Desired stubble characteristics for irrigators

Guidelines for growersICC Logo with Slogan

  • Harvest height is predetermined by crop type and height. The stubble height remaining after harvest can be managed in the future if required. 
  • On irrigated paddocks, many cereal stubbles are too thick for even the best seeders. Consequently stubbles must be managed over summer with livestock or machinery.

Stubble cover is valued for its ability to protect the soil surface from raindrop damage (resulting in hard setting) and water and wind erosion.

To a lesser extent, stubble is used for moisture conservation and reducing evaporative losses after irrigation. This benefit is particularly valuable in spring where stubble cover extends the period between pre-irrigation and the first post-emergent irrigation, allowing the crop to become well established and more tolerant of the waterlogging that can occur with later irrigations.

Unlike dryland situations where crop growth can be highly variable, stubble loads under irrigation are more consistent and therefore management decisions are relatively straight forward – what worked last season is probably going to work again next time. This also makes the decision to invest in seeding or stubble management machinery less risky, as it is likely to be needed each season.

Desired stubble characteristics for an irrigated retained-stubble system

The general principles of stubble characteristics adopted by dryland farmers hold true for irrigation, given that irrigators simply have to deal with more stubble.

The following crop is going to play a large part in how the stubble should be managed at, or after, harvest. Therefore, planning for next season well in advance is useful.

Many irrigators are situated close to animal industries that may purchase baled stubble. Having long stubble or windrows post-harvest enables the stubble to be directly baled, or mown and baled, removing most of the problem.

Crop type

Sowing crop varieties with early maturity and short height can make stubble management easier, particularly if the winter crop is to be followed with a summer crop almost immediately.

Faba bean stubbles are a valuable product, both as a source of N for future crops and as livestock feed. Faba bean crops are generally cut low (to harvest any low pods produced) and then grazed with livestock. Depending on the intensity of grazing, mulching may be necessary to enable sowing.

Most canola stubbles on irrigation are generally thin and do not present an issue for the next winter crop. Some canola stubble management may have to take place in a double cropping situation such as baling the chaff rows to allow sowing.

Crop height

Initial trials on Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs) have been unreliable in ensuring decreased crop height, with examples of initial height suppression evaporate by harvest.

Current cereal practice is to harvest the crop at a height for maximum speed and harvest efficiency and then worry about the stubble post-harvest.

By Damian Jones
Trials manager
Irrigated Cropping Council

GRDCLogoStacked_TM_CMYKThis guideline was produced by ICC as part of the GRDC Maintaining profitable farming systems with retained stubble initiative (project BWD00024 ‘Maintaining profitable farming systems with retained stubble in Victoria and Tasmania’).

Stubble project overview: This guideline has been developed as part of the Maintaining Profitable Farming Systems with Retained Stubble initiative, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). The initiative involves farming systems groups in Victoria, South Australia, southern and central New South Wales and Tasmania collaborating with research organisation’s and agribusiness to explore and address issues for growers that impact the profitability of cropping systems with stubble, including pests, diseases, weeds, nutrition and the physical aspects of sowing and establishing crops in heavy residues.
Disclaimer: Any recommendations, suggestions or opinions contained in this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Irrigated Cropping Council (ICC), Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) or the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). No person should act on the basis of the contents of this publication without first obtaining specific, independent professional advice. ICC, GRDC and contributors to these guidelines may identify products by proprietary or trade names to help readers identify particular types of products. We do not endorse or recommend the products of any manufacturer referred to. Other products may perform as well as or better than those specifically referred to. ICC, BCG and GRDC will not be liable for any loss, damage, cost or expense incurred or arising by reason of any person using or relying on the information in this publication. 

About BCG

Birchip Cropping Group Inc. (BCG) is a not-for-profit agricultural research and extension organisation led by farmers in the Victorian Wimmera and Mallee.
This entry was posted in Guidelines for growers, stubble characteristics, Weed management and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Desired stubble characteristics for irrigators

  1. Pingback: Stubble characteristics in a retained stubble cropping system | The stubble project: Victoria and Tasmania

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