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Sustaining productivity of a Vertosol at Warra, Queensland, with fertilisers, no-tillage or legumes. 7. Yield, nitrogen and disease-break benefits from lucerne in a two-year lucerne–wheat rotation

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Dalal, R.C., Weston, E.J., Strong, W.M., Lehane, K.J., Cooper, J.E., Wildermuth, G.B., King, A.J. and Holmes, C.J. (2004) Sustaining productivity of a Vertosol at Warra, Queensland, with fertilisers, no-tillage or legumes. 7. Yield, nitrogen and disease-break benefits from lucerne in a two-year lucerne–wheat rotation. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 44 (6). pp. 607-616.


Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/EA02115

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


Continuous cultivation and cereal cropping of southern Queensland soils previously supporting native vegetation have resulted in reduced soil nitrogen supply, and consequently decreased cereal grain yields and low grain protein. To enhance yields and protein concentrations of wheat, management practices involving N fertiliser application, with no-tillage and stubble retention, grain legumes, and legume leys were evaluated from 1987 to 1998 on a fertility-depleted Vertosol at Warra, southern Queensland. The objective of this study was to examine the effect of lucerne in a 2-year lucerne–wheat rotation for its nitrogen and disease-break benefits to subsequent grain yield and protein content of wheat as compared with continuous wheat cropping.

Dry matter production and nitrogen yields of lucerne were closely correlated with the total rainfall for October–September as well as March–September rainfall. Each 100 mm of total rainfall resulted in 0.97 t/ha of dry matter and 26 kg/ha of nitrogen yield. For the March–September rainfall, the corresponding values were 1.26 t/ha of dry matter and 36 kg/ha of nitrogen yield. The latter values were 10% lower than those produced by annual medics during a similar period. Compared with wheat–wheat cropping, significant increases in total soil nitrogen were observed only in 1990, 1992 and 1994 but increases in soil mineralisable nitrogen were observed in most years following lucerne. Similarly, pre-plant nitrate nitrogen in the soil profile following lucerne was higher by 74 kg/ha (9–167 kg N/ha) than that of wheat–wheat without N fertiliser in all years except 1996. Consequently, higher wheat grain protein (7 out of 9 seasons) and grain yield (4 out of 9 seasons) were produced compared with continuous wheat. There was significant depression in grain yield in 2 (1993 and 1995) out of 9 seasons attributed to soil moisture depletion and/or low growing season rainfall. Consequently, the overall responses in yield were lower than those of 50 kg/ha of fertiliser nitrogen applied to wheat–wheat crops, 2-year medic–wheat or chickpea–wheat rotation, although grain protein concentrations were higher following lucerne.

The incidence and severity of the soilborne disease, common root rot of wheat caused by Bipolaris sorokiniana, was generally higher in lucerne–wheat than in continuous wheat with no nitrogen fertiliser applications, since its severity was significantly correlated with plant available water at sowing. No significant incidence of crown rot or root lesion nematode was observed. Thus, productivity, which was mainly due to nitrogen accretion in this experiment, can be maintained where short duration lucerne leys are grown in rotations with wheat.

Item Type:Article
Corporate Creators:Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), Agri-Science, Crop and Food Science
Business groups:Crop and Food Science
Additional Information:Reproduced with permission from © CSIRO Publishing. Access to published version may be available via Publisher’s website.
Keywords:Management practices; zero tillage; nitrogen; wheat; legume leys; yields.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Special aspects of agriculture as a whole > Sustainable agriculture
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Fertilisers
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Methods and systems of culture. Cropping systems
Live Archive:19 Jul 2007
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:43

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