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Environment award recognises student’s fertiliser work

Media release

A Curtin University PhD student has received the Wesfarmers National Innovation Award for his research involvement in reducing phosphorus leaching.

Rowan Maddern, a PhD student from the Department of Environment and Agriculture, has carried out field work which indicates a new fertiliser developed by a fertiliser company can reduce phosphorus leaching by 50 percent.

In the Swan Coastal Plain and sandy soils of WA’s South-West, Mr Maddern’s preliminary results have demonstrated the new low-water-soluble fertiliser can replace the commonly used super phosphate fertiliser without affecting yields, providing a benefit for both farms and the environment.

Mr Maddern said applying fertiliser in these regions was essential to boost soil fertility, but excess nutrients from over-application generally end up in waterways, a huge concern for the environment. 

“There was a need to quickly develop a new concept for addressing this leaching, manufacture a product that will help it, then field test it to see if it worked,” he said.

“My part of the project was to conduct the field research side and make sure the new fertiliser would work in sandy soils. My results have shown leaching is reduced by about 50 per cent while crop growth is maintained – a huge plus for the environment and for farmers.”

Supported by Curtin University and fertiliser manufacturer and supplier company CSBP, Mr Maddern conducted two field experiments, as well as a leaching column experiment to test the new fertiliser.

“At worst the low-water-soluble phosphate fertiliser is comparable with super phosphate and in many cases is slightly ahead in dry matter production and plant uptake,” he said.

Mr Maddern will present his research to more than 400 attendees at the Wesfarmers Leadership Conference in September.

The Wesfarmers Innovation Awards were launched to recognise and celebrate excellence in innovation from across the organisation under five categories, with 66 entries from Australia and New Zealand. Mr Maddern won the environment category of the Awards.

Photo available on request

Rowan Maddern, PhD student, Curtin University
Mobile: 0427 199 017. Email:

Megan Meates, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 4364, Mobile: 0401 103 755, Email:

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