A team of seven UNE undergraduates have taken part in organising a field day of topical interest as part of their learning and assessment requirements for the unit Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension, AGEX 310/510. The student team’s ‘clients’ for this extension task were Border Rivers-Gwydir Catchment Management Authority and UNE.
The field day, detailing ‘cover cropping’ with the crop millet on red soil in relation to its important role in soil erosion prevention, was held at the UNE Warialda Douglas McMaster Research Station on Thursday 1st October 2009.
The day included discussion and demonstrations by Dr. Chris Guppy and Mitch Hughes of UNE. McMaster property manager Simon Jasper, and Catchment Management representatives Nicole Gammie and Bruce Gardiner also contributed to the day.
“Selling the concept of cover cropping was not our aim, but rather to raise awareness of the technique as providing a sustainable option that aids in the prevention of dust storm events like have been experienced this past few weeks” said Nicole Gammie.
Discussed on the day were the benefits of cover cropping in terms of soil loss, shown to represent a major economic loss to farm operations; as well as soil moisture management and environmental sustainability.
UNE student Mitch Hughes highlighted that the cost of lost nutrients, primarily in the upper couple millimetres of the soil profile, can approach $135/ha/yr in lost nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur.
“Two millimetres doesn’t seem that much, it’s only once you start to do the calculations on a hectare or farm scale that the importance of this loss is fully realized” noted Mitch.
A presentation by Chris Guppy worked through the soil’s response to ‘cover crop’ densities with respect to soil moisture retention, loss and seasonal fluctuations.
The day was part of a series of field days run by the Border-Rivers Gwydir Catchment Management Authority covering a range of property management and improved natural resource technique considerations.
Those interested in further information regarding activities run by the Border-Rivers Gwydir CMA can contact Nicole Gammie on 02 6728 8045, or for updates on current research being undertaken at the UNE McMaster Research property contact Chris Guppy on 02 6773 3567.