Stubble Burning

Agriculture Victoria

Type: Webpage
Knowledge level: Intermediate

Farm Table says:

There are general community perceptions that the carbon (C) component in stubbles is lost by burning and that the process of burning stubbles even occasionally, seriously affects the organic carbon levels of the soil. However,  research clearly shows that around 80 per cent of the C in standing stubble will return to the atmosphere as CO2 in the short to medium term. Losses of carbon as CO2 to the atmosphere through burning are often only slightly greater than through natural decomposition, but they are of course immediate.

This webpage has been produced by Agriculture Victoria and looks at the issue of stubble burning.

Agriculture Vic strongly encourage farmers to adopt conservation farming systems, including retaining crop stubble residues but also recognise that occasional, strategic burning of stubbles based upon sound agronomic principles can be a valid choice.

The state that farmers should have flexibility to use this option when appropriate.

The key points in this webpage include


  • Stubble management is one of many complex issues that farmers must contend with.
  • There is no single, ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for managing heavy stubbles.
  • Stubble burning is not the preferred option for the majority of farmers.
  • In particular circumstances, such as dealing with herbicide resistant weeds, stubble burning may be a reasonable option.
  • Most farmers will only burn stubbles when absolutely necessary, having considered all available options and the potential implications of burning.
  • To minimise negative impacts, farmers should rake and burn windrows or cool-burn just before the break of season.
  • Stubble retention has many benefits, but requires a systems approach to manage disease, pest and weed pressure.
  • A number of techniques, other than burning, can be employed to manage heavy stubble loads.
  • Effective stubble management begins at harvest with even spread of residue and appropriate stubble cutting height.
  • Decisions about stubble management may need to be reviewed annually. used this way, burning is not a significant carbon dioxide contributon

In conclusion, surveys also reveal a growth in the intensity of cropping across Victoria resulting in healthier crops and more dry matter being produced on a regular basis. This increase in crop biomass is leaving behind a strong legacy of root material in the soil. It is this unseen carbon in the soil in root material, unaffected by burning, that provides the greatest potential for C retention. Up to 30 to 40 per cent of plant biomass can be located below ground.



2017 - Australia - Agriculture Victoria
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