Singh, D.K. and Strahan, R. and Christodoulou, N. and Cawley, S. (2009) Validating economic and environmental sustainability of a short-term summer forage legume in dryland wheat cropping systems in south-west Queensland. Animal Production Science, 49 (9-10). pp. 816-825.
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Article Link(s): http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN09016
Publisher URL: http://www.publish.csiro.au
The present study set out to test the hypothesis through field and simulation studies that the incorporation of short-term summer legumes, particularly annual legume lablab (Lablab purpureus cv. Highworth), in a fallow-wheat cropping system will improve the overall economic and environmental benefits in south-west Queensland. Replicated, large plot experiments were established at five commercial properties by using their machineries, and two smaller plot experiments were established at two intensively researched sites (Roma and St George). A detailed study on various other biennial and perennial summer forage legumes in rotation with wheat and influenced by phosphorus (P) supply (10 and 40 kg P/ha) was also carried out at the two research sites. The other legumes were lucerne (Medicago sativa), butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea) and burgundy bean (Macroptilium bracteatum). After legumes, spring wheat (Triticum aestivum) was sown into the legume stubble. The annual lablab produced the highest forage yield, whereas germination, establishment and production of other biennial and perennial legumes were poor, particularly in the red soil at St George. At the commercial sites, only lablab-wheat rotations were experimented, with an increased supply of P in subsurface soil (20 kg P/ha). The lablab grown at the commercial sites yielded between 3 and 6 t/ha forage yield over 2-3 month periods, whereas the following wheat crop with no applied fertiliser yielded between 0.5 to 2.5 t/ha. The wheat following lablab yielded 30% less, on average, than the wheat in a fallow plot, and the profitability of wheat following lablab was slightly higher than that of the wheat following fallow because of greater costs associated with fallow management. The profitability of the lablab-wheat phase was determined after accounting for the input costs and additional costs associated with the management of fallow and in-crop herbicide applications for a fallow-wheat system. The economic and environmental benefits of forage lablab and wheat cropping were also assessed through simulations over a long-term climatic pattern by using economic (PreCAPS) and biophysical (Agricultural Production Systems Simulation, APSIM) decision support models. Analysis of the long-term rainfall pattern (70% in summer and 30% in winter) and simulation studies indicated that ~50% time a wheat crop would not be planted or would fail to produce a profitable crop (grain yield less than 1 t/ha) because of less and unreliable rainfall in winter. Whereas forage lablab in summer would produce a profitable crop, with a forage yield of more than 3 t/ha, ~90% times. Only 14 wheat crops (of 26 growing seasons, i.e. 54%) were profitable, compared with 22 forage lablab (of 25 seasons, i.e. 90%). An opportunistic double-cropping of lablab in summer and wheat in winter is also viable and profitable in 50% of the years. Simulation studies also indicated that an opportunistic lablab-wheat cropping can reduce the potential runoff+drainage by more than 40% in the Roma region, leading to improved economic and environmental benefits.
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