Retaining stubble can have long-term benefits for soil health and water retention, according to Riverine Plains research and extension officer Cassie Schefe.
That is just one of the findings from a four-year stubble management trial that includes the Ludeman brothers’ property at Dookie.
Speaking at a Riverine Plains-organised paddock walk at the Ludemans’ property, Dr Schefe said the trials had found that farmers should not be concerned about yield penalty.
‘‘The key outcome is that we’ve done these trials in a range of regions and with a range of stubble management techniques and there is no yield penalty, regardless of whether you are multi-disking, burning, or removing stubble for straw, from any of these sites apart from long stubble greater than 45cm,’’ she said.
‘‘(This) may delay crop growth and development, although crops normally catch up and grow in the end.’’
Host farmer Steve Ludeman, who uses a variety of stubble management strategies, said the growing limitations when stubble is left long was something that interested him.
‘‘(The main takeaway) was probably the lack of growth in the long stubble trials and the restriction of the growth stage,’’ he said.
Dr Schefe said the main talking point at the Dookie walk was the possibility of growing a legume crop.
‘‘At the Dookie site, (the interest was) incorporating a legume into the system; the value of a pulse crop in supplying nitrogen to the following (year’s) cereal crops and increased stubble breakdown.
‘‘The advantages of using a legume crop is that it reduces the stubble load from the previous crop,’’ Dr Schefe said.
‘‘We have a legume crop now in our system,’’ Mr Ludeman said.
‘‘The biggest thing about that is that it puts nitrogen back in to the soil, it is a good disease break but it is also lifting more organic carbon into the soil.’’
Dr Schefe said long-term, retaining stubble was a good thing but the way stubble was managed differed from season to season.
‘‘Over a long time, retaining stubble isn’t a negative at all. Short term, there maybe fluctuations in yields but these will mostly be insignificant. Over a longer term it should balance out.’’
Mr Ludeman agreed that choosing the right management strategy was seasonal.
‘‘It is a seasonal thing. It really depends on what part of the rotation we are in and it depends on what we are growing for the next season,’’ he said.