Land management in grain and crop farming

Increase your farm's efficiency and minimise the flow of nutrients, sediments and chemicals into waterways by using improved land management practices.

Our grain economics publications can help you assess the costs and benefits of different management practices.

Read industry research and case studies to find out about new trials:

Protect reef catchments

Reduce water runoff and erosion

Increase ground cover

Growing crops which leave higher stubbles after harvest is one of the best ways to increase and maintain ground cover.

Crop selection, practising zero till, and row spacing can also increase ground cover.

Higher rates of ground cover can:

  • increase the rate of water infiltration into soil
  • reduce the amount of water 'lost' as runoff
  • reduce evaporation and keep topsoils wetter for longer
  • extend planting opportunities
  • help water infiltrate deeper into the soil profile.

Maintain contour banks

Well-maintained contour banks with appropriate bank spacings is the best way to reduce sheet erosion, rill erosion and gully erosion forming in cropping land.

Contour banks save valuable and fertile topsoil. Without contour banks, sloped land will have greater repair requirements and degrade more quickly.

Research comparing run-off and erosion losses between single-spaced and triple-spaced contour banks on open downs soil found that extending out contour bank spacing from single (standard) to triple spacing increased erosion by 31%, averaged over 9 years of trial data.

Combining low ground cover and long slopes can lead to bank failure and high sediment losses. Contour banks reduce the need for costly and time consuming repairs to fields or damage to farm equipment from operating on rough surfaces.

Protect waterways

Grassed waterways improve water quality on farms by:

  • slowing water flows and reducing the volume of water leaving the farm
  • trapping and removing nutrients, sediments and pesticides from run-off or shallow groundwater
  • decreasing erosion.

Manage nitrogen in soils

The Nitrogen Books can help you:

  • manage nitrogen and climate risk for maximum yields
  • address soil fertility decline.

They cover central Queensland, and southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Topics include:

  • gains and losses of soil nitrogen
  • determining crop demand for nitrogen
  • soil's capacity to supply nitrogen
  • determining crop nitrogen requirement
  • evaluating financial risk
  • applying fertiliser
  • contribution from legumes and pulses.

Improve soil quality

Soil tests identify what nutrients may be needed so an appropriate nutritional program can be used which increases yields and minimises fertiliser costs. Soil testing helps identify what constraints there may be and what remediation is required.

Follow the soil testing guidelines.

Conduct Predicta-B testing to screen for diseases including:

  • crown rot
  • nematodes
  • ascoshyta blight
  • seedling pathogens.

Monitor soil moisture to know if and when there is enough moisture to reliably grow a crop. This also indicates likely yield potential, so you can select appropriate fertiliser rates and consider end of season marketing.

To learn more about increasing yield through changing soil water availability, watch Economics of ameliorating soil constraints in the northern region to hear about a project that is exploring the different options.

Reduce soil compaction and minimise application overlap to:

  • improve soil health
  • increase stored water and yield potential
  • reduce field operation times
  • reduce fuel use
  • save on inputs with less overlap of fertiliser, seed or pesticide.

Improve land management

  • Selecting the right crop and variety can maximise yields and profits.
  • Rotating crop species over time minimises diseases, weeds and other pests.
  • Match fertiliser to crop needs, to avoid over applying fertiliser in situations when you won't make a return and avoid missing out on yields from nutrient deficiencies.

Use chemicals safely

  • Use spot spraying—optical and other spot sprayers can reduce input costs, making normally expensive herbicides affordable. Optical spot sprayers commonly reduce knockdown herbicide use by 70-90%.
  • Find out about agricultural chemical permits and products.
  • Get your spray applications right—knowing what you're doing maximises the efficacy of spray applications, minimising the chance for failed sprays and subsequent yield impacts and/or extra costs to re-spray.
  • Visit the Beat Sheet to learn about identifying and managing insect pests in grain crops.

Stay informed