It is fitting that in the International Year of Soils this year, managing soil health will be a big focus of the 2015 Agribusiness Crop Updates.
The event, hosted by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), is being held at Crown Perth on February 24 and 25.
While Western Australian growers recognise there are many opportunities to improve their soil’s physical, chemical and biological components for sustainable future crop and pasture production, often some guidance is needed to work out the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of doing so.
To help meet this challenge, the GRDC is investing with other research agencies in the $33 million collaborative research effort ‘Soil Constraints – West’.
This project will develop and deliver practical management solutions for a range of soil constraints confronting WA growers and limiting crop production, including water repellence, compaction, subsoil issues and acidity.
During the Agribusiness Crop Updates, Soils Constraints – West chairman, scientist Robert Belford, will outline the range of research projects being carried out through this flagship initiative.
Key participating WA soil researchers and growers will also present their latest results aimed at developing soil management systems for the future.
Dr Belford said Soil Constraints – West was driven by the GRDC’s western regional panel after consultation with WA grain growers and its Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSNs).
He said it complemented the GRDC’s existing substantial western region investment into soil nutrition, carbon and health research and, although focused on WA’s unique soil types, its findings would be relevant right across southern Australia.
DAFWA, CSIRO and Murdoch University are collaborating on funding for Soil Constraints – West and sharing expertise, equipment and trial sites.
Dr Belford said almost 3.3 million hectares of WA’s agricultural soils, especially sandy soils, were at high risk of water repellence and this led to issues of poor, patchy and delayed crop and pasture emergence and problems with weed control.
“Our research is building knowledge about soil water repellence in WA cropping systems and developing strategies to overcome this problem,” he said.
“Soil acidity is another major constraint to crop production in WA and researchers have a strong focus on boosting adoption of soil testing, lime use and best fit lime incorporation tactics.”
Dr Belford said other subsoil constraints, including nutrient deficiencies and toxicities, compaction, sodicity, waterlogging and transient salinity were being addressed through a range of Soil Constraints – West projects.
“The overall aim is to lift yields, reduce costs and boost grower confidence in managing these subsoil constraints for each of their soil types in the future,” he said.
Dr Belford said soil constraints rarely existed in isolation and solutions that were acceptable in the past might no longer be appropriate due to changes in yield potential, input prices and commodity returns.
He said the GRDC recognised the importance of integrating projects that were addressing complex soil constraints at a farm and paddock scale and would this year start funding a new National Soil Constraints Initiative.
Visit the website for more information about the Agribusiness Crop Updates or contact the Grain Industry Association of WA office on 08 6262 2128.
Robert Belford, Soil Constraints – West
0427 066 506
Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827
GRDC Project Code
DAW00236, DAW00242, DAW00243, DAW00244