Agronomic options to overcome soil water repellence improve crop performance regardless of sowing conditions in a gravelly duplex soil

G.P. McDonald1, S.L. Davies2, D.M. Bakker1, G. Poulish1

1 Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 444 Albany Highway, Albany, WA, 6330,,, 
2 Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 20 Gregory St, Geraldton, WA, 6530


Soil water repellence (SWR) is a significant constraint to crop establishment in South-West Western Australia (WA). A long term agronomic experiment commenced in 2015 to investigate a range of potential amelioration and mitigation options to manage SWR. All treatments improved crop establishment and yield by varying amounts over four seasons. The most effective treatments for improving yield were strategic deep tillage and banded wetting agents. Strategic deep tillage via mouldboard plough (MBP) or one-way plough (OWP) improved yield in all seasons regardless of rainfall patterns. The application of pre-emergent herbicides on strategic deep tillage treatments trended towards reduced crop growth and yield but rarely to a significant level. Near-row sowing increased plant establishment in two of the four seasons but yield improvements in these seasons were significantly lower than almost all other treatments. Improved crop performance from wetting agent techniques occurred only in years with dry soil conditions at sowing. Wetting agents were proven to be a good short term option for water repellent soils but strategic deep tillage provided the most consistent longer term yield improvement across all the growing seasons experienced.


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 Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University

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