Maintaining Profitable Farming Systems with Retained Stubble

This project was a collaboration between CSIRO, FarmLink Research and various growers and advisors.

Project Partners:  CSIRO, FarmLink Research, Farmers and Advisors
Project Code:  GRDC CSP-00174 
Project Duration: 2013-2017
Project Location:  FarmLink Region
Project Aim: To investigate the potential of management systems to maintain profitability when farming in full stubble retention systems.


Long term trial data from this region has shown negative impacts on yields when retaining stubble to be 0.3t/ha in wheat and 0.4t/ha in canola, (Kirkegaard et al).
Technological advances in GPS guided steering have increased the success of establishing crops with inter- row sowing and disease management techniques have also significantly improved. The Water Use Efficiency project identified several key areas that growers could address to increase profitability when retaining stubble such as summer weed control, ground cover maintenance, early sowing, grazing of crops and stubble and crop sequences.
FarmLink Research in collaboration with CSIRO’s Dr James Hunt and Dr John Kirkegaard have secured funding to conduct research in the FarmLink region. A project steering committee consisting of regional growers and advisors along with the research teams undertook a consultation process to identify keys issues limiting production in stubble retained farming systems. From the consultation proces small plot and farmer sown trials were designed to look closely at the identified issues. 

Identified Issues

  • Crop sequences for seeding equipment. Disc seeders have been widely adopted in our region to facilitate trouble free establishment of crops into large stubble loads. The disc seeder system has no registered pre-emergent herbicides available for weed control.  Farmers and advisors are leading the development of systems that will successfully control a range of weeds. Crop sequences will be an additional tool to combat problem weeds in both the disc and tyne seeding equipment. This will be a small plot trial established into an existing population of annual ryegrass at the Temora Agricultural Innovation Centre.

  • Rotary harrows for improved herbicide efficacy. Local growers have been trialing the use of steel rotary harrows to increase herbicide efficacy, establishment percentages and reduce the impact of stubble born diseases. A farmer sown strip trial will be carried out to determine the differences between a range of treatments.

  • Harvest and post harvest stubble management. Some growers are harvesting at low heights to allow easy establishment of the following years crop. This can reduce harvest efficiency and increase the time taken to complete harvest operations. A replicated farmer sown trial looking at the impact of short and high stubble height compared to post harvest treatments of burning and K-line trash cutting will be established. Harvest delays increase potential for weather damage of grain crops which can decrease profitability.

  • Stubble management, nutrition and moisture conservation in mixed farming systems. This is an extension of the Water Use Efficiency Project and will be conducted at this trial site. Each plot will contain strips of knife point, spear point and disc openers to compare the impacts on each of grazing, stubble retention and burning. 

Along with treatments listed above we have the capacity to establish additional experiments to investigate issues arising during the life of the project. Data will be collected on a wide range of aspects such as soil moisture, nutrition, establishment, early vigor, dry matter production, yield, diseases, pests, canopy and soil temperatures. These measurements will enable the impacts of a range of stubble management practices to be determined.


Over the duration of the project a range of publications were created and listed below for download. The compilation of these publications was the Seasons in Stubble booklet which can be downloaded by clicking on the image below.


Case Studies

 McColl Case Study Holding Case Study   Dart Case Study Sinclair Case Study

 Carey Case Study
Coleman Case Study Clemson Case Study
Ingold Case Study  

Video Series

The Seasons in Stubble Series resides on FarmLink’s YouTube Channel and has been added to as the project progressed. The full suite of videos can be viewed via the playlist

Stubble Demonstration Day 2014 Intro video can be viewed at
The demo day featured a range of equipment trials, with the following videos also available for viewing –
Harper Stubble Cruncher -
K-Line Speed Tiller -
K-Line Trash Cutter -
Lemken Heliodor -

Other videos include -

Herbicides in Stubble -
Nitrogen Management -
Grazing Stubble -
Break Crops in Stubble -  

Harvest & Post Harvest Stubble Management
Throughout 2013 and 2014, FarmLink Research and the GRDC partnered to conduct a paddock scale experiment comparing plant growth, yield and profitability of different harvest and post harvest stubble management techniques. The project was established on the property of Ben and Lou Beck at Downside.
View the video about the project -

GRDC Groundcover

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