Life on the land in Australia


WITH the price of cropping land soaring, farmers are increasingly looking to improve the productivity of the ground they already own.

A South Australian project is looking at ways farmers can achieve this and lower the amount of soil constraints they are confronted with.

Speaking at the Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) forum in Red Cliffs, Victoria, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) researcher Nigel Wilhelm said bettering Australia’s often poor soils in cropping regions would be a big part in boosting productivity in the grains sector.

“We’ve put up with crappy soils for a long time but now we are trying to change them,” Dr Wilhelm said.

He said initial work in the SARDI trial on lowering subsoil constraints was focusing on sandy soils, with a view to expand into heavy clay soils down the track.

“We have looked at poorly structured sandy soils with low fertility.

“The key to it all is to manage the top 50 centimetres, not just the top 10cm. Wheat roots can easily push down a metre in the right conditions.”

Dr Wilhelm said initiative such as clay delving and spreading were being used.

Although late season frosts and the dry finish last year made it difficult to get definitive data, Dr Wilhelm said there were promising initial signs from the sites at Karoonda, in the Mallee, Naracoorte in the south-east and Brimpton Lake on the Eyre Peninsula.

“We’ve seen a spectacular improvement in crop appearance, it hasn’t necessarily translated into yield due to the season.

“The key will be to get these gutless sands transformed into more of a soil type wheat likes.

“From there, it’s about balancing the benefits against the costs of the treatments.”

He said the major thing was to give the soils some structure.

“We really want to stop nutrient leaching and improve that water holding capacity.”

Dr Wilhelm said in the clay trials to come, the issue would be in breaking up the machinery-created hard pan around 15cm beneath the surface.

“Some of those sodic soils just hold water on the surface during winter then go very hard in the spring, so we will be looking at that.”


Henry Sapiecha


February 26th, 2015
Topic: SOILS EROSION Tags: None

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