Farm Management

Protect paddocks from wind erosion

Feature image: The Department of Agriculture and Food has urged landholders with low levels of ground cover to manage paddocks carefully to avoid wind erosion. Image provided by DAFWA

Landholders who have paddocks with low levels of ground cover have been encouraged to take action sooner rather than later to minimise the impact of wind erosion.

There have already been reports from across the grainbelt of wind erosion, as a result of below average winter rainfall.

Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food senior development officer David Bicknell said despite recent rainfall over parts of the grainbelt, the prospect of below average rainfall in coming months meant there would be a high risk of wind erosion over summer and beyond.

Mr Bicknell said while there was little landholders could do to protect paddocks that were ‘already blowing’, there were options to reduce wind erosion risk in paddocks with lighter soil types.

“Keeping the soil stable and anchored to prevent topsoil from being blown away will reduce damage in 2017 and prevent yield reductions for future crops and pastures,” he said.

“Keeping machinery, including vehicles, off paddocks and removing stock will prevent surface soil from becoming detached.”

Livestock feed and water management will be critical in coming months, with many growers already hand feeding stock.

Producers will have to weigh up the cost of supplementary feeding against the increased risk of erosion and its impact on future paddock potential.

Department research has shown ground cover of 50 per cent or more by the beginning of autumn is required to minimise the impact of wind erosion, as well as water erosion when it rains.

Mr Bicknell encouraged producers to plan flock or herd management for the next 12 months, as the spring forecast for most of the grainbelt was for below average rainfall.

“Producers will need to be mindful of stocking rates and feed budgeting to manage paddock grazing pressures and ensure there is at least 600 kilograms per hectare of dry matter on pasture paddocks,” he said.

“Options to keep stock off paddocks include feeding them in confined paddocks or feedlotting, while growers could also consider the cost-benefit of agisting or selling stock before both paddocks and stock lose condition.”

Department research officer Alex Douglas said growers considering reseeding paddocks to provide ground cover over coming months or turning cropped paddocks over to feed should also be aware of the erosion risk, as well as any herbicide residues.

“The decision to reseed should take into account the local season forecast and paddock conditions,” she said.

“Before reseeding, growers are recommended to inspect sown paddocks for any viable seed that may germinate with the next rain, while wetting up small patches to check for germination may save a lot of expense.

“It is important to note that canola crops sown with atrazine or propyzamide have withholding periods that are longer than cereals, so it is best to check before opening the gate to stock.”

Ms Douglas said weed management also posed a dilemma.

“While weeds will help to stabilise the soil and cutting the cost of herbicides may seem an attractive option, the long term cost of not spraying out weeds could be more detrimental,” she said.

“It would be best for landholders to discuss their options with their local agronomist.”

Small bare areas in otherwise well covered areas can also lead to severe blowouts, such as sheep camps, gateways and around watering points.

These areas can be protected by binding spray, claying or laying gravel, old hay or straw to give full cover.

Long term investments to mitigate wind erosion include planting trees as windbreaks, to reduce wind speed, applying clay subsoil or loamy gravel to at risk areas.

For more information about how to reduce the impact of wind erosion, as well as other resources to navigate the 2017 season visit the DAFWA website and click on the 2017 Growing season resources link.

Source: DAFWA

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