GROWERS will have the chance to hear of some of the opportunities, risks and challenges of running an intensive, continuous cropping program at the Grains Research and Development (GRDC) research update at Corowa on the NSW/Victoria border next Thursday, February 16.
CSIRO Agriculture and Food chief research scientist and farming systems team leader, Dr John Kirkegaard will be speaking at the update, and he said he wants to have a discussion about the detail, rather than a debate about mixed versus continuous cropping.
“Australian broad-acre farms have intensified, doubling our crop area and halving our sheep numbers in the two decades from the mid-1980s,” he said.
“Many farms or part of the farm are now continuously cropped, often for varying reasons be it for economic, social, logistical or biophysical.
“The major challenges we foresee from our research is maintaining soil fertility, managing weeds and diseases and managing economic risk and resilience.”
Dr Kirkegaard said continuous cropping could be sustained for decades, but requires careful management.
“A larger proportion of nitrogen (N) fertiliser will be required over time even when grain legumes are included in crop sequences,” he said.
“Herbicide resistance develops faster under continuous cropping, so integrated management to keep key weed populations at very low levels is essential for long-term viability.
“This greater reliance on N fertiliser, and greater resources to control low weed populations can mean production costs rise, so this coupled with the risk of substantial economic loss following price or climate shocks needs to be managed.
“Maintaining diverse crop species and end-uses forms the foundation of the solution to many of the biophysical, as well as economic challenges faced in continuous cropping systems.”
Other topics on the agenda at the annual update include: strategic tillage, an update on Riverine Plains research and strategies to manage weed seed blow outs in 2017.
Also included after lunch, a special forum will discuss the management of Russian wheat aphid (RWA) in local farming systems this year and beyond.
The GRDC has organised the interactive forum, which will focus on key learnings from last year and future pest management implications for growers and advisers and will feature world leading RWA expert Dr Frank Peairs.