The aim of the Soil Health on Focus Farms project is to increase the knowledge, skills and adoption of improved soil management practices through on-farm trials.
The project has supported a range of trials that look at soil constraints on productivity, involve in-depth monitoring and analysis, and have a rigorous design. The trials have been developed in partnership with Murdoch University and Global Pastures, who provide technical assistance in the development phase and in analysing the results.
The trial plots have been replicated and monitored closely to allow scientific conclusions to be drawn. These focus farms will undergo soil nutrient mapping, as well as comprehensive chemical, biological and physical soil analysis, coupled with other diagnostic tools, to identify major soil health issues and constraints across each property.
Management strategies targeted at soil health issues will be demonstrated in conjunction with a series of farm-based training and extension activities to increase awareness of soil health issues in the agricultural community, and to showcase the activities and outcomes of the trials. There is also a strong focus on communicating the trial results and findings to other farmers via field days, workshops and case studies to further increase adoption.
Practices currently being trialled include: investigating the impacts of including pasture in cropping rotations and liming on soil pH and biology; an independent investigation into the soil and plant health differences between conventional and two alternate fertiliser treatments on farm land; and improving soil health and sheep production through establishment of the perennial legume, lebeckia, on non-wetting, deep sandy soils.
Three trials have been funded under the project at five farms, covering 273 hectares. Five field days and workshops have been held to introduce and discuss the demonstrations and trials, which have attracted 86 attendees.
The trials are progressing well, with some fascinating early results and trends emerging. The results are generating considerable interest and discussion among farmers about the effects these practices will have over time across the whole farm.
Four events, including crop walks, workshops and agricultural show stands will be held in 2015-16, concentrating on the focus farms and the trials they are hosting. The field events will present the research findings and provide information on the practical application of the methods being trialled and how they can be applied to larger areas and other farms.
“From our soil analysis, lebeckia is improving the carbon content and the phosphorus and potassium nutrition of the soil underneath it, and to depth.”
Dr John Howieson, Murdoch University.
15 tonnes of dry soil per acre will pass through one earthworm each year.
- Compass Agriculture
- Global Pasture Consultants
- The Lubcke Family
4 farms adopting practices
5 farms adopting practices
80ha with improved practices
273ha with improved practices