To track the real situation of break crops over a wide range of farms in WA to determine where and when they deliver a benefit.
Should I grow wheat or canola? Is my legume crop more economical than applying nitrogen fertiliser? Should I keep sheep in the farming system? These are some of the questions being investigated in the profitable crop sequencing project.
While the possible benefits of a break crop are known it can be difficult to put a dollar value on these benefits or identify situations where a break crop will provide maximum benefit to cereal cropping. (A survey of 217 farmers in 2008 indicated 77% of farmers’ rate break crops is of major importance to farming). So by following the paddock rotation decisions of farmers across the state and collecting extensive agronomic and financial information the project aims to determine when and where break crops deliver a benefit.
How it works
Over the next 5 years the project will monitor 30 paddocks in the Liebe area (part of 144 across the state) to determine the strength and weakness of different crop rotations. This will be done by conducting vigorous field monitoring, economic modelling and capturing farmer experience. The project is lead by the Department of Agriculture and Food and incorporates 8 grower groups across the state. In order to include the wide range of farming systems, rainfalls and soil types in the Liebe area paddocks have been selected in the following areas:
- East Maya
- East Buntine
The project started in 2010 with all paddocks sown to wheat. Paddocks will continue to be monitored until 2015 with no restriction on the use of the paddock. Each paddock is visited 4 times a year to measure the following:
- Soil health and type
- Soil and plant nutrition
- Plant disease
- Soil disease via PreDicta B
- Weed populations and herbicide resistance
It is hoped an understanding of the paddock’s financial performance over a number of crops and seasons can be gained through the discussions with growers each year.
Results so far
Monitoring of the 33 paddocks in the Liebe region was completed throughout 2010, 2011. Soil cores have been characterised and CSBP nutrient tested to depth. There is an understanding of the weed numbers and PreDicta B soil disease potential. Also collected were the levels of leaf and root disease which can be used for variety decisions in 2012.
Further results from 2010 and 2011 are still being compiled and analysed. In the northern area wheat on wheat was the most prodiminate crop rotation so far with 46% of paddocks which were wheat in 2010 returning to wheat in 2011 (Table 1).
Soil nutrient tests and soil descriptions to depth, plant disease and weed numbers will be returned to growers at the beginning of each season as a point of reflection for the season ahead.