Research Site/Demonstration Number: SA05SEQ-01
Grower Collaborator: Piñata Farms – Wamuran
Location 1: Pates Road, Wamuran
Start date: February 2019
To evaluate the benefits of surface stabilisation practices on low to moderate slopes to reduce/mitigate surface erosion and off farm deposition.
- To improve the methodologies of implementing surface stabilisation practices to better manage soil erosion.
- Phase 1 – living surface covers (living mulch)
- Phase 2 – synthetic surface covers (geo polymers)
- To understand the impact of mechanically controlled / isolated compaction or combinations with surface stabilisers.
- To reduce in-field soil erosion in highly erodible soil types.
- To undertake a cost analysis of implementing soil erosion practices.
The trial site has followed a previous crop of 73-50 hybrid which was only taken to plant crop due to poor health. The previous crop harvested below industry standards in Spring 2018 with major issues of Phytophthora root rot, nematode, black beetle/white grub and natural flowering.
The soil was prepared to standard industry conditions with good soil tilth, no crop residue and good soil moisture with a soil pH of 4.3. The average slopes of the block are 2 – 3%. The block was established with industry standard herbicide practices which included a pre-plant incorporation and post plant drench immediately after planting.
Phase 1: Trial map – Pates Road Wamuran
(the yellow lines indicate the position of the contour banks)
Trial location prior to contour draining/soil opened up with plough to assist drying out.
Phase 1 – Two different living mulch species were planted, rye grass and oats 6 weeks after planting. Planting of the living mulch involved an initial tillage operation with a tine into the inter-row to a depth of 10cm to open a furrow. Seed was then planted by hand. A second tillage operation with the tine and then a final pass compressing the inter-row with the tractor tyres. The treated rows were 100m in length.
Opening the planting furrow
Seeding the inter-row space and burying seed/controlled compaction
ASSESSMENT / EVALUATION METHOD & DELIVERY SCHEDULE
Pre-plant pesticide and nutrition applied
Modifications to the current industry standard sprayer.
Constant rainfall disrupting land preparation during establishment of block. The site has subsequently been relatively dry for the majority of the trial period.
The site also supports a fumigation trial.
Phase 1 – Soil stabilisation with living mulch
The initial results have indicated that living mulch can be planted with moderate success into pineapple fields that have been treated with industry standard herbicide programs. Both rye grass and oats was able to establish into a soil with herbicide residue present. However, growth was limited to 10 – 15cm before the living mulch died. This also coincided with the first rainfall event of 20mm.
The vegetative mass/cover of both living mulch crops was able to stabilise the soil to a moderate degree. In this case, the oats were more successful than the rye grass.
The addition of mechanically controlled compaction (tractor tyres) in the inter-row further assisted the living mulch seed to establish but also supported stabilisation within the highly erodible areas of the furrow. The compaction from the tractor tyres and the pattern of the tread assisted the minimisation of soil erosion.
Prior to the first sampling the site received 20mm rainfall over a four-hour period.
Soil Stabilisation – Living Mulch (2 weeks after planting)
Rye grass (left), oats (right)
After 20mm rainfall: (left) high erosion where there was no ground cover, (right) low erosion in the presence of living mulch
The amount of soil eroded from each treatment was measured by laying 10m lengths of plastic at the ends of the rows that was wide enough to collect the eroded soil. 10m was enough to collect all the soil that washed out of the ends of the inter rows and after the rain event the soil on the plastic was collected and weighed.
Note: Sampled July 2019 – total rainfall at that time 20mm
After 4 months the living mulch has died from the effects of the standard herbicide treatment
Even after the living mulch had died, the vegetative matter remains and continues to stabilise the inter-row minimising erosion. However, the vegetative matter within the rye grass area was minimal. Soil erosion measured in the rye grass area was marginally more than the well-established oats. The controlled compaction in both treatments has most likely had a major impact on the soil erosion.
In conclusion, the amount of soil erosion within the living mulch does not meet erosion targets. However, the living mulch generates a better result than standard practices of no ground cover / bare soil.
Phase 2 – Synthetic Surface Cover (Geo polymers)
The conclusions from phase 1 can now be used to plan phase 2. The main learning from phase 1 is the impact of controlled compaction in the inter row using the tractor tyres / tread pattern. Secondly, living mulch planted in the inter row reduced soil erosion compared to standard practices (bare soil). However, the levels of soil erosion in the living mulch did not meet target requirements.
Phase 2 will consist of the practice of control compaction in the inter row using the tractor tyres / tread pattern in combination with the application of Geo-polymers. The spraying of Geo-polymers requires precision application onto the inter row. This application will be done through modifications to current spray equipment.
Current industry spray equipment to be modified.
The above equipment will be fitted with two sets of spray jets. Each set of spray jets will consist three high volume hydraulic nozzles. The nozzles will be arranged in a unique pattern spraying the bottom of the inter row and both sides of the seedbed. Each set of spray jets will be located at the back of the sprayer and follow behind the wheels of the tractor.
The practice of controlled compaction in the inter row using the tractor tyres / tread pattern in combination with the Geo-polymers. Will compact and create a hard crust in the inter row to the pattern of the tyre tread from the tractor.