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Zero tillage and nitrogen fertiliser application in wheat and barley on a Vertosol in a marginal cropping area of south-west Queensland

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Thomas, G.A., Dalal, R.C., Weston, E.J., Holmes, C.J., King, A.J., Orange, D.N. and Lehane, K.J. (2007) Zero tillage and nitrogen fertiliser application in wheat and barley on a Vertosol in a marginal cropping area of south-west Queensland. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 47 (8). pp. 965-975.

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Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/EA05253

Publisher URL: http://www.publish.csiro.au


Winter cereal cropping is marginal in south-west Queensland because of low and variable rainfall and declining soil fertility. Increasing the soil water storage and the efficiency of water and nitrogen (N) use is essential for sustainable cereal production. The effect of zero tillage and N fertiliser application on these factors was evaluated in wheat and barley from 1996 to 2001 on a grey Vertosol. Annual rainfall was above average in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 and below average in 2000 and 2001. Due to drought, no crop was grown in the 2000 winter cropping season.

Zero tillage improved fallow soil water storage by a mean value of 20 mm over 4 years, compared with conventional tillage. However, mean grain yield and gross margin of wheat were similar under conventional and zero tillage. Wheat grain yield and/or grain protein increased with N fertiliser application in all years, resulting in an increase in mean gross margin over 5 years from $86/ha, with no N fertiliser applied, to $250/ha, with N applied to target ≥13% grain protein. A similar increase in gross margin occurred in barley where N fertiliser was applied to target malting grade. The highest N fertiliser application rate in wheat resulted in a residual benefit to soil N supply for the following crop.

This study has shown that profitable responses to N fertiliser addition in wheat and barley can be obtained on long-term cultivated Vertosols in south-west Queensland when soil water reserves at sowing are at least 60% of plant available water capacity, or rainfall during the growing season is above average. An integrative benchmark for improved N fertiliser management appears to be the gross margin/water use of ~$1/ha.mm. Greater fallow soil water storage or crop water use efficiency under zero tillage has the potential to improve winter cereal production in drier growing seasons than experienced during the period of this study.

Item Type:Article
Corporate Creators:Plant Science
Additional Information:© CSIRO.
Keywords:Barley; nitrogen fertiliser; southwest Queensland; tillage; Vertosol; wheat; winter cereal production.
Subjects:Plant culture > Field crops > Barley
Plant culture > Field crops > Wheat
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Fertilisers
Live Archive:06 Apr 2009 06:50
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:48

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