Delivering agronomic strategies for managing water repellence in Western Australia

Enhancing productive capacity and management solutions to better manage soil water repellence will help reduce the opportunity cost from lost production associated with water repellence estimated at up to $330 million each year.







  • Grains Research and Development Corporation
  • Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

Project team

  • Stephen Davies

Project overview

Water repellence is a widespread problem mostly affecting soils with low clay content or high organic matter levels in the topsoil, in the medium to high rainfall zones. The expression of water repellence appears to be increasing due to an increase in cropping frequency, drier and earlier sowing, minimum tillage and reduced break of season rainfall. Soil water repellence results in uneven wetting of the soil profile and in poor, delayed and staggered emergence of crops, pastures and weeds and reduced productivity. Management options include improved furrow sowing methods, soil wetting agents, one-off deep cultivation and clay spreading or clay delving. Partnering researchers from DAFWA, CSIRO and Murdoch University are working together to identify mechanisms and develop strategies to increase infiltration and subsequent use of rainfall to improve plant establishment and increase plant yields. Collaboration with key grower groups including SEPWA, Southern Dirt, Mingenew-Irwin, West Midlands as well as the University of South Australia and the University of Western Australia.

How is the research being used?

  • Coordination of an industry wide working group intent on doubling the amount of agricultural lime use in Western Australia compared to levels used in 2010.
  • Working to identify and provide solutions to the major barriers to adoption of liming by growers.
  • Development, testing and improvement of tools and calculators designed to better inform users of outcomes if levels of soil acidity on their farms is not managed appropriately.
  • Targeting better management for the 72% of surface (0-10 cm) and 45% of sub-surface (to 30 cm) soils with less than optimal pH.