Cover crops trials continue

| Posted Apr 01,2021

A summer cover crop trial site at the NSW Department of Primary Industries Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute continues as part of the Soil CRC project Plant based solutions to improve soil performance, led by Professor Terry Rose from Southern Cross University.

The Wagga Wagga site is one of six sites nationally at which Soil CRC research scientists are investigating the ability of cover crops to result in improved soil health, and subsequent productivity improvements.

A range of cover crops and mixed cover crops have been sown at the Wagga Wagga site. The crops planted include millet, buckwheat, radish, cow peas and sunflowers.

Over 100mm of rain fell in the last month, so quite a lot of biomass has been produced. One question researchers will be looking to answer is, how much water did the crops use to produce this biomass and how will that affect the next wheat and canola crop?

There have been three successive cereal crops at this site, so it is now starting to get some build up of diseases and pathogens in the soil. The researchers are looking to find out if cover crops will break this disease cycle.

They are also looking at what difference the type of crop makes. For example, if a cereal is used as a cover crop will it add to disease pressure? Would a brassica help break the cycle and therefore help your wheat crop? And what is the impact on the soil?

The crops are about seven weeks old and are about to be terminated. Once terminated, researchers will then test to determine what moisture the cover crops have used, and then they will test again at sowing. After that, they will split the plot and sow either wheat or canola and see if the growing of the cover crops will have an impact on yield.

Take a look at the video for a virtual walk through the trial site with Terry.