Improving soil health in undulating, dryland farms in the Central region : SRDC Grower Group Innovation Project final report
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The project sought to: Improve the condition of soil for the following cane crop by introducing break crops; Investigate zero tillage options in undulating soil conditions to reduce erosion; Compare the benefits of different rotational crops/legumes to soil health (Nitrogen fixation & Organic Matter); Reduce input costs in the production cycle; and test the suitability of a minimum/zero till planter in various soil types for cane and break crop planting. A series of trials and equipment modifications were undertaken to identify the best way to achieve this. The break crop trials showed that Leichhardt out performed Ashgrove, Stuart and Bunya varieties with wet weight biomass yields of over 12t/ha and total N of over 250kg/ha in one trial. In the Plant cane comparison trial, the zero tillage plots proved to be most profitable with the highest yields, lowest input costs, and highest profit of $352/ha compared with the full cultivation plots which returned only $141.00/ha. A range of zero tillage break crop planters were inspected and trialled, with required modifications identified. This project has assisted Farliegh & Coningsby growers to select, and successfully grow dryland soybean break crops, and has demonstrated the cost savings and improved soil management offered by zero/minimal tillage practices. This project also identified a deficiency in existing minimum tillage cane planter designs when it come to heavy clays and other difficult soil types. Additionally the growers have gained valuable skills in cost comparison trials, and appropriate trial designs, which will be off assistance as they continue to adapt their farming systems.