Travelling a Different Path for Soil Health
The role soil organisms play in contributing to soil health in a Wheatbelt farming system is not fully understood. It is known that the diversity of soil organisms is far greater than the diversity of plant communities anywhere on Earth. A square metre of soil contains millions of bacteria, kilometres of fungal hyphae and thousands of mites and springtails.
It is recognised that soil organisms have roles in soil that include the cycling and transforming of nutrients. They help aggregate soil particles and improve the soil structure. They also assist plants to obtain nutrients from the soil and help with water penetration into the soil.
Soil is a complex and dynamic habitat for soil organisms. Soil meso-fauna and mycorrhizal fungi respond to their surroundings, and many factors can influence them locally. Scott is a 100% biological crop and holistic livestock producer, who is already using biological stimulants on his soils. The McLeans no longer use any synthetic fertilisers and use only base rates of knockdown chemicals. Fertiliser that are added include Nutra-soil, a vermiculture extract, a compost extract and when needed a foliar spray….
Nutrisoil Case Study
Ian and Dianne Haggerty farm approximately 8000 hectares of land in Western Australia’s central wheatbelt, around 190 kilometres north east of Perth. After six years of conventional farming the Haggertys realised that their system was vulnerable to dry seasons. Input costs were steadily increasing without corresponding increases in productivity. Soil tests showed adequate nutrient levels, but tissue tests revealed nutrients were not getting to plants, despite a comprehensive mineral fertiliser program. To top it off, rainfall in recent years had been less than half the annual average often falling in 3–5 mm events followed by windy weather, meaning much was lost to evaporation. Maximising crop production in dry years had become a real struggle and hard pans in their soils were severely restricting root growth. So the Haggertys started to research biologically-based farming systems with the aim of increasing their soils’ microbial population, nutrient availability and moisture holding capacity.
Introducing Native Perennial Grasses into a Farming System
When first deciding what species of native perennial pastures to plant, Scott decided that it was best to know what was already growing naturally on and near his farm. To do this Scott picked green plants in summer from the roadside. “I collected half a dozen different types of summer active plants and took them in to Una Bell at the WA Herbarium to get them identified. From there I chose to sow Chloris Truncata “windmill grass”, recounted Scott. The windmill grass seed was sown “in the middle of harvest” early November of 2011 during a summer storm into a paddock that was cut for hay that year. “As the seed is so light I mixed it with liquid compost extract and rainwater and sprayed it out over the site. I then used finger tine harrows to ensure that I got good seed to soil contact”….
Against All Odds: Turning Sand Into Profit
Ian and Dianne Haggerty, and their son James, run a holistic and integrated program of cropping and grazing. The program is underpinned by their shared deep commitment to the regeneration of the fertility of the marginal soils of their area. This is achieved through use of biological fertilisers, zero tillage and the consequent growth of healthy cereal plants to deliver high tonnages of premium grain per hectare. The healthy ground cover of the cropping and pasture also provides the key to maintaining high levels of soil moisture and ensuring weed control.
Over the years, Ian and Dianne have developed their own Merino stud and a working sheep flock from local and South Australian bloodlines. This indigenous flock has been bred to be totally acclimatised to the land farmed by the Haggertys.
Their production area is now spread over a number of holdings equalling 8000 hectares of their own property, leased land and share-farming enterprises. This diversity has enabled more effective management across various landscape conditions and rainfall availability……
Dr Christine Jones has been instrumental in progressing the understanding of soil biology across the world. Particularly through the realisation of the liquid carbon pathway. Follow the path to her research here.
Allan Savory’s discoveries have the potential to reverse desertification. His realisation of the four fundamental ecosystem processes and how to respect them are essential for all life on earth. The process begins with an information awakening. Start here.
Soils For Life
Soils for Life is a non government not for profit organisation that encourages the adoption of regenerative landscape management techniques to ensure our future well-being. Find out how, here.
Healthy Soils Australia (HSA) is a not for profit volunteer organisation concerned with reconnecting healthy soil and human health. Healthy soils are essential to maintain the quality of our food, the purity of our water, and the cleanliness of the air we breathe. Our health and that of our children, and the health of generations to come, depends on the way we manage our soil. Head on into healthy soils here.
Soil Restoration Farming
Soil restoration farming represents a movement, a concept, a shared understanding. That we can and must restore our soils to their original functional purpose through farming. Restore your faith in farming here.