Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - No-till
GROUND COVER NO-TILL 20 NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT WA: wet or dry, no-till beats tradition THE CHANGE TO CONSERVATION FARMING NEEDED HARD WORK AND PERSEVERANCE FOR A TAMMIN COUPLE. NOW THAT THE EFFECT ON THEIR BOTTOM LINE IS CLEAR, THERE IS NO GOING BACK A visiting US agricultural researcher has urged Australian R&D corporations to invest in researching ground cover crops after seeing the quick dividends they paid in Australian soils. Professor Perry Miller, a keynote speaker at a number of no-till farming conferences across Australia in 2004, said he was surprised at the rapid payback in productivity from brown manure or 'ground cover' crops in Western Australia. "We typically must wait five or six years to see a shift in soil quality associated with ground cover crops," he said. "Rotational benefits from pulse crops are primarily associated with soil nitrogen dynamics, rather than soil water." He said it appeared that the function of soil organic matter was even more critical in some Australian soils, particularly in the southern and western wheatbelt than in the northern Great Plains of North America. "If I held the purse strings to your research budget, I'd invest aggressively in understanding the role of ground cover crops, as it seems to offer a much quicker payback here." Professor Miller's US work looked at rotational benefits and the long-term effects of diverse rotations on things such as soil nutrient dynamics and soil carbon sequestration. He found greater crop diversity paid off by delivering real dividends. "All cropping systems must increase rotational diversity if they are to overcome sustainability issues," he said. "Concerns with rising groundwater, soil salinity, soil organic matter and soil health can all be addressed through prudent use of plant species." Soil water balance can be affected by the rooting depth of crops and may impact on the yield of subsequent crops, according to Professor Miller: "This is important in the northern Great Plains, but will have to be studied in context. Australia's old soils are very different from our young soils." He proposed that Australian growers particularly look beyond their traditional grain crops of wheat, barley and canola. "Diversified cropping systems have increased rapidly in Canada and have the potential to do the same in other semi-arid regions. Therefore, it is important to understand how flexibility in cropping systems is increased by including broadleaf crops. Importantly, a grain-yield advantage for no-tillage over conventional grain production systems occurs in diversified crop rotations containing broadleaf crops." THE ABILITY TO establish healthy crops despite the poor start to the season has convinced Western Australian No-Tillage Farmers Association (WANTFA) members Colin and Libby Hutchinson of Tammin that their no-till farming system will make a significant impact on their bottom line this year. Just 26 millimetres of rainfall during April and May did not deter the Hutchinsons from sowing their entire 4000-hectare program at the usual time, and in the middle of July they had some of the most advanced crops in the central wheatbelt. “In a good year it doesn’t really matter what you do,” Mr Hutchinson says. “But in the very dry or very wet years, the no-till system has proven to outweigh INVEST IN GROUND COVER CROPS: US RESEARCHER Perry Miller on America's northern Great Plains: "Australia's old soils are very different from our young soils."
GC Supplement - Grains nutrition
GC Supplement - Growers sharing knowledge