Improving the adoptability of spading practices in constrained sandy soil environments

Jack Desbiolles1, Chris Saunders1, Chris McDonough2, Michael Moodie3

1 Agricultural Machinery Research and Design Centre, School of Engineering, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes, SA 5095, Australia,,
2 Insight Extension for Agriculture, Loxton, SA, 5333.
3 Frontier Farming Systems, Mildura, Victoria 3500


With increasing adoption of sandy soil amelioration practices such as spading, minimising the risks of soil erosion post-operation is of paramount importance. Solutions being researched include developing effective and practical ways to i) keep surface residue in spaded paddocks and/or ii) reliably establish a vigorous (cover) crop as quickly as possible after spading. One-pass ‘spade and sow’ approaches have been developed and evaluated to effectively address the challenges of early crop establishment and problems associated with subsequent sowing in soft spaded soil. ‘Strip spading’ concepts are also being evaluated whereby strips within a paddock are spaded in turn over a cycle of two to three years to gradually ameliorate the constrained area, leaving residue protection in unspaded zones each season. At the paddock scale, 4.5 m wide spading of harvester trail strips incorporates concentrated crop residue as organic input, as well as weed seeds, achieving clear benefits in soil water use and grain yield. At the machine scale, modifications can be made to spade and sow 350mm wide strips every 700mm, leaving bands of surface or standing stubble between emerging crop rows. This evaluation work conducted across a variety of projects is on-going.



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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