More work on stubble

Fanners are very interested in minimum tillage stubbleretention systems but their concerns stop many from converting to the system.

That's the major message from a survey of southern NSW graingrowers in which they ranked direct drilling-stubble retention as their highest crop research priority.

The survey showed that formers were concerned with issues such as the effects of stubble retention on crop emergence, yield, diseases and lucerne establishment. Facilitated by NSW Agriculture advisory officers, it was conducted at West Wyalong, Weethalle, Colinroobie, Rankin Springs and Merriwagga.

Queries were raised about the use of pre-emergent herbicides in stubble, along with the need for local trials on press wheels and tillage points.

Dr Peter Orchard of NSW Agriculture said the survey was part of a wider GRDC-supported project. The first stage focused on pasture research priorities in the southern NSW grainhelt.

He said a 'whole system' approach appeared to dominate the thinking of the groups surveyed regarding the need for conservation farming.

Dr Orchard said farmers were still asking whether stubble retention was really necessary and about the relative merits of direct drilling versus conventional tillage.

But "the sustainability theme associated with stubble retention and direct drilling was highlighted in other priorities such as efficient fertiliser inputs, managing soil structure and crop rotations," he said.

Weed control and more legume options

Weed control dominated single-issue research requirements. "Farmers emphasised biological or non-chemical control, efficient application of chemicals and herbicide resistance problems," Dr Orchard said.

He said there was general dissatisfaction with grain legume options for lower rainfall areas, often related to their desired role in rotations. Farmers are looking not just for better yields, but better adaptation to specific problems such as heavy wet soils and short seasons.

Pastures and trials

Growers also emphasised the importance of pastures in the rotation as a nitrogen source.

Other research needs raised by several groups included: the value of local trials; State government support for research and extension, crop nutrition, crop and varietal improvement; pest control including work on cereal root diseases', marketing options; and aspects of seed production such as tighter seed certification laws.