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Click on the arrows on the variables in the header row to reorder the farm practices based on that variable.

Management areaOn farm
practice
NPSedMOCostBenefitFactors to consider
Whole farm planning Whole farm business and systems analysis, including cropping areas - - - - $ - $$ $$$ Involves assessment of farm resources, stocking policies and farm business risks. A good starting point that will help clarify the most useful practices to consider. Should include industry good practices and a risk assessment of current practices.

The farm analysis will identify water quality benefits and risks. Reductions in loss depend on the farm system and soil type.
Nutrient management Do a nutrient budget to determine your crop nutrient requirement1 - - - - $ $$$ Use a fertilser representative or a decision support tool (e.g. the most recent version of OVERSEER®) to develop a nutrient budget.

Benefits depend on soil test results.
Nutrient management Test the nutrient content of manure, slurry, compost or effluent before application - - $ $$ - $$$ Will ensure nutrients are not oversupplied and may mean crop can be grown without additional fertiliser, but soil nutrient status must be determined before planting. Application must follow industry good practice to minimise run off and should be undertaken at optimal growing times for crop. Can be challenging to calculate the application rate and optimal timing.
Nutrient management Time N application to meet crop demand using split applications or slow release N - - - $ $$ By targeting crop demand better uptake of nutrients by crops and lower losses occur. Split applications are more costly and management intensive.
Nutrient management Calibrate fertiliser spreaders to deliver the correct rate for the site - - $ $$ Lessens the risk of fertiliser landing in waterways or being over and under applied. Self-operated spreaders require regular calibration. Fertiliser contractors should be Spreadmark certified.
Nutrient management Plant maize or other deep rooted crops to utilise or ’mop up‘ nutrients from high fertility soils e.g. effluent or whey blocks - - $ $$ Useful for effluent blocks, winter grazing areas and land out of long term pasture, providing fertiliser inputs are reduced.
Nutrient management Undertake regular soil tests, including deep N - - $$ $$ Deep N tests are useful to confirm mineral N levels. One soil test per paddock is the most cost-effective approach but the sampling needs to be representative of the whole site, avoiding gateways and stock camps. Use GPS for repeated sampling. The cost of soil testing may be offset by fertiliser savings, especially for P and N.
Nutrient management Use precision cropping tools for fertiliser application and tillage e.g. GPS guidance, crop sensing - - $$$ $$$ Delivers more precise nutrient inputs for expected crop yield. Likely to become more widely used as tractors are upgraded over time.
Nutrient management Select the right fertiliser product for the conditions - - - - Consider using slow release formulations of both N and P to reduce the risk of nutrient losses from the leaching.
Nutrient management Manage Olsen P in optimal range - - - $$ - All crops have an optimal range for P, which varies depending on soil type.
Cultivation management – crop establishment Reduce soil cultivation by adopting strip tillage or direct drilling, and minimising the number of passes over the paddock - $ $$ Effective for reducing run off and soil loss, and improving soil quality and infiltration. Soils that have been grazed over the winter may be compacted or pugged, requiring more cultivation or resulting in rough paddocks. Requires modified planter machinery to deliver good seed placement for even plant establishment. Additional expenditure might be required for insect pest control. FAR trials show a benefit of $200/ha to direct drilling if crop establishment costs and yields are similar.
Cultivation management – crop establishment Cultivate along contours (rather than up and down the slope) where slopes greater than 3° - $ $$ Slows down run off and reduces erosion. Row orientation should follow contour.
Cultivation management – crop establishment Install bunds along paddock edge to prevent water flow onto or off paddock - $ $$ Suitable for land with slope greater than 3°. Contains run off at bottom of paddock where sediment can settle out.
Cultivation management – crop establishment Put in silt traps to settle out sediment from water before it enters drains - $ $ Suitable for land with slope greater than 3°. Should be used together with other measures to reduce erosion. Sediment must be returned to the paddock.
Cropping management Establish in-field grass buffer strips on sloping paddocks - - $ $$ Reduces risk of soil loss from heavy rain events.
Cropping management Use winter cover crops on fallow paddocks - $$ $$ Winter active cover crops utilise available soil nutrients, reducing the risk ofnutrient losses if not grazed.
In-paddock management to reduce water movement Use wheel track ripping and wheel track dyking to slow run off and reduce erosion - $$ $$ Ripping increases rainfall infiltration and reduces soil movement. Dyking creates a series of closely spaced indentations within a row, slowing run off and soil movement and increasing infiltration.
Riparian management Leave grass buffer strips (2m or more) for cultivated land next to waterways - $$ $ Effective for filtering run off and reducing the risk of fertiliser loss during spreading. More benefit on greater slope but wider buffer required. Grazing of buffers only appropriate for ephemeral waterways during summer dry. May require weed management but can provide habitat for beneficial predatory insects, reducing need for pest control.
Riparian management Fence stock out of waterways $ - $$ $$ Fencing could range from permanent 8 wire to temporary electric fencing during grazing periods, depending on individual farm needs and preferences. Two wire electric with sheep under grazing may be appropriate where exclusion of large stock is the priority. Provide a minimum setback of at least 3m. Fencing adds capital value, reduces stock losses and benefits animal health. Can also be used to improve subdivision and pasture utilisation. Costs include reticulated water.
Irrigation Keep soil water status above the trigger point for crop yield loss - - $$$ $$$ Only applicable where crop irrigation is possible. High initial cost for system and ongoing cost for operation. Provides the opportunity for precise management of crop nutrients by reducing the risk of yield loss caused by water stress. Requires regular measurement of soil moisture throughout the life of the crop. Irrigation must be scheduled to match water supply with crop demand. Important to maintain at least 85% irrigation efficiency to minimise wastage of water and run off risk.
Irrigation Measure and record soil moisture and rainfall to develop a soil water budget - - - - $ $ There is value in collecting and using farm data to inform management decisions. Note that one will need local evapotranspiration data to complete the water budget.
Irrigation Use the soil water budget and crop information to schedule irrigation - $$ $$ Water scheduling increases water efficiency. Benefits will depend on current practice, soil type, irrigation efficiency and farm system. Seek professional advice on soil moisture monitoring and irrigation scheduling.
Irrigation Maintain even water application and do not exceed the soil’s water infiltration rate - $ $$ Reduces the risk of ponding, run off and crop damage from water logging.
Irrigation Maintain irrigation equipment - - $$ $$ Check pump performance and ensure pipes are not leaking and nozzles are not blocked. Poorly performing systems waste energy and water.
Grazing management Strip graze towards waterways, rather than away from them $ $ Applies to grazed paddocks in wet weather with overland flow that converges to form small channels of running water. Have as large a grass strip as possible between the winter grazed strip and the waterway, for as long as possible. Benefits will depend on fertility and slope.
Grazing management Use controlled grazing regimes on winter crops (back-fencing and on-off grazing) to reduce risk of N leaching, run off, soil loss and compaction $$ $$$ Maintains soil drainage allowing water to infiltrate rather than run off. Can result in long term reduction in soil quality and may require cultivation to remove compaction. Grazing of feed crops should be avoided during wet periods, which restricts feed options. Post-grazing soil tests (e.g. deep N) will ensure grazing nutrients accounted for in new crop establishments.
Post-crop management Reduce fallow time by sowing another crop/grass to cover losses and harvest nutrients - $$$ $ Cover crops other than grass can provide greater benefits for soil quality and nutrient uptake but tend to be low yield.
Farm training Embed environmental management into farm practices by training and incentivising staff $ $ The level of benefit will depend on the staff members’ experience in environmental practice and ability to influence on farm practice change.

Notes