Focus on soil water capacity

28 Oct, 2005 08:45 PM
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NO-TILLAGE farming systems were a good first step in improving soil water use, according to a leading farm systems expert.

CSIRO farming systems researcher Neal Dalgliesh told farmers and researchers no-till methods improved soil water-holding capacity at Kellerberrin Demonstration Group¹s (KDG) field walk.

³With no-tillage methods soil organic matter increases, positively affecting the soil¹s water carrying ability and its responsiveness to nutrient inputs,² Mr Dalgliesh said.

³Soil texture, density, plant cover and run off potential together with sub-soil constraints all affect a crop¹s ability to extract water from the soil.

³There are obvious correlations between soil particle size and water holding capacity.²

Mr Dalgliesh said improvements in soil water capacity would allow small falls of rain to move deeper in sandy soils, reducing evaporation.

³Crops can use old root pathways to extract more available water especially if the land has previously hosted a more vigorous crop.²

Growers could use their soil-stored moisture information to their advantage when planning sowing and limit risks if false breaks occurred.

CSIRO sustainable ecosystems researcher Yvette Oliver said measuring the effect of soil type on plant available water and nutrient requirements was the main objective of the KDG farm trials, which were visited on the field walk.

The walk examined soil pits to give growers a better understanding of different soil profiles.

Farmers viewed root depths of more than 2m at Rod Forsyth¹s property, under deep yellow sandy soil with 20pc clay, where crop available moisture was calculated at 90mm.

The second pit at Gavin Morgan¹s farm had crop available moisture of 60mm in sandy loam over gravely clay.

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