Large Scale Testing of Downhill Tramline Farming and Very Wide Cereal Rows

The objective of this project is to demonstrate the integration of a number of innovative practices in a farming system on a broad scale which is intended to address land and enterprise issues in a holistic manner, leading to greater uptake by, and increased sustainability, of rural enterprises.

The project proposes to integrate a number of innovative practices/technologies to manage the above mentioned issues:

Tramline Farming/Controlled Traffic Farming and Roll-over Banks:

While tramline farming has been shown to be effective in relation to management of soil compaction, producers are reluctant to employ this practice on sloping land; either because existing contour banks make the practice impractical or working off the contour is perceived to increase water erosion risk .Stubble retention is an important part of erosion risk reduction, but sometimes circumstances make this difficult. Incorporation of roll-over banks may overcome this issue, enabling producers to receive the benefits of tramline farming on sloping on land without increasing erosion risk.

Wide Rows and Shielded Spraying:

Opening and finishing rains in the low rainfall zone are often unreliable and consist of light showers, resulting in problems with crop emergence and grain quality. Research has shown that use of wide-rows, ‘skip’ rows and ‘pre-furrowing’ techniques can help address these moisture deficiency issues by facilitating water harvesting, resulting in better crop establishment and quality (similar yield, but better grain quality at Pindar in 2003, due to reduced drought stress; Liebe Updates 2003). Moreover, these technologies will provide growers with alternatives to the traditional annual fallow, thereby reducing the environmental downsides of the annual fallow, such as greater recharge and soil erosion. See the recent article in GRAIN (MARCH-APRIL 2007) for the most up-to-date summary of possible benefits of very wide rows.

Integration of shielded spraying with the above technologies will also reduce risks of grass weed invasion and the costs of chemical inputs. Financial benefits have already been seen when shield spraying is compared to chemical fallow for control of grass weeds in a cereal dominant rotation. Also, a possible risk with the use of pre-emergent herbicide in low rainfall zone is a false break – which results in a very expensive loss of herbicide! By using shielded sprayers with tramlines and GPS technology, the reliance on pre-emergent herbicide is greatly reduced, as weeds can be sprayed after the crop has emerged with cheaper and less toxic herbicide. Variety trials have also been conducted concurrently within the demonstration site, to determine their suitability in relation to the new farming system.

Project aims and objectives;

  • A better understanding by the rural community of the risks and opportunities for surface water management by downhill tramline farming over broad-based banks.
  • A clearer appreciation of the opportunities for wide rows of cereals to reduce risks of yield and grain quality losses in dry seasons on shallow soils
  • Evaluate the opportunity to reduce risks of financial loss from herbicide use in dry seasons, by assessing the use of inter-row shielded spraying.

This project is managed out of the DAFWA Geraldton office. The Project Manager is Paul Blackwell. If you would like to know more information about this project please contact Brianna Peake on (08) 9664 2030 or Paul Blackwell (08) 9956 8555

View results trial results from the 2006 season:

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