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Building soil resilience & carbon through plant diversity

This project is identifying ways to build resilient soils and enhance carbon stocks in cropping systems, using a range of species in cover cropping and companion crop plantings.


Project Officer
Jane McInnes


Farmers are looking to improve soil resilience to enable sustained or improved productivity in an increasingly variable climate. Farmers can improve aspects of soil health by increasing the range and diversity of plant species grown in a rotation, either by sowing different species as cover crops, through companion cropping, or by planting different species within a broadacre crop rotation.

This project is measuring the effects on soil function of increasing the diversity of species grown under a range of cropping systems in the Riverine Plains.

In short: The project investigates the impact of using different species in cover cropping, intercropping, and crop rotations on soil resilience, carbon dynamics, and productivity.

Project focus

The project aims to determine the medium-longer term contribution of cover cropping, intercropping and crop rotation to soil resilience and carbon dynamics, and cropping system productivity. It follows on from the Increasing plant diversity project.

The project investigates changes in soil function, soil resilience and carbon stocks under a range of agronomic practices that incorporate plant diversity in cropping systems in the medium term (4-7 years).

The project also investigates how much photosynthate (i.e., carbon from rhizo-deposits) from cover crop and intercrop species is stabilised in soil, and its contribution to soil aggregation.

The project trial is being hosted an existing long-term field site at Burramine, Victoria.

A similar, long-term field site has been established by Central West Farming Systems and at a site established by Birchip Cropping Group. Further, the project will determine appropriate fertiliser reductions in cane crops following mixed species cover crops at Ingham, in conjunction with Herbert Cane Productivity Services.

Project outcomes

The project will determine the long-term impact of plant diversity on soil carbon dynamic, quantify the stability and role of rhizodeposits (e.g. root exudates) on soil carbon, aggregate formation, and soil microbial communities and optimise intercrop mixes to enhance soil resilience. 

Longer term, the project aims to identify agronomic interventions that increase plant diversity in cropping systems that can improve soil resilience and sustain or increase system productivity. The project ultimately aims to increase carbon levels and resilience in Australian cropping soils. 

Find out more

For further information, please contact Riverine Plains Senior Project Manager, Jane McInnes at jane@riverineplains.org.au 

Project investment

This project is funded by the CRC for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC).

Focus areas


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