With wheat-on-wheat cropping a distant memory for most northern region grain growers, cropping programs are evolving again to embrace open-ended crop sequences.
Depending on individual paddock conditions, the season and pest and disease risks, growers are being urged to consider crop options that will foster productivity through long-term soil health.
Sharon O’Keeffe, Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) manager regional grower services – north says the new term “crop sequencing” describes a cropping program that is not dictated by the set order of crops that defined crop rotation.
“Growers often select a crop based on price projections but GRDC-supported research over a long period of time shows the benefits and value of crop diversity, particularly cereals following nitrogen-fixing legumes,” Ms O’Keeffe said.
“GRDC has significant investments underway in the northern region, including developing agronomic recommendations and alternative crops for north west NSW and south west Queensland.
“The GRDC investment has also seen significant improvements in legume crops such as chickpeas and funded research by the Northern Grower Alliance (NGA) into the role of crop sequencing in managing crown rot and root lesion nematodes.”
Ms O’Keeffe says the concept of crop sequencing has superseded crop rotation as there is no ‘perfect’ crop rotation as every farm and paddock are different.
“There will be different seasonal outcomes, different starting moisture, different weed spectrums as time progresses so GRDC is taking at the approach that we need better thought-out crop sequences to manage those water and nutrient cycles and breaking weed and disease cycles,” she said.
Better agronomy for breakcrops is a high priority for GRDC investment as is disease and weed management, Ms O’Keeffe said.
“We can’t sit back and rely on costly chemical and fertiliser inputs within a wheat-on-wheat-on-wheat system,” she said.
“If input costs continue to rise – which they are more than likely going to do – we need to look at other options including broadleaf crops to get benefits such as reducing weeds and diseases and boosting soil fertility.”
The concept ties neatly into the new GRDC focus on research themes including ‘Profitable Farming Systems’ that aims to help growers design a farm system with the flexibility to adapt and respond to changes; manage risk; integrate new practices; and ultimately generate more profit, Ms O’Keeffe said.
For more information, visit www.grdc.com.au.
GRDC Manager Regional Grower Services - North
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