Graytown-Costerfield Landcare Group has developed a lime demonstration trial at Lindsay and Alan Harris’ Merino stud at Costerfield.November 7, 2012 4:05am
Graytown-Costerfield Landcare Group has developed a lime demonstration trial at Lindsay and Alan Harris’ Merino stud at Costerfield.
It followed a soil test interpretation workshop organised through the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority’s Beyond SoilCare project.
‘‘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,’’ Alan Harris said.
‘‘The lime applications at different rates and combined grazing cages will provide valuable information for the district.”
The local farmer-led Landcare project dubbed ‘‘Greater than Gold’’ is working towards improved soil health in the Graytown-Costerfield region — an area that predominantly supports sheep grazing, with a few cattle and some opportunity cropping.
Last month the Landcare group held a workshop and paddock walk at the trial site with agronomists Gwyn Jones of 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 began at Costerfield Hall where Mr Jones 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, ongoing and ‘‘living’’ process that required air, water and food.
Mr Jones said the way to achieve improved soil health economically was to start with management of ground cover, essentially using wire and water to manage grazing. He said the focus must be on the soil and pasture first; livestock health would then improve as a consequence.
This was for two reasons; if existing ground cover was not being utilised, there was no benefit from spending money applying fertilisers. And second, pasture growth, through root additions to the soil, and 100 per cent ground cover were the primary drivers of healthy soils.
At the trial site, the group went through a do-it-yourself 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 will meet the agronomists at the trial site 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.
To register your interest in the autumn field day call the Graytown-Costerfield Landcare Group secretary on 5794
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