The benefits of maintaining groundcover on farms and ways of doing this were put in the spotlight during a visit from members of the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) southern panel yesterday.

The panel headed to the Conservation Agriculture and No-Till Farming Association (CANFA) site as part of their annual spring tour and were shown a number of research projects currently being undertaken at the facility.

CANFA executive officer Neville Gould led the group to three sites where work is being done on stubble management, cover and pasture cropping.

“Essentially, what we talked about was how do we maintain and grow groundcover and different scenarios in which this could be done,” Gould says. “The first site we took them to was a stubble management project which has been funded by the GRDC for the past 4 years and is now in its last year.

 “Through this project, we are trying to get across that there is no need for farmers to burn stubble — it can be managed.”

Differences in the trials included the type of stubble management machine used prior to seeding; when it came to planting whether it was done through down-cutting stubble or not cutting; as well as whether crop choice had any impact.

“Through managing a large amount of stubble, we can help the environment and ecosystem and do not have the need to burn and cultivate,” Gould says. “The panel members were receptive to this idea. Obviously, it's a big issue to the GRDC because managing stubble is the nexus where no-till farming falls over, so we need to find ways of managing this."

Cover and pasture cropping projects were also shown to the panel, with Gould explaining why each was so important for the future of the agriculture industry.

“Getting a cover crop on the ground is a No. 1 issue for no-till farmers,” he says. “It's especially important here because we have summer rain, and when we have summer stubble on the ground, we are able to catch that moisture and hopefully produce a wetter profile.

“A strong aspect of these projects is looking at water in the profile because that is what’s going to drive it forward. The various economics of pasture cropping versus no-till versus straight pasture was also discussed at the pasture cropping site, with the main focus of that being that it’s for graziers who want to crop."