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Farmers to inspect Ouyen field trial of break crops

An upcoming field day at Ouyen will give farmers the chance to inspect how break crops can affect soil health.

Farmers to inspect Ouyen field trial of break crops

Levy point sampler used for assessing vegetation cover.

Field trials have been underway for almost two years to assess whether the risk of soil erosion varies under different crops and on different soils.   

Local farmers will be invited into the trial site on October 6 to see the field experiments first hand and learn more about the role break crops can play in crop rotations.

The field trials are being supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and delivered by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

Mallee CMA Chairperson Sharyon Peart said the field experiments would help regional farmers access locally-relevant information about break crops and the effect these crops can have on a range of soil types. 

“A common crop rotation in the Mallee is wheat on wheat, or wheat on another cereal such as barley or oats,” she said.

“However, at these trials, scientists are assessing canola, lupins, wheaten hay and chemical fallowing as alternative cropping options that could fit within a wheat-based rotation.”

Each cropping option is being trialled on a dune, slope and swale within the one paddock. The DPI has been photographing the crops throughout the season to monitor how much of the ground is covered by crop or stubble.

DPI Senior Research Scientist Angela Clough said introducing break crops could help boost subsequent wheat yields by reducing root disease or increasing available water or nitrogen.

“However, different crops may also produce different amounts of ground cover and maintaining ground cover is essential to minimising the soil erosion risk especially on the sandy soil,” she said.

The break crops assessed for the field trials have been sown in mid-April after wheat; and wheat sown in late April after one year of break crops.

“Some break crops were sown at low rates and have low plant densities, but much of the wheat stubble from the previous year remains in a no-till system at sowing,” Dr Clough said.

“That retained stubble may bolster ground cover enough to prevent soil erosion when the young crop is sparse.”

This project is supported by Mallee CMA, through funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country (CfOC) and is being investigated at a field site established for the Water Use Efficiency project. 

The field day will be hosted by Mallee Sustainable Farming and will start with discussions from 11am at the Ouyen football rooms and will later move to the field site near Ouyen. The day includes a barbecue lunch.

The field day will also showcase Mallee Sustainable Farming’s continuing Water Use Efficiency project and cover topics including profit and risk, adapting to climate change, precision agriculture and weed management.

To find out more on the field day call Mallee Sustainable Farming on 5021 9100.

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