The role of tillage, fertiliser and forage species in sustaining dairying based on crops in southern Queensland 2. double-crop and summer sole-crop systems

Chataway, R. G., Cooper, J. E., Orr, W. N. and Cowan, R. T. (2011) The role of tillage, fertiliser and forage species in sustaining dairying based on crops in southern Queensland 2. double-crop and summer sole-crop systems. Animal Production Science, 51 10: 904-919. doi:10.1071/AN11032

Author Chataway, R. G.
Cooper, J. E.
Orr, W. N.
Cowan, R. T.
Title The role of tillage, fertiliser and forage species in sustaining dairying based on crops in southern Queensland 2. double-crop and summer sole-crop systems
Journal name Animal Production Science   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1836-0939
Publication date 2011-10
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1071/AN11032
Volume 51
Issue 10
Start page 904
End page 919
Total pages 16
Place of publication Collingwood, VIC, Austalia
Publisher C S I R O Publishing
Collection year 2012
Language eng
Abstract Dairy farms located in the subtropical cereal belt of Australia rely on winter and summer cereal crops, rather than pastures, for their forage base. Crops are mostly established in tilled seedbeds and the system is vulnerable to fertility decline and water erosion, particularly over summer fallows. Field studies were conducted over 5 years on contrasting soil types, a Vertosol and Sodosol, in the 650-mm annual-rainfall zone to evaluate the benefits of a modified cropping program on forage productivity and the soil-resource base. Growing forage sorghum as a double-crop with oats increased total mean annual production over that of winter sole-crop systems by 40% and 100% on the Vertosol and Sodosol sites respectively. However, mean annual winter crop yield was halved and overall forage quality was lower. Ninety per cent of the variation in winter crop yield was attributable to fallow and in-crop rainfall. Replacing forage sorghum with the annual legume lablab reduced fertiliser nitrogen (N) requirements and increased forage N concentration, but reduced overall annual yield. Compared with sole-cropped oats, double-cropping reduced the risk of erosion by extending the duration of soil water deficits and increasing the time ground was under plant cover. When grown as a sole-crop, well fertilised forage sorghum achieved a mean annual cumulative yield of 9.64 and 6.05 t DM/ha on the Vertosol and Sodosol, respectively, being about twice that of sole-cropped oats. Forage sorghum established using zero-tillage practices and fertilised at 175 kg N/ha.crop achieved a significantly higher yield and forage N concentration than did the industry-standard forage sorghum (conventional tillage and 55 kg N/ha.crop) on the Vertosol but not on the Sodosol. On the Vertosol, mean annual yield increased from 5.65 to 9.64 t DM/ha (33 kg DM/kg N fertiliser applied above the base rate); the difference in the response between the two sites was attributed to soil type and fertiliser history. Changing both tillage practices and N-fertiliser rate had no affect on fallow water-storage efficiency but did improve fallow ground cover. When forage sorghum, grown as a sole crop, was replaced with lablab in 3 of the 5 years, overall forage N concentration increased significantly, and on the Vertosol, yield and soil nitrate-N reserves also increased significantly relative to industry-standard sorghum. All forage systems maintained or increased the concentration of soil nitrate-N (0–1.2-m soil layer) over the course of the study. Relative to sole-crop oats, alternative forage systems were generally beneficial to the concentration of surface-soil (0–0.1 m) organic carbon and systems that included sorghum showed most promise for increasing soil organic carbon concentration. We conclude that an emphasis on double- or summer sole-cropping rather than winter sole-cropping will advantage both farm productivity and the soil-resource base.
Keyword Farming systems
Forage lablab
Forage sorghum
Soil nitrate-N
Soil organic carbon
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2012 Collection
School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
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