Ants and termites help lift wheat yields at Binnu

28 Oct, 2011 11:34 AM
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Binnu grower Rohan Ford welcomes insects in his farming systems as allies in grain production.
Binnu grower Rohan Ford welcomes insects in his farming systems as allies in grain production.

ANTS and termites, supported by conservation agriculture practices, are providing unexpectedly high yield benefits on Rohan Ford’s property at Binnu, north of Geraldton.

This was one of the findings from a three-year on-farm study, outlined in the latest edition of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) magazine Ground Cover.

CSIRO and University of Sydney researchers found that termites and ants helped to lift Mr Ford’s wheat yield by 36 per cent and reduce his nitrogen expenditure by about 25 per cent.

Improvements observed included better water infiltration and increased nitrogen.

The tunnels made by foraging ants and termites channelled moisture to where it was available to plant roots and less prone to evaporation.

As well, researchers discovered symbiotic bacteria in the guts of termites that fix nitrogen in the soil, reinforcing the importance of retaining stubble as a source of termite food.

The study revealed that tillage at shallow depth, controlled traffic and stubble retention supported insect activity in Mr Ford’s paddocks.

“It doesn’t cost me anything to leave the termites and ants in my paddocks, and even a five per cent yield increase could be enough to keep us going in a dry season,” he said.

The November/December edition of Ground Cover will be mailed out in early November.

Other stories featured in this edition of Ground Cover include the announcement of the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) – a partnership between the GRDC and the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA).

The centre, to be based in Perth, will establish world class skills and capability in export grains innovation and industry development, and is the second National Centre of Research Capability to be established under the grains industry’s National Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) Strategy.

Growers can sign up for Ground Cover or download articles via the GRDC website at www.grdc.com.au/groundcover

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