Low-risk management strategies for crop production on water repellent sands

Phil Ward1, Nigel Wilhelm2, Margaret Roper1, Terry Blacker3, Ramona Kerr1, Priya Krishnamurthy1, Ian Richter4, Shayne Micin1

1 CSIRO, Private Bag No 5, Wembley WA 6913; phil.ward@csiro.au,
2 SARDI-PIRSA, Waite Research Precinct, Hartley Grove, Urrbrae SA 5064,
3 SARDI, 119 Verran Tce, Port Lincoln SA, 5606,
4 PIRSA, 226 McKenzie Rd, Minnipa SA 5654,


Water repellent (non-wetting) soils pose significant problems for crop production and natural resource management in southern Australia. Water infiltration is patchy, and the resulting impacts on crop and weed germination can reduce yields by more than 50%. In this research, we compared the impacts of two wetting agents and near-row sowing as low-cost strategies to improve crop emergence and yield. A randomised block trial with 4 replicates was established on a sandy soil near Wharminda on the Eyre Peninsula in SA. Wetting agents improved crop emergence in wheat (2015: 47-58%), barley (2016: 44-111%) and lupins (2017: 210-326%), and increased grain yield in 2015 (26-31%) and 2017 (26-70%) but had no impact in 2016. Near-row sowing had no significant impact on either emergence or crop yields. Neither wetting agents nor near-row sowing had any direct impact on severity of soil water repellence.


The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

Photo Credits

David Marland Photography david_marland@hotmail.com Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University

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