Most grain-growers recognise the need to include broadleaf species in their cropping program to reduce disease incidence for cereals, control weeds, and to improve soil nitrogen fertility. However, at the time of project inception, it was noted that the area sown to pulse legume crops or canola had dramatically declined over the previous 8-10 years. It was also observed that while 65-70% of grain produced in the southern region are grown in rotation with pastures, many of these pastures tend to have low legume contents and therefore provide little benefit to subsequent crops.
There had been many good reasons why growers had reduced the frequency of use of broadleaf species in recent years: this was mostly related to late starts to the growing season, drought and risk aversion. Yet much of the decline was also attributed to the wide-spread perception that broadleaf options were not as profitable as cereals.
This project examined the productivity and financial implications of growing legumes or brassicas in various genotype x environment x management (GxExM) combinations in cereal-based systems and re-evaluated the full value of integrating broadleaf species in a cropping sequence.
The project aimed to:
- Quantify the rotational benefits of broadleaf crops or pastures for cereals through participatory research in partnership with key agribusiness consultants and leading grower groups across southern and central NSW, Victoria and south-eastern SA.
- Identify whether profitable broadleaf cropping sequence alternatives to continuous cereal cropping are available for low, medium and high rainfall zones, and irrigated systems.
- Provide grain-growers and their advisers with guidelines they can use to identify the circumstances when they can expect to derive the best outcome from the inclusion of different break crops.
The results for this project can be found here as an excerpt from “Research for the Riverine Plains, 2015”.