On site R&D to boost low rainfall acid soils by Nicole Baxter

The research and development site at Kalannie. INSET: Don Stanley and grandson, Travis Stanley.

Having a GRDC research and development site on their property is proving an eye-opener for the Stanley family of Kalannie in the north of Western Australia's wheatbelt.

The site was established only in 1996 but Don Stanley said some changes in farm management had already been made in response to trial observations.

Mr Stanley farms in partnership with his wife, Allison, and their son Ian and Ian's wife Robyn.

This year they will crop 11,000 hectares, about half of which is on a wheat-wheat-lupin rotation and including about 2,600 hectares to lupins.

The 24-hectare site lies in a low rainfall (300-350 mm) belt on wodjil soils. Wodjil soils are typically acid, yellow sandplain, and are often characterised by having toxic levels of aluminium in the subsoil.

Wongan Hills Development Officer with Agriculture WA, Amanda Falconer, said wodjil soils can vary from being completely unproductive to quite productive. The trial site is in-between.

This year an R&D site Management Committee was formed with Agriculture WA and nine local farmers. "The farmers on the committee determine the research and demonstration priorities of the site," said Ms Falconer.

"We are also encouraging agribusiness to be involved in the research site."

Lupins early cab off the rank

Trial work includes the testing of a new yellow lupin, a variety derived from the Polish variety, Teo, due for release in 1998.

The yellow lupin is resistant to a number of diseases including brown spot, Pleiochaeta root rot, cucumber mosaic virus and a species of Rhizoctonia that causes Eradu-patch, a disease of narrow-leaf lupins.

Lupins, copper and potash

A stand-out finding from last year's lupin trials was the fertiliser story. Wesfarmers CSBP Ltd support fertiliser and trace element trials and two main results have emerged — the responses to potash and copper.

"We've never considered potash before simply because soil tests have never showed it as a worry. It now seems we are lacking potash, just as we appear to be running down in copper.

"The trials showed a copper response so this year we're continuing with the application of Super, copper, molybdenum and zinc," said Ms Falconer. CSBP also has a nutrition trial looking at copper deficiency.

Lime on wheat and pastures

Mr Stanley said lime trials were underway on wheat, including a deep-ripping treatment. There is also an acid-tolerant wheat variety trial and a cereal demonstration identifying the most profitable and sustainable cereal, variety and segregation to aim for on the acid sandplain.

A pasture demonstration has also been planted with Nungarin subclover, yellow serradella and volunteer pasture for a comparison in a wheat-pasture rotation.

"We see a very real benefit to the area from these trials which came about mainly because of farmer pressure and work by Agriculture WA. We hope future demonstrations will include no-till and stubble retention," Mr Stanley said.

The trial was established because, compared to the higher rainfall regions, there has not been a significant increase in production in the low rainfall areas in recent years.

Growers through the GRDC are supporting the research and development site for five years. Agriculture WA is responsible for developing and supporting the site.

Subprogram 3.5.3 Contact: Ms Christine Peek 089 921 0555

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