Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 59–68 | Cite as

Powdered granite is not an effective fertilizer for clover and wheat in sandy soils from Western Australia

  • M.D.A. Bolland
  • M.J. Baker


Granite (silicate) rock dust, a by-product of quarry operations, is being advocated and used as a fertilizer in the wheatbelt of south-western Australia (WA). The dust is insoluble and based on its nutrient element content (1.9% K and 0.3%P and negligible N) it is not expected to be a useful fertilizer. Previous laboratory studies and glasshouse experiments in WA suggest the dust is a slow release K fertilizer. This paper extends the previous studies to consider the dust as an NP or K fertilizer in the year of application in a field experiment on a soil deficient in N, P and K. In addition, the effectiveness of the dust as a K fertilizer was compared with the effectiveness of KCl (muriate of potash), the K fertilizer used in WA at present, in glasshouse experiments using K deficient soils. In the field experiment, compared with NP fertilizer or NPK fertilizer (urea, supplying N; superphosphate, providing P, S, Ca, Cu, Zn and Mo; KCl providing K), the dust had no effect on grain yield of wheat (Triticum aestivum); in fact dust applied at 20 t ha-1, for unknown reasons, reduced yields by about 65% compared to the nil (no fertilizer, no dust) treatment. Relative to the nil treatment, applying NPK fertilizer increased yields about threefold, from 0.54 to 1.79 t ha. The glasshouse experiments showed that, relative to KCl, the dust was from about 0.02 to 14% as effective in K deficient grey sandy soils for producing dried tops of 30-day old wheat plants or 42-day old clover (Trifolium subterraneum) plants. In soils with adequate K (yellow sands, sandy loams or clays, loamy clays, clay loams and clays), neither KCl nor the dust affected yields of 30 to 42-day old wheat or clover plants grown in the glasshouse. In the glasshouse experiments, no yield depressions were measured for the dust applied up to 17 g dust per kg soil (equivalent to 17 t dust ha-1 mixed into the top 10 cm of soil in the field). It is concluded that the dust has no value as a fertilizer.

bicarbonate-extractable potassium muriate of potash potassium potassium chloride relative effectiveness silicate rock powder Triticum aestivum Trifolium subterraneum 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • M.D.A. Bolland
    • 1
  • M.J. Baker
    • 2
  1. 1.Agriculture Western AustraliaBunburyAustralia
  2. 2.Agriculture Western AustraliaSouth PerthAustralia

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