Southern grower groups cutting through stubble issues

Author: | Date: 15 Apr 2015

Representatives from the GRDC, CSIRO and various southern region farming systems groups involved in the initiative.

Grower-driven farming systems groups in the southern cropping region are making headway on understanding and addressing the issues encountered by growers when retaining stubbles from one year to the next.

They are now two years into the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) flagship stubble initiative, Maintaining Profitable Farming Systems with Retained Stubble.

The initiative involves farming systems groups in Victoria, South Australia, southern and central New South Wales and Tasmania collaborating with research organisations and agribusiness to explore and address issues for growers that impact the profitability of cropping systems with stubble, including pests, diseases, weeds, nutrition and the physical aspects of sowing and establishing crops in heavy residues.

The initiative aims to address the issues with stubble retention, quantify the effects that these issues are having on yield and profitability, develop practical solutions and then extend the knowledge to grain growers and their advisers.

Representatives of the farming systems groups involved in the initiative recently met in Melbourne to discuss progress within their localised trials and the work to be undertaken over the coming year, and to exchange ideas and advice about set-up and monitoring of trials.

Andrew Rice, GRDC Manager Regional Grower Services – South, says the progress to date has been encouraging and that the farming systems groups involved are well on the way to developing regional guidelines and recommendations that growers can implement on-farm to help them in their endeavours to consistently retain stubbles.

“This initiative has already demonstrated the value of collaboration between farming systems groups, working towards a common aim for the benefit of growers,” Mr Rice said.

“By sharing their experiences with the trials they are running and offering each other support and advice, the collaborative effort of all the groups involved is resulting in the delivery of insights and outputs in a very efficient manner.

“The ultimate goal is to provide southern growers with practical information to guide their crop management, underpinned by results from local trials across the region. This initiative is very much on track to achieving that, thanks largely to the commitment and hard work of the participating farming systems groups.”

Among the farming systems groups involved in the initiative is Victoria’s BCG (Birchip Cropping Group), which is working collaboratively with Southern Farming Systems, Irrigated Cropping Council and the Victorian No-Till Farmers Association.

“As a group we’re working together on various guidelines for growers,” said BCG’s Claire Browne. “These include pest management, disease and nutrition. At the one year milestone we’re starting to knuckle down and establish the key issues for growers that will inform these guidelines,” said Ms Browne.

Representing the MacKillop Farm Management Group from South Australia, Felicity Turner said her group was looking at a variety issues from establishing crops in retained stubble systems right through to the management of snails and slugs.

“We’ve been investigating weeds and crop nutrition from here and over the next five years we’re hoping to look at some of the really challenging areas like pest management. Additionally, we’re hoping to look at fallow management and what we can do in autumn to manage our stubble with machinery as opposed to simply burning,” Mrs Turner said.

John Small from Central West Farming Systems in NSW said investigating the management of variable stubble loads was a priority for his group given the differing rainfall and seasonal issues faced by growers.

“We’ve got a range of different trial sites within a 200km radius of Condobolin and the future of the work conducted at these sites will really try to unravel some of the different responses we see each year: are they related to nutrition, disease or other factors? The ultimate goal is to try and help growers predict prior to sowing what the response will be at harvest with the use different stubble management techniques,” Mr Small said.

The GRDC, on behalf of growers and the Australian Government, is investing $17.5 million in the initiative that has been instigated by the GRDC Southern Regional Panel, based on information from the four Regional Cropping Solutions Networks that support the panel.

The groups and organisations involved are BCG, on behalf of Southern Farming Systems, Victorian No Till Farming Association and Irrigated Cropping Council; Mallee Sustainable Farming Systems Inc;  Riverine Plains Inc; Central West Farming Systems; Farmlink Research Limited (as sub-contractor to CSIRO); Eyre Peninsula Agricultural Research Foundation; Lower Eyre Agricultural Development Association; MacKillop Farm Management Group; Upper North Farming Systems; and Yeruga Crop Research, on behalf of the Mid North High Rainfall Farming Systems Group and the Yorke Peninsula Alkaline Soils Group.

Research support is being provided by CSIRO, and SA Research and Development Institute’s Naomi Scholz has been appointed to assist with co-ordination and communication.

To view a video interview with the farming systems groups at the 2015 GRDC stubble meeting in Melbourne, go to:


For Interviews

Andrew Rice, GRDC
02 6866 1245


GRDC Adelaide office
(08) 8198 8400

Caption: Attending the stubble initiative workshop in Melbourne were representatives from the GRDC, CSIRO and various southern region farming systems groups involved in the initiative.

GRDC Project Codes: BWD00024, CWF00018, EPF00001, CSP00174, LEA00002, MFM00006, MFS00003, RPI00009, UNF00002, YCR00003, DAN00170.

Media releases and other media products can be found at

GRDC Project Code BWD00024, CWF00018, EPF00001, CSP00174, LEA00002, MFM00006, MFS00003, RPI00009, UNF00002, YCR00003, DAN00170

Region South, North

GRDC Project code: BWD00024, CWF00018, EPF00001, CSP00174, LEA00002, MFM00006, MFS00003, RPI00009, UNF00002, YCR00003, DAN00170.