Brendon Cant brendon at iinet.net.au
Fri May 27 12:26:11 EST 2005

GRDC Media Release
Raised bed farming substantially increases the productivity of land
previously prone to waterlogging, leading to more reliable crop yields and
increased profits.
Increasing areas of waterlogged and saline land are costing WA growers about
$500 million in lost production annually.
To help stem the salty tide of land degradation, the Grains Research and
Development Corporation (GRDC) is supporting Department of Agriculture
(DAWA) research into raised bed farming.
GRDC-supported trials conducted by DAWA’s Greg Hamilton and Derk Bakker
demonstrated the value of avoiding waterlogging with a functional surface
drainage system.
“Adopting raised beds could improve WA soils by eliminating waterlogging,
leaching salt from the 0-25cm root zone, reducing the rise of salt into the
root zone and rehabilitating saline land to produce profitable crops and
pastures,” Mr Hamilton said.
“In 2003, a reasonably wet year, waterlogging occurred in some areas and
crop yield reflected the effectiveness of surface drainage systems. In
barley at North Stirling, waterlogging occurred only on the control
treatment, which yielded 2.65t/ha. Raised beds achieved 3.83t/ha.”
Gross margin for the control crop was  $312/ha and $471/ha for the raised
“At Woodanilling, canola crops were flooded and waterlogged in all control
treatments and some of the raised bed treatments. Poor yield of about
0.6t/ha was achieved on the raised beds, while the control crop had
virtually no yield at about 0.1t/ha,” he said
The control had a negative gross margin of $120/ha and the raised bed crops
negative $42/ha.
With further, high precision improvements in the surface drainage system on
flat land like that at Woodanilling, those raised beds that were inundated
in 2003 would have remained unaffected and yields would have been improved.
Since 2001 there have been substantial reductions in the root zone salinity
on waterlogged and saline flats where surface drains function well enough to
quickly remove all surface water.
“The profitability of raised beds makes their adoption financially viable,
even on waterlogged and mildly saline valley floors because the dominant
constraint to production is waterlogging,” Mr Hamilton said. 
Where there are salinity ‘hotspots’ and surface drainage is precise and
effective, salinity reduction will take several years. However, these areas
are usually less than 30 per cent of such valley floors and assured yields
and profitability will flow immediately from the 70 per cent of waterlogged
“The cost of adopting a raised bed system will be most quickly recovered by
cropping, with an average yield increase of 0.87t/ha in cereals from land
that is only waterlogged. Remaining mildly saline areas will return to
profitable production in three to five years.
“Pasture, on the other hand, takes time to establish and produces lower
returns in the short term,” he said.

Authorised by GRDC and issued on its behalf by Brendon Cant & Associates,
Tel 08 9385 7779

MEDIA CONTACT: Greg Hamilton, Tel 08 9368 3276
raised beds.doc/GRDC REF:DAW717

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