Sugarbush: a break‐crop for sustaining sugarcane productivity in the tropics

Ockerby, Stephen, Gardiner, Christopher, Aoetpah, Aholiab, Hannah, Iain, and Kempe, Nick (2015) Sugarbush: a break‐crop for sustaining sugarcane productivity in the tropics. In: Abstracts from TropAg2015. P046. pp. 97-98. From: TropAg 2015: Tropical Agriculture Conference: meeting the productivity challenge in the Tropics, 16-18 November 2015, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

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Many crops fail to achieve the biological maximum yield despite ideal growing conditions and surplus agronomic inputs. It is an ongoing issue in sugarcane in Queensland, for which break crops are recommended to improve yield and correct poor soil condition. In recent years, we have grown seed crops of Sugarbush, selected genotypes of the legume Desmanthus spp., during the plough‐out period between sugarcane crops in the Burdekin River and Mareeba regions.

Demanthus is well‐adapted to Queensland's extensive grazing regions where it benefits animal production and the edaphic environment. Our observations suggest that a break‐crop of Sugarbush with crop residues returned to the soil will increase both sugarcane yield and crop nitrogen use, and may lessen off‐site nitrate pollution from sugarcane farming. We submit our technical rationale:

1.The vegetative growing‐periods of the selected Desmanthus genotypes are well‐suited to summer break‐crop conditions

2.Desmanthus is a legume so will fix atmospheric N

3.The plant has a large, woody and deep tap root which may: recover N that has leached below the roots of the sugarcane crop; form resilient root pathways and improve soil structure; and contribute to soil C

4.The crop produces a large above‐ground biomass (more than 12 tonnes DW per hectare) and residues will contribute labile C to the soil

5.The residues of Desmanthus are a preferred mix of low C:N leaf (similar to soybean and rapidly mineralized) and high C:N stem that will slow the rate of C and N mineralization in the soil.

Item ID: 41382
Item Type: Conference Item (Abstract / Summary)
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Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2016 23:39
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0703 Crop and Pasture Production > 070302 Agronomy @ 100%
SEO Codes: 82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8299 Other Plant Production and Plant Primary Products > 829999 Plant Production and Plant Primary Products not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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