We have been working with a number of landholders to investigate whether we can monitor water quality improvements linked to on-farm practices, as well as looking at associated yield and profit. These demonstration sites include sophisticated equipment that monitors runoff and deep drainage water at the paddock scale.
At the Sandy Creek site we are mapping and managing zonal constraints, and have been watching cover crops grow. The legumes and sunflowers took a battering in the March rains but the soy beans have still yielded good nodulation and contributed nitrogen and organic matter to the fallow. Further soil tests will help us to calculate a new fertiliser regime based on a paddock yield target. We’ve also been monitoring nutrients in the ground water to demonstrate how losses differ between sandy soils and gluggy clay.
At Munro Plains we have a side-by-side demonstration of “industry standard” versus “MIP” practices from fallow to first ratoon. The MIP side started with a multi-species cover crop fallow and added organic matter (compost), in a 1.9m dual-row planting, permanent bed planting system and GPS-controlled traffic. Both sides monitor runoff and ground water. One surprising result so far has been finding pesticides hanging around for years after application and continuing to show up in runoff water.
At the canesite in the Bamboo Creek sub catchment we have a side-by-side demonstration comparing different fallow practices: plough out/replant; legume fallow and sprayed out fallow. Moving into the plant crop this year, each treatment will have different nutrient requirements. We will be monitoring each scenario to better understand the relationship between these farm practices and nutrient losses.
Also, in the Bamboo Creek sub catchment, we are implementing a demonstration site to compare different row management practices and associated sediment losses. The results of three treatments will be an important tool for growers wanting to know how their own practices compare and make decisions accordingly.
Seeing it for yourself
A field day was held at the Munro Plains site last year. Attendees got to see the constraint mapping work that has been done via drone and electro-magnetic induction; the condition of soil at plant after cover cropping; and innovative machinery for minimum tillage and planting with minimal disturbance. Growers also got to chat to the MIP team and the participating farmers about the project. MIP staff explained the workings of the automatic monitoring gear, as well as the process of pumping piezometers to take groundwater sampling.