Project Update: Plant based solutions to improve soil performance

Posted Dec 05,2019

Project: Plant based solutions to improve soil performance

Project Leader: Associate Professor Terry Rose – Southern Cross University

Program: 4

Duration: Four years

Having a diverse farming system provides multiple benefits, including resilience, weed and disease suppression and improved soil health. However, in Australia, crop diversity is often limited.

This project aims to investigate soil chemical and biological changes in cropping systems through increasing species diversity, greater soil microbial abundance, disease control and increasing soil fertility.

This project identifies crop rotations that will enable profitable integration of a range of species into farming systems, which will increase diversity.

It is determining how soil performance and profitability are affected by increased crop diversity in rotational systems in both broadacre grains and sugarcane industries. It will investigate the potential to improve soil performance through rhizosphere modification using plant-based solutions.

The results of the project will be enhanced soil resilience leading to more profitable and sustainable grain and sugarcane farming systems through the use of diverse cropping rotations.

It will also provide a platform for the Soil CRC and key stakeholders for practicing cropping rotation and increasing cropping diversity to maintain long-term soil function.

Project Update

Long-term field sites have been established across the country – in Wagga Wagga NSW, Burramine Vic, Condobolin NSW, Hart SA, Wickepin WA and Ingham Qld. These will assess the viability of integrating diverse species into the system as winter rotation crops, summer cover crops or perennial legumes depending on the constraints of climate, soils and weeds.

Long-term field trials are essential as outcomes from rhizosphere re-engineering are not immediate and improvements in productivity and resilience are rarely seen in short-term experiments.

The results of the project will be enhanced soil resilience leading to more profitable and sustainable grain and sugarcane farming systems through the use of diverse cropping rotations.

It will also provide a platform for the Soil CRC and key stakeholders for practicing cropping rotation and increasing cropping diversity to maintain long-term soil function.

Next steps

This project aims to provide insights into the mechanisms underlying the enhancement of rhizosphere function through crop and microbial species diversification. Inclusion of crops and microbial diversity in the cropping system would restore soil health in long-term.

The five long-term trials that were established in 2019 will be monitored for the next 2 years till 2022 and results will be envisaged to adopt any long-term strategy in Australia cropping systems. 

Participants

Southern Cross University
Central West Farming Systems
NSW Department of Primary Industries
Murdoch University
Charles Sturt University
Burdekin Productivity Services
Herbert Cane Productivity Services
FarmLink
Hart Field Site Group
Riverine Plains Inc
WANTFA