← Back to Search
Trends In Wheat Yields And Soil Organic Carbon In The Permanent Rotation Trial At The Waite Agricultural Research Institute, South Australia
Published 1995 · Biology
The Permanent Rotation Trial at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute in South Australia was established on a red-brown earth in 1925, with predominately cereal-long fallow rotations on 34 adjacent plots. The trial was upgraded in 1948 to include a greater proportion of pasture leys in the rotations and currently contains 11 treatments. The trial is unreplicated; however, each phase of a sequence is represented each year. Seven of the original rotations have remained in an unbroken sequence since 1925: continuous wheat (W), wheat-fallow (WF), wheat-peas (WPe), wheat-pasture-fallow (WPaF), wheatoats- fallow (WOF), wheat-barley-peas (WBPe), wheat-oats-pasture-fallow (WOPaF). For the 11 rotations, soil organic carbon (SOC) in the top 10 cm declined from 2.75% in 1925 to a mean value of 1.56% in 1993. One plot, which had reverted to permanent pasture in 1950, showed the smallest decline with an SOC content of 2.46% in 1993. The greatest declines in SOC were in the 4 original rotations that included fallow phases in the sequence (mean value of 1.22%). In the WF rotation the SOC content had declined from 2.75 to 1.04% during 68 years of cropping. Associated yield decreases showed that the treatment could not sustain production. Soil organic C declined linearly with increasing frequency of fallows and decreasing frequency of pasture in the rotations. Average grain yields (1925-93) in the 7 original sequences ranged from 2.64 t/ha in WOPaF to 0.89 t/ha in the continuous W plot. The linear decline in yields for WBPe, WPaF, WPe, and WOF treatments indicate a convergence in the 1990s under current management, with an average yield of 1.54 t/ha in 1993 and average SOC in the top 10 cm of 1.32%. We hypothesise that the gradual increase in grain yields from the continuous W plot since the 1960s is the result of a gradual build-up of light fraction organic material, which assists in the maintainence of structure and nutrient availability.