SNSW Farming Systems

Improved drought resilience through optimal management of soils and available water

Project Funder: Australian Government: Future Drought Fund

Project Lead Organisation/Researcher: Charles Sturt University

Project Duration: April 2022 – June 2024

Project Locations: 3 sites in Central West NSW   


The projects aim to improve the management of natural capital through increased water holding capacity (WHC), soil organic carbon (SOC) and Nitrogen (N) utilisation. These factors are crucial to environmental and economic resilience in drought.

Description and background

Conventional farming has been shown to speed up ground cover, soil carbon and nitrogen loss leading to an increased risk of erosion and land degradation. Research shows that increasing soil organic carbon, soil moisture & prevention of unnecessary nitrogen loss, increases productivity during and speeds up recovery post-drought through limiting land degradation.

3 proven strategies which improve drought resilience compared to conventional farming will be:

1) Diverse legume rotations – Increases SOC, C, N & WHC

2) Early-sowing of slower-maturing crops – increases WHC

3) Measuring residual nitrogen to prevent excess application, increasing profitability & decreasing runoff into waterways

The 3 strategies have been proven previously in small scale field trials in NSW to increase profitability and productivity, however, proving these practises are profitable at the paddock scale to farmers will be key to ensuring adoption.

Through expansion of the project across 12 demonstration sites into wider NSW and NE Vic regions, the project will showcase the benefit of successful application of the strategies in a number of different soil types and environments compared to conventional farming techniques.

Reports & Media Releases


This project is a partnership between Australian Government: Future Drought Fund, GRDC, CSIRO, Riverine Plains, Central West Farming Systems, Farmlink, Charles Sturt University and Southern Growers Group.