Ground cover essential to prevent wind erosion

January 27 2022 - 6:00am
DPIRD has reminded grainbelt landholders to take action to ensure adequate ground cover to protect paddocks from the risk of soil erosion.

FARMERS across the grainbelt have been reminded to protect their paddocks from wind erosion to maintain valuable topsoil and optimise productivity and profitability for the 2022 growing season.

There have been reports of wind erosion from across the agricultural region, particularly from the West Midlands.

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Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) senior research scientist Paul Findlater said paddocks should have at least 50 per cent ground cover, of which about 30 per cent should be anchored, to reduce the risk of soil erosion.

Mr Findlater said stubble management was key to preventing soil particles from becoming airborne.

"With heavy stubbles this year in many areas, due to the large harvest, landholders will be in a good position to maintain ground cover and set up paddocks for the 2022 growing season," Mr Findlater said.

"There are additional benefits from retaining stubble, including improved rainfall infiltration, reduced soil water loss, improved soil organic matter and soil structure, as well as protecting seedlings from sand blasting in the new season."

Growers have been advised to manage heavy stubbles carefully as they prepared paddocks for their 2022 sowing program to ensure sufficient groundcover was maintained.

Windrow burning is a practical option to reduce stubble residues and mange weed seeds to provide enough groundcover to prevent soil erosion.

Mr Findlater said while stubbles were often used as sheep feed, they do not contain as much nutrition as other feed alternatives.

"Sheep only eat about six per cent of stubbles and with more efficient harvesting techniques and weed control, stubble paddocks contain less nutritional value these days," he said.

"We recommend managing grazing to retain at least 600 kilograms per hectare of dry matter on pasture paddocks to prevent soil erosion.

"Feed budgeting will be essential over summer and autumn to help manage pasture cover and livestock health."

Other ways to reduce soil erosion include keeping stock off paddocks with low cover by confinement feeding, feedlotting, agisting or selling stock before paddocks and stock lose condition.

DPIRD recommended limiting all vehicle movements in paddocks that are susceptible to wind erosion and protecting small bare areas that could lead to soil blowouts, such as sheep camps, around gateways and laneways, by applying a binding spray, clay, gravel or straw.

Landholders have also been encouraged to delay soil amelioration activities until the soil is moist, to reduce soil disturbance and the risk of erosion.

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