February 2, 2013
Leader of research group Southern Farming Syst-ems, Jon Midwood, says he expects good water-use efficiencies (WUEs) in crops throughout the State’s high-rainfall zones this year. Many croppers, especially in parts of the south-west Wimmera, are marvelling at how good their crops are looking, given the dry season. Mr Midwood said he had heard people comment they could not believe how good the crops looked in light of rainfall, but added it might underline the lack of damage done by waterlogging, which was generally a problem throughout parts of the North East, Gippsland, the southern Wimmera and the Western District. “Waterlogging can shear off roots so plants don’t push down to access moisture later in the season; crops that have been waterlogged often suffer worse from dry spells later in the season,” he said. “This year, it’s been pretty much the perfect scenario in the Western District, where we are often limited by too much winter rainfall. “We had good falls that filled up the soil moisture profile but not so much as to lead to waterlogging. “There has been a kind spring with mild temperatures, so while there hasn’t been as much rain as we would have liked, it hasn’t really dried the crop out.” Mr Midwood said he thought plants were pushing down further into the soil profile for moisture this year. “When there’s waterlogging the roots just don’t push down as there’s no need to initially, and then they can’t get down later in the year.” He said this year moisture probes were showing crops were accessing moisture from as far down as 80 centimetres. “A lot of years in the West- ern District, that wouldn’t be any more than 50cm,” he said. “There’s no doubt plants this year will have much better root development, which in turn helps them access more moisture in dry spells. “We’re expecting really good WUEs, especially in canola and barley, although the wheat may have come into the dry spells a little underdeveloped in some cases.” Mr Midwood said there was a long-term benefit too, with the roots creating micro-pores in the soil which allowed better water penetration in the future, thus lessening the likelihood of surface waterlogging. “It can be very good for soil structure,” he said.