Project Funder: Soil CRC
Project Lead Organisation/Researcher: Southern Cross University, Dr. Terry Rose
Project Duration: 2019-2023
Project Locations: Gunning Gap, NSW
The project aims to resolve the mechanisms by which diversity of plants species in rotation or as inter/cover crops shape soil rhizosphere processes and drive soil function, and how species diversity interacts with soil water, weed pressures and ultimately crop yields/farm profitability based on long-term field experiments in contrasting farming systems and soil types across the Grower Group networks in Australia. It aims to quantify benefits to soil processes, root function and nutrient cycling across soil types/climatic zones from the inclusion of crop diversity (summer cover crops in winter cropping systems, inter-crops in cane systems, perennial legumes). The project will also provide understanding of how novel crop diversity in winter and summer cropping systems affect rhizosphere soil function, seasonal soil moisture dynamics and crop yields/profitability over 3-4 seasons.
Major cropping systems in Australia have limited crop diversity with the diversity declining further over time. Yet, diversity in farming systems is recognised for providing multiple benefits including resilience, weed and disease suppression and improved soil health. To reverse the decline in species diversity in cropping, we will identify rotations that enable profitable integration of a range of species into farming systems.
The long-term field experiments 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 weed pressures. Long-term field trials are essential as it is established that outcomes from rhizosphere re-engineering are not immediate and improvements in productivity and resilience are not seen in short term experiments. Long term field sites established in this project will provide a resource for other projects, will inform decision support systems and will be an asset for future Soil CRC activities.
The project will determine the role of increased crop diversity in rotational systems for soil performance and farm profitability in broadacre grains and sugarcane industries.
This project is a partnership between Soil CRC, Southern Cross University, Murdoch University, Charles Sturt University, NSW DPI, Central West Farming Systems and Riverine Plains.