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Legumes - Planting the seed to improve soil health

The results of a 10-month research partnership coordinated by Central West Local Land Services have highlighted the potential to improve nitrogen fixation and reduce the reliance on nitrogen fertiliser.

Practical tips for crop production and the results of the hard-seeded legumes project will be presented at a series of workshops in Forbes, Dunedoo, Mendooran and Bathurst next month.

Over the past 10 months, Central West Local Land Services Dr Belinda Hackney has been working on the hard-seeded legumes project in conjunction with Murdoch University, Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation Limited.

Previous studies have shown that legumes are able to significantly reduce the need for fertiliser nitrogen for subsequent crops.

When this is working well, legumes are able to fix 20 to 30kg of nitrogen per ton of herbage produced.
Paddock surveys taken during the course of the project through the Central West region found that only 10 per cent of legume paddocks had acceptable levels of nodulation.

“Walking into the paddocks, legumes looked very healthy,” Dr Hackney said.

“We were really quite surprised how few nodules we found on digging up the plants. By gathering information on paddock history we have identified some common issues that are impacting nodulation.”

These findings have highlighted that there is major potential to improve nitrogen fixation and reduce reliance on fertiliser nitrogen sources for crop production.

If mainly livestock are being run, having pasture legumes fixing nitrogen effectively means all the non-legume components of pasture will grow well.

Getting legumes to work harder and improving soil health information days will be held at the Forbes Services Club on 15 June, Mendooran and Dunedoo bowling clubs on 16 June and Bathurst on 17 June.

Speakers and topics will include Dr Belinda Hackney, giving an overview of legume nodulation survey, Dr Sofie De Meyer and Tom Edwards from Murdoch University discussing factors affecting legume nodulation and practical measures to improve nitrogen fixation in legumes for the benefit of crop and pastures.

Susan Orgill from NSW Department of Primary Industries will also speak on the interaction of soil nitrogen and soil carbon on overall soil health.

For further advice or information, contact Dr Belinda Hackney on 0438 358 819.

For details and to register to attend an information day contact Chris Robinson on 0447 636 129 or email chris.robinson@lls.nsw.gov.au