’s pome and grape industries. The application of nitrogen is also used, but to a lesser extent. Late picking and the proximity of cool conditions limit the use of this technique in some geographical growing areas, but there is potential for further development.

Having adequate plant reserves of nitrogen is essential for the following crop season. Cool conditions at the early development stages of crops do not allow for mineralisation of soil reserves. Limited plant foliage makes foliar application of nitrogen sources impractical.

Arginine Testing

There is a good relationship between arginine and the internal storage of nitrogen in grape, and to a lesser extent, almond plantings. Arginine testing can help growers to identify the need for nitrogen application.

In Peru, SGS has for some time offered arginine testing of plant roots. With the help of techniques developed by Jorge Bazo, SGS Peru, our Australian operations will explore and develop this service in the Australian market through the 2014/15 growing season. With the advent of this service, local growers and consultants can determine if they have adequate, or require additional late season nitrogen applications to help with the following season’s crop needs. In addition, there is a growing interest in the use of controlled (methylene urea) and inhibited nitrogen sources. The role and benefits that these play in late season timings can also be determined through arginine testing.

Strength Through Sharing

The company’s scale allows us to share scientific data and techniques between countries and regions to help growers increase efficiency worldwide.

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For further information, please contact:

Jon McCarthy
Business Manager – Seed & Crop
SGS Australia Pty. Ltd.
59 Bancroft St Pinkenba, Brisbane, Queensland 4008
t: +61 7 3622 4700