Stubble Initiative

image of supplement cover

Across Australia, stubble is retained on approximately 60 per cent of cropped land, with about three-quarters of this retained as standing stubble. The adoption of stubble retention has required significant changes in other farming practices. Yet growers have embraced stubble retention and adapted both their equipment and their farming practices.

The GRDC initiative, Maintaining Profitable Farming Systems with Retained Stubble, or the “Stubble Initiative” supports grain growers across New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania through the development of regional guidelines for managing each aspect of a stubble-retained farming system.

GRDC invested $17.5 million in the initiative that ran from 2014 to 2018. The July-August 2018 GroundCoverTM Supplement feature on Stubble highlights some of these research outcomes.

Guidelines developed by local Farming Systems groups will help growers manage a stubble-retained system at each phase of the growing season as listed below. See below for information on the research outcomes for each phase (these are being added progressively) and links to the local guidelines.

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Why retain standing stubble?

The benefits of retaining standing stubbles include:

  • Lower erosion risk over summer
  • Maintaining or improving soil structure and soil health
  • Maintaining or improving nutrient retention
  • Valuable source of feed for livestock
  • Increased water infiltration and soil moisture retention
  • Potential to implement integrated weed management strategies at harvest e.g. windrows, chaff dumps

The potential disadvantages of retaining stubbles include:

  • A reduction in herbicide efficacy
  • Nutrient tie up by stubble, especially nitrogen at the early stages of plant growth
  • Delayed seeding, uneven seeding depth and reduced establishment due to blockages during seeding
  • Increased risk of frost in prone areas with high stubble loads
  • Increased stubble borne disease inoculum
  • Increased pests such as mice and snails

How do I manage stubble during each phase of the cropping season?

Stubble management wheel
Manage stubble throughout the cropping cycle. Source: Katherine Hollaway