Overcoming constraints to the profitability of cropping systems on ironstone gravel soils within the Southern cropping region of Australia - Phase II

Providing new information on water and nutrient use efficiency of ironstone gravel soils to better inform their management.

New information on water and nutrient use efficiency of ironstone gravel soils

Maximising the potential of ironstone gravel soil

Improving an often-underperforming soil type.

State of the art techniques

New tools to visualise water and nutrient dynamics.

Phase I

Providing fundamental knowledge.

Phase II

Developing solutions to identified challenges and informing management.

Latest project news and knowledge

Project objectives

Phase I

Part one of this research provided fundamental knowledge of gravel composition, mineralogical structure and interactions with water, nutrients and microbes.

Phase II

The second phase is focusing on solutions to the problems identified in Phase I, building on this knowledge to develop gravel-type specific management strategies for increasing water and nutrient use efficiency in the next few years.

MANAGEMENT AND application

This project is addressing the need to understand the variability of gravel soil and its consequence on water and nutrient interactions. Phase II is developing improved fertiliser and management strategies for gravel soil.

Project background

The distribution of gravel soils across Australia’s southern cropping zones is well known, with 24 % of land used for crop production in southwestern WA containing gravel and further gravel regions on the Eyre Peninsula and Kangaroo Island, SA.

Despite this, gravel soils do not reach their water-limited yield potential (kilograms grain per millimetre of available water). This is thought to be linked to the reactivity of gravel surfaces and their internal pore networks influencing water movement and fertiliser use efficiencies (especially phosphorus and nitrogen) in the soil profile.

Gravels vary in composition across the landscape due to differences in their parent geology and soils.  As such, there is a need to understand this variability and its consequence on water and nutrient interactions.

Research team

  • Francesca Brailsford (Murdoch University)
  • Frances Hoyle (Murdoch University)
  • Richard Bell (Murdoch University)
  • Talitha Santini (University of Western Australia)
  • Matthias Leopold (University of Western Australia)
  • Martin Saunders (CMCA, University of Western Australia)
  • Peta Clode (CMCA, University of Western Australia)
  • David Mainwaring (Murdoch University)
  • Davey L. Jones (Murdoch University)
  • Emily Cooledge (Bangor University)
  • Gavan McGrath (University of Western Australia, Murdoch University)
  • Panagiotis Manesiotis (QUB)
  • Brett Masters (PIRSA)
  • Lyn Dohle (PIRSA, KI)
  • Daniel Murphy (Murdoch University)


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This project is supported by a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) co-investment. Other funding and in-kind support was provided by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), Murdoch University, and The University of Western Australia.

GRDC Project Code: UMU2111-001RTX

Department ofPrimary Industries andRegional Development