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Warwick Dougherty

Research interests

  • The effect of fertiliser N rate and N breakdown inhibitors on GHG emissions, N leaching and nitrogen use efficiency in dairy pastures
  • The effect of soil and management factors on runoff water quality from intensively managed pasture and horticultural production systems
  • ‘Scaling-up’ of process understanding of nutrient mobilisation in order to model runoff water quality at landscape scale
  • The effect of strategic BMP implementation on water quality at landscape scales
  • Characterisation of soil organic and inorganic P using 31P NMR
  • The role of inorganic and organic residuals in the management of soil nutrients and metals for improved agronomic and environmental outcomes
  • The effect of management and crop/pasture type on soil carbon quantity and quality


Dr Warwick Dougherty is a Senior Research Scientist (Soils), with 20 years consulting and research experience in nutrient management in agricultural industries. He is ‘Leader Soils - South’ for Agriculture NSW and leads a team of 30 staff undertaking soils related research in the southern half of NSW, encompassing the high rainfall coastal zones which include pasture and horticultural industries and the inland grain cropping region of southern NSW. He is based at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute at Camden, south of Sydney, Australia.

He has extensive research and development experience relating to the management of nutrients in the dairy, broad-acre cropping, vegetable and recycled organics industries and has worked on RD&E projects in NSW, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. His RD&E program has examined both the agronomic and environmental aspects of nutrient management.

He was Deputy Project Leader of the Accounting for Nutrients on Australian Dairy Farms project in collaboration with Dr Cameron Gourley. This research highlighted the apparently low efficiency of nutrient use – in particular nitrogen – Australian dairy farming systems and was a seminal study for the Australian dairy industry. He also led the research component of the ‘Nutrient Smart Farms’ project which focussed on reducing nutrient export from agricultural enterprises in the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment which is the main drinking water catchment for Sydney’s 4 million inhabitants. Through a range of education and incentive programs this project reduced nutrient losses from agriculture by 67t and 17t of N and P respectively.

Warwick is particularly interested in developing management strategies that are cost-effective by understanding farming system and landscape influences on nutrient loss pathways. He recently completed the Coastal NSW Dairy Catchments project, the aim of which was to understand where in dairy farming systems were the greatest opportunities to reduce nutrient losses via surface runoff. This research showed that contrary to traditional investment strategies in Australia, in fact grazed paddocks of dairy farms represented the single greatest source of surface runoff nutrient loss, typically comprising 70-90% of losses via this pathway. This project also involved close collaboration with farmers in seeking to build a collective understanding of drivers and solutions to nutrient loss. This latter component involved the implementation of risk assessment procedures and development of nutrient management improvement plans in collaboration with farmers.

He currently leads two major projects worth $3M under the Australian Governments’ Carbon Farming Initiative. He is principal investigator on one of three dairy industry CFI funded projects examining the effect if nitrogen rate and nitrification inhibitor on nitrogen use efficiency and GHG emissions from dairy pasture systems. He also leads the NSW node of the Soil Carbon in Eastern Australia project and is responsible for examining the effect of climate and management on soil carbon stocks in coastal pasture systems in NSW.

His research interests also include understanding the benefits and risks of various inorganic and recycled organics such as biosolids and a range of composts in agricultural systems. Warwick has also collaborated on a range of research projects examining the nature of organic phosphorus in soils in a broad range of agricultural industries with a view to improving our management of P.

He is currently ‘Leader Soils - South’ for Agriculture NSW and leads a team of over 30 staff undertaking soils related research in the southern half of NSW, encompassing the high rainfall coastal zones which include pasture and horticultural industries and the inland grain cropping region of southern NSW.


  • B. Sc. Hons (Agric) – University of Sydney, 1992
  • M. Nat. Res. Mgt. – University of New England, 1999
  • PhD Soil Science – University of Adelaide, 2006

Current projects

  • The effect of fertiliser N breakdown inhibitors and N rate on GHG emissions, N leaching and nitrogen use efficiency
  • The effect of pasture management and soil type on soil carbon quantity and form
  • The contribution of dairy farm components to whole farm nutrient loss in surface runoff
  • Organic P composition in soils under long term pasture with varying long term P status
  • Soil organic carbon and phosphorus form and function in cropping soils

Recent publications

Dougherty WJ, Chan KY (2014) Reducing nutrient losses from a vegetable production system on a hard-setting Chromosol/Dermosol inter-grade by applying compost: a rainfall simulation study. Compost Science and Utilisation. 22, 11-22.

Coad J, Burkitt L, Dougherty W, Sparrow R, Corkery R (2014 ) Decline in environmental and agronomic phosphorus measures across a range of pasture soils and phosphorus statuses when fertiliser is reduced or omitted. Soil Research. 52, 282-292

Gourley CJP, Dougherty WJ, Weaver DM, Aarons SR, Awty IM, Gibson D, Hannah MC, Smith AP, Peverill KI (2012) Farm-scale nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur balances and use efficiencies on Australian dairy farms. Animal Production Science. 52, 929-944.

Senn A, O’Connor J, Dougherty W, Machar S (2012) Assessing on-ground works that reduce farm nutrient exports. Extension and Farming Systems Journal. 7, 67-71

Burkitt LL, Dougherty WJ, Corkrey R, Broad ST (2011) Modelling the risk of phosphorus runoff following single and split phosphorus fertiliser applications in two contrasting catchments. Journal of Environmental Quality 40, 548-558.

Doolette A, Smernik RJ, Dougherty WJ (2011) A quantitative assessment of phosphorus forms in some Australian soils. Australian Journal of Soil Research 49 152-165.

Dougherty WJ
, Burkitt LL, Corkrey R, Harvey DM (2011) The effect of P fertiliser application strategy and soil P sorption properties on ‘incidental’ P fertiliser characteristics using laboratory techniques and long term risk modelling. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 89, 189-197.

Dougherty WJ, Mason SM, Burkitt LL, Milham PJ (2011) Relationship between runoff phosphorus concentration and a novel soil phosphorus test procedure (DGT). Australian Journal of Soil Research 6, 523-528.

Milham PJ, Dougherty WJ, Fabien J, G. R, Peverill KI (2011) Stabilisation of molybdate reactive phosphorus in 0.5 m sodium bicarbonate extracts of soils. Communications in Soil Science & Plant Analysis 42, 1143-1152.

Vadas PA, Aarons, SR, Butler DM, Dougherty WJ. (2011). A new model for dung decomposition and phosphorus transformations and loss in runoff. Australian Journal of Soil Research 49, 367-375

Doolette A, Smernik RJ, Dougherty WJ (2011) Overestimation of the importance of phytate in NaOH-EDTA soil extracts as assessed by 31P NMR analyses. Organic Geochemistry 42, 955-964.

Burkitt LL, Dougherty WJ, Carlson SM, Donaghy DJ (2010) The effect of variable soil phosphorus on phosphorus concentrations in simulated surface runoff under intensive dairy pastures. Australian Journal of Soil Research 48, 231-237.

Doolette A, Smernik RJ, Dougherty WJ (2010) Rapid decomposition of phytate applied to a calcareous soil demonstrated by a solution 31P NMR study. European Journal of Soil Science. 61, 563-575.

Doolette A, Smernik, RJ, Dougherty WJ. (2009) Spiking Improved Solution Phosphorus-31 Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Identification of Soil Phosphorus Compounds. Soil Science Society America Journal 73, 919-927.

Dougherty WJ, Nash D, Cox JW, Chittleborough DJ, Fleming NK. 2008. Small–scale, high–intensity rainfall simulation under-estimates natural runoff P concentrations from pastures on hill-slopes. Australian Journal of Soil Research 46, 1-9.

Dougherty WJ, Nicholls PJ, Milham PJ, Havilah EJ, Lawrie RA. 2008. Phosphorus fertilizer and grazing management effects on phosphorus in runoff from dairy pastures. Journal of Environmental Quality 37, 417-428.

Dougherty WJ
, Smernik RJ, B√ľnemann EK Chittleborough DJ. 2007. On the use of HF pre-treatment of soils for 31P NMR analyses. Soil Science Society of America Journal 71, 1111-1118.

Gourley CJP, Powell JM, Dougherty WJ, Weaver DM (2007) Nutrient budgeting as an approach to improve nutrient management on Australian dairy farms. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47, 1067-1076.

Professional associations and activities

  • Australian Society of Soil Science
  • Grasslands Society of NSW

Fields of research

  • 050304 Soil Chemistry
  • 050301 Carbon Seuqestration Science
  • 050399 Soil Sciences not elsewhere classified
  • 050209 Natural Resource Management
  • Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC)

Keyword/phrase list of research interests

  • Organic phosphorus
  • Nutrient budgeting
  • NMR
  • Soil carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus
  • Nitrous oxide, greenhouse gas
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Runoff
  • Water quality

Contact details

Email: warwick.dougherty@dpi.nsw.gov.au