A report for the GRDC Low Rainfall Zone Regional Cropping Solutions Network
Murray Unkovich, School Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide
The GRDC Low Rainfall Zone Cropping Solutions Network represents grain grower stretching from the Central West of NSW, across the Victorian and South Australian Mallee, the Upper North region of South Australia and across to the upper Eyre Peninsula. The group identified crop yields on sandy soils across their regions to be well below water-limited yield potential, more so than for their finer textured soils. The group determined that identifying the key yield limiting factors specific to representative sandy soil types in the low-rainfall zone, and then to develop or extend commercially viable management practices to improve production and water use on sandy soils was a high priority. This document begins to tackle the first of these two issues, identifying key yield limiting factors on sandy soils, by collating and analysing as much of the relevant information available in solution of sub optimal growth of crops on coarse textured (sandy) soils across this low rainfall environment. The problems of sandy soils have been apparent since agricultural lands were first cleared, but have perhaps been somewhat neglected in favour of other soils which are easier to manage and are typically more productive. This initiative has now put the considerable problems of farming sandy soils on the agenda, and with it great hope and expectation for identification of new farming practices and technologies which will lift production on these difficult soils and provide an incentive for more certain investment and returns on these soils. The gap between potential and current yields achieved highlights an opportunity which if realised, will make a substantial contribution to improved whole farm productivity. This report provides the foundation stone for this journey.