of China Australia Food Security Cooperation Initiative (CAFSCI)

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Conservation and zone tillage research for dryland farming

Overview of Project

This project was created to address problems associated with growing wheat and maize on an area of about 13 million hectares in the North-West Provinces of China that receives an annual rainfall of less than 600 mm. Excessive cultivation of the relatively poor soils has led to soil degradation and water and wind erosion. Loss of water and organic matter has resulted in low grain yields and a depressed rural economy. The project aims to develop conservation tillage systems - i.e. systems providing optimal crop production while conserving soil, water, energy and other system inputs - to increase the sustainability of agriculture in China. At the same time, Chinese zone-tillage methods will be combined with the controlled-traffic method of tillage to improve the sustainability of Australian cropping systems.

Key Outcomes of Project

The expected benefits to China include an increase in wheat and maize yields and a reduction in erosion potential associated with residue retention. Pilot trials (with manual zone tillage) have indicated a yield increase in wheat of up to 20% from conservation tillage.

An increase in grain yield would provide additional income and, if 50% of farmers adopted the practice and gained a 10% grain-yield increase, annual grain output of the North-Western Provinces would increase by more than 1.5 million tonnes. Experiments on deep tillage and traffic control will indicate the value or otherwise of deep loosening, and the impact of traffic on the persistence of any beneficial loosening effects when using relatively light field equipment.

Benefits to Australia will include a reduction in tillage depth and intensity made possible by the absence of random heavy-wheel traffic. Increased surface soil stability and infiltration rates can be expected when wheels do not travel over the whole field area. There would be reduced runoff, and hence reduced water erosion.

Project Dates

01 Jan 1993 - 31 Dec 1995


University of Queensland - Australia - China Agricultural University - Eastern (Engineering) Campus - China


Dr Jeff Tullberg



07 3378 5249

Launch Website