West - Microbes ride their cycles to work

WA might be the big grain producing region but, because of low growing-season rainfall and poor soils, the industry there is generally one of low inputs and low yields on large farms.

University of WA research fellow Dr Daniel Murphy told the soil biology workshop that WA farming systems had evolved to rely on biologically fixed nitrogen and organic matter decomposition to supply plant-available nutrients for crop production.

And, because of climatic constraints on organic matter production and accumulation, the WA farming system had come to rely on a cyclic pattern of biological activity which "exploded" into action with rainfall, and slowed at the onset of soil drying.

WA soils researchers face a number of challenges as they work to identify management practices that enhance soil biological fertility, and so improve yield.

They say answers to problems such as asynchrony (microbial nutrient supply occurring when plant demand is low) and synlocation (plant-available nutrients located in the soil matrix where there are no plant roots ) are hard to find, but essential for future sustainable production.

They say sustainable production will hinge on the following:

For more information:
Dr Dan Murphy 08 6488 7083, dmurphy@agric.uwa.edu.au

GRDC Research Code: UWA 395, program 4