A new booklet is available outlining options that Western Australian farmers have adopted to deal with non-wetting soils, and advice on developing strategies to manage these soils.
Many of the farmers visited during recent ‘non-wetting bus tours’ are featured in a new GRDC RCSN booklet Combatting non-wetting soils.
About 3.2 million hectares of WA’s agricultural soils are at high risk of soil water repellence, and estimates suggest the opportunity cost from lost production is up to $330 million each year.
Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts said Combatting non-wetting soils contained case studies of how farmers have improved productivity on their non-wetting soils.
“Compiled and edited by Niki Curtis of the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association, the booklet also includes technical information from the Department of Agriculture and Food and CSIRO,” he said.
Mr Roberts said that along with frost and weeds, non-wetting soils had been identified by the western regional panel and Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSNs) as one of the top three GRDC research, development and extension (RD&E) priorities in WA.
“The GRDC has committed significant investment in these priorities, on behalf of growers,” he said.
Mr Roberts said the RCSNs had recognised that non-wetting was limiting yields and that it was increasing in extent and/or severity across many of the grain growing regions of WA.
“In particular, the Kwinana West and Albany port zone RCSNs are keen to increase farmer knowledge about methods to address non-wetting soils, and want to see extension of these methods to farmers in WA,” he said.
“To help achieve this, these RCSNs initiated two recent non-wetting bus tours and the booklet, which features most of the farmers visited during the tours.”
Mr Roberts said soil water repellence resulted in poor and variable water infiltration and often incomplete wetting of soils.
“Soil water repellence is relatively easy to diagnose but because numerous soil types can be affected and there are many possible management options, deciding how best to address the problem can be difficult,” he said.
“By sharing grower experiences and detailing practical management information, the booklet can help farmers decide on a water repellence management strategy.”
The booklet outlines the four stages involved in developing a strategy including:
- Diagnosis and assessment of soil water repellence
- Determining soil types, assessing soil profiles and determining other constraints
- Assessing and where needed improving furrow sowing techniques
- Assessing and undertaking appropriate soil amelioration
Combatting non-wetting soils is available at www.grdc.com.au/GRDC-Booklet-CombattingNonWettingSoils (Note: file size is large).
GRDC western panel chairman Peter Roberts
0428 389 060
Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827
GRDC Project Code
KW/Alb 12/13JointProj, DAW00204, CSP139