Break crops provide cover

Angela Clough, Dave Monks, DPI Victora.DPI RESEARCH is showing that break crops in low rainfall zones can provide sufficient ground cover to prevent the risk of soil erosion, especially when there were cereal crops planted in previous seasons.

There has been some concern among Mallee producers about growing low biomass crops such as some pulses because they may not be able to provide sufficient cover to prevent erosion.

Angela Clough, DPI Ballarat, said no more than 30pc ground cover was needed to place paddocks in the low erosion risk category.

“Ground cover can mean both stubble or growing crops, so early in the year, the cover comes from crop residues, whereas later, the growing plants provide the buffer.”

Speaking at a recent Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSFP) field day at Ouyen, she said getting 30pc cover was not difficult.

“It actually doesn’t look like that much cover, you wouldn’t think there is 30pc stubble cover when you see a picture, but it is enough to stop blowing.”

DPI Mildura’s Dave Monks said there was good evidence to support a move away from intensive cereal rotations in the Mallee.

“When there is good subsoil moisture, good break crops such as canola, field peas or lupins can be grown.

“With values where they are currently, they can be good cash earners in their own right, as well as proving valuable as a disease break.”

He said the current DPI trial at Ouyen showed that the water use efficiency in wheat crops was influenced by growing a break crop.

“Final data isn’t available yet, but we’re hoping WUE will go up by 10pc.”

Work is still going on to find the ideal break crop for the various soil types in the Mallee, usually divided into three major areas, the sandy dune peaks, mixed mid-slopes and the clay-based swales or flats.

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