Cutting edge innovations by growers and scientists were inspected recently during a ‘soil constraints’ research tour of trial sites and properties in Western Australia.
Researchers, growers and steering committee members involved with the $36 million collaborative research effort Soil Constraints – West toured sites in the Midlands region for an update on trial work which has been conducted for the past year under the initiative.
Soil Constraints – West was driven by the Grain Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) western regional panel after consultation with WA grain growers and its Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSNs).
The GRDC, Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), CSIRO and Murdoch University are funding the work, which is focused on non-wetting, compaction, acidity and other subsoil constraints.
Soil Constraints – West steering committee chairman Wayne Pluske said scientists and growers were working very well together as part of a ‘whole farm approach’ to overcoming soil constraints.
“When growers are improving their soil, very rarely is it just one constraint that is being tackled,” he said.
“Often non-wetting, acidity and compaction limit crop productivity simultaneously, which is reflected by the scope of this unique research effort.
“Scientists from Geraldton through to Esperance are collaborating to tackle multiple constraints at the same time.”
GRDC Soil Constraints – West steering committee member and GRDC western regional panel member John Even said he and other growers were impressed by examples of grower and scientist collaboration and innovation that they saw during the tour.
The trials inspected were being conducted in cooperation with the West Midlands Group.
“We were excited by the potential of a grower-modified one-way plough, which has done a fantastic job in ameliorating non-wetting, but traditionally high yielding country, near Dandaragan,” he said.
“At the same time, the cultivation operation mixed lime into the profile to increase soil pH rapidly.”
Mr Even said the grower had designed his own disc for use on the 30-disc Chamberlain plough, which had every second disc removed.
“This low-cost innovation seems to be well suited to treating non-wetting soil types where there is a lot of gravel, and doesn’t bring a lot of rock to the surface,” he said.
Mr Even said the group was also keenly interested in ‘banding plates’ designed by DAFWA researcher Paul Blackwell for use on a deep ripper.
“The plates create a slot in the soil behind the tyne which allows topsoil to flow down into the subsoil profile, to help prevent deep ripped soil from becoming compacted again,” he said.
“It also creates preferred pathways for crop plant roots and distributes fertile soil from the surface into the subsoil where it remains moist later in the season.”
Wayne Pluske, Soil Constraints - West
0418 726 121
John Even, GRDC western panel
0429 689 885
Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827
GRDC Project Code
DAW00236, DAW00242, DAW00243, DAW00244