Northern Tablelands mixed farming officer gives planning advice

Spraying weeds in your summer fallow to maintain soil moisture.
Spraying weeds in your summer fallow to maintain soil moisture.

As farmers look for the most productive ways to plan for their next crop or pasture, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services mixed farming officer Glen Uebergang has several pieces of advice.

He said that while sufficient moisture is fundamental, there are other elements producers can use to better manage their fallows and best prepare for planting.

Maintain ground cover and soil moisture: During rainfall events, ground cover slows the speed of surface runoff allowing more time for infiltration.

Ground cover and old crop residues help protect the soil from erosion during heavy summer storms. This is particularly important on steeper slopes or drainage lines where there is an increased erosion risk. There are numerous benefits to soil biota and soil organic carbon levels associated with maximising the amount of ground cover in your farming system.

Tilling the soil should always be well considered: Avoid the use of tillage in fallow management to benefit from ground cover in the system.

At times tillage may still be required in modern farming systems to provide another mode of action to kill weeds reducing the reliance on herbicide and the risk of herbicide resistance within weed populations, to ameliorate soil surface compaction, to incorporate lime or other surface spread fertilisers, to disrupt the life cycle of pests and other diseases or to prepare a seedbed.

Know your equipment: Know what machinery you intend to use to plant and understand its limitations.

Control your weeds: If you are using no till methods it is important to control weeds with registered herbicides used in accordance with the product label. Farming systems should not rely on just one mode of action to kill weeds as this will inevitably result in herbicide resistance within the weed population. 

Herbicides from different chemistry groups with varying applications should be used. In some circumstances two separate herbicides applied in two separate spray applications on the same weeds may be required.

This approach is commonly referred to as a ‘double knock’. Some herbicides have a residual effect in the soil and different crops vary in their tolerance to residual herbicides. Producers need to adhere to plant back periods for different crops and pastures to ensure that plant damage does not occur.

Nutrition: Soil tests can give a good indication of the status of major nutrients in the soil. Leaf tissue testing of previous crops is better to determine levels of trace elements. It is important to understand the soil nutrient levels and future crop or pasture requirements well in advance of planting to ensure appropriate fertiliser management strategies.

Select appropriate species: Consider climate, soil type and its limitations, grain markets or stock feed requirements, machinery and other infrastructure available when selecting crop or pasture species.

Any species planted in unsuitable growing conditions is destined to fail. Generally, newer plant varieties have increased production traits and pest and disease ratings, but better agronomic practices with regard to fallow management, nutrition, planting equipment, timeliness of operations and grazing management will have a far greater influence on productivity than varietal choice alone.

For more information on planning your next crop or pasture contact Glen Uebergang at Northern Tablelands Local Land Services on 0429 217 066 or