SEMI-ARID GRAINS PRODUCTION Grains production in the semiarid, rain fed areas of Australia has been revolutionised through dramatically improved (soil) water use efficiency, leading to both more guaranteed harvests as well as greater crop frequency (up to five harvestable crops in a 2 year period have been reported). Achievement came from the cumulative effect and synergy of 3 CA practices (zero till, controlled traffic and rotation/cover crops) in a farmer-led, simplified cropping system. Zero till not only ensured metal-on-soil compaction was greatly minimised but also that tractor size, use of tractors and diesel consumption have all decreased with associated reductions in costs, fossil fuel use and potential for global warming. Further, controlled traffic (with all tyres running in permanent, fixed tracks) has ensured eradication of wheel-induced compaction in the crop-growing zones. Adding to these positive effects, combinations of commercial crops and cover/rotation crops have ensured a wide spectrum of soil benefits: organic matter enrichment for increased soil stability, cover for erosion minimisation, continuous food supply for earthworms (and the less visible, vital microbiological activity). Real outcomes include enhanced organic matter incorporation, fertility enrichment in casts, and continuous macropores for maximum soil profile refill and reduced surface water ponding (reducing potential for both evaporative water loss and erosion). The working harmony of the three CA elements has not only provided more assured, long term sustainability but also as one farmer said, “ has made farming so much easier as the soil response (to cropping) has become much more predictable”.
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