Developments in stubble retention in cropping systems in southern Australia (Report)

Cover page of report: Developments in stubble retention in cropping systems in southern Australia.

The Grains Research Development Corporation has commissioned this review as an update of the Graham Centre Monograph No. 1, ‘Stubble Retention in Cropping Systems in Southern Australia: Benefits and Challenges’. 

The aim is to identify the research, development and extension (RD&E) gaps of a current GRDC investment 'Maintaining Profitable Farming Systems with Retained Stubble', that involves a suite of local projects undertaken by grower groups in collaboration with research organisations and agribusiness. It expands on research data and extension materials from the past few years for south-eastern Australia, including the results from GRDC funded grower groups. This update also includes some issues not referenced in the original monograph (Scott et al. 2010).

The majority of growers retain stubble opportunistically. This was clear from survey data that showed a low frequency of burning (2–3%) during the Millennium Drought, followed by a spike in burning of 35–40% in the high rainfall zones in 2011. Research suggests that while the environmental benefits of full stubble retention are well understood, many growers find it difficult to effectively integrate multiple components of the stubble retention system when faced with challenging issues, such as those of 2011. Currently there is a lack of compelling evidence that clearly demonstrates the economic benefit of adopting full stubble retention for productivity gains and environmental benefits and further research is required. 

The update process has collated, reviewed and analysed existing RD&E material on stubble retention in farming systems in southern Australia. The audit included published literature and 'grey literature', primarily from grower groups, and has enabled the identification of gaps in RD&E. It has also resulted in a valuable compilation of data from the grower groups.

GRDC Project Code DAN00170

Region South, North