Valley

Greater than Gold

Monday 29 October, 2012
'Greater than Gold' is a farmer-led Landcare project working towards improved soil health in the Graytown-Costerfield region. The area is predominantly sheep grazing, with few cattle and some opportunity cropping.

'Greater than Gold' is a farmer-led Landcare project working towards improved soil health in the Graytown-Costerfield region. The area is predominantly sheep grazing, with few cattle and some opportunity cropping.

Following a soil test interpretation workshop organised through the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority's (CMA) Beyond SoilCare project, the Graytown-Costerfield Landcare Group have developed a lime demonstration trial at Lindsay and Alan Harris' Merino stud at Costerfield.

"We thought hosting the trials on our farm would be a great opportunity to learn more about soil testing and soil health and to share this information with other farmers. The lime applications at different rates and combined grazing cages will provide valuable information for the district," said Mr Alan Harris.

On Sunday 14th October the Graytown-Costerfield Landcare Group held a workshop and paddock walk at the trial site with agronomists Gwyn Jones, Integrated Agri-Culture, and Carl Reeve. The day was attended by many local farmers interested in improving the health of their soils and ultimately their farm productivity.

The day started in the Costerfield Hall where Gwyn asked participants to outline their primary goal for the day. Few were surprised that they shared a goal to improve the health of their soils, and do it economically. The definition of soil health for them was growing top soil, and they described it in the paddock as improved soil fertility, soil structure, soil moisture retention and pasture productivity. Soil health was also described as a long term, on-going and 'living' process that requires air, water and food.

Gwyn advised that the way to achieve improved soil health economically was to start with management of ground cover, essentially using wire and water to manage grazing. The focus must be on the soil and pasture first, livestock health will then improve as a consequence. This is for two reasons; if existing ground cover is not being utilised, there is no benefit from spending money applying fertilisers. And second, pasture growth, through root additions to the soil, and 100% ground cover are the primary drivers of healthy soils.

At the trial site, the group went through a DIY soil health score sheet. They looked at ground cover, identified pasture species and rated the health of plants. They dug some holes to look at topsoil depth, soil structure, root depth and subsoil constraints. They looked at biological indicators as well, discussing clover nodulation, presence of fungi, Cockchafers, earthworms and the smell of the soil.

The group plan to meet again on-site with Gwyn and Carl in autumn to discuss the application of treatments to the trial site. They will focus on management of, and interactions between trace elements, especially managing calcium as it is deficient in most soils of the region. If you would like to come along to the autumn field day please register your interest with the Graytown-Costerfield Landcare Group secretary on 5794 9279.

The trial site and workshops are supported by the Goulburn Broken CMA's Beyond SoilCare project with funding from the Australian G

overnment's Caring for Our Country program. For further information visit the Land Health page at www.gbcma.vic.gov.au or phone 5736 0100.

New farmer Tim Le Deux checks for compaction by testing the soil resistance with a penetrometer. Photo: Goulburn Broken CMA

 

Two can be required to dig some holes; with Gwyn Jones (left) and trial site coordinator Carl Reeve (right).Photo: Goulburn Broken CMA

 

Paddock owner Lindsay Harris checks a clod for buckshot gravel (ironstone nodules) in his soil. Photo: Goulburn Broken CMA