Crop intensive farming systems can be prone to deplete soil carbon levels, often requiring increased inputs to maintain or increase yield without necessarily improving profitability. Mixed species cover cropping offers a new approach in the Australian context. It is a key component of some farming systems overseas (e.g. parts of the USA) but is yet to be adopted widely in southern Australia.

Potential benefits of cover crops include improving soil organic carbon, structure and health, while decreasing weed and disease levels for following crops. Many candidate cover crop species and varieties exist. Whilst growers are beginning to investigate these, they lack local knowledge to make informed decisions.

In this project, a consortium of the Ag Ex Alliance, SANTFA, CSIRO, GRDC and the South Australia Department for Environment and Water is supporting grower groups to identify and demonstrate the establishment and management of suitable multi species cover crops across south eastern Australia.

The project will evaluate  cover crops in a range of environments across south eastern Australia to access the impacts of cover cropping on:

  • Soil health
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Organic carbon
  • Invertebrate populations
  • Soil moisture

Suitability of different plant species will be screened; and the optimum timing and method to terminate the cover crops will be carried out.

The project is being delivered in collaboration with:

SA Murray Darling Basin NRM

Michael Nash (What Bugs You – Entomologist)

Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF)

Ag KI

Southern Farming Systems (SFS)

Lower Eyre Development Association (LEADA)

Eyre Peninsula Agricultural Research Foundation (EPARF)

Upper North Farming System (UNFS)

MacKillop Farm Management Group (MFMG)