Soils Research Review – Fleurieu region
We have conducted a comprehensive “Soils Research Review” of soils trails, research and demonstration sites in the Fleurieu region including those relevant to the region. The review outlines the main outcomes of each project and gaps and recommendations for future soils research in the region. Click here for a copy of the report – Soils Research Review
We conducted a Biochar Trial under non irrigated pasture. With 100 and 200kg of biochar with 100 and 200kg of Urea. The full report can be found here
Overall the biochar had a positive effect on both the plant biomass and minerals in the soil, one statistical difference was detected in the plant minerals caused by biochar.
The biochar in general improved pasture biomass. In many cases the half fertiliser rates (100kg of urea) showed similar growth to the full fertiliser rates (200kg of Urea) indicating that the biochar may be holding nutrients in the soil allowing greater pasture growth.
Over 8 reliable pasture cuts there was more often an interaction between biochar rates than there were fertiliser rates and sometimes an interaction between both. When the seasonal factors were not limiting (ie November) it was more difficult to find a statistical difference.
There was a general pattern of mineral retention in the soil with added biochar and the mineral retention was higher in the soil with half fertiliser treatments rather than full fertiliser treatments. These results were not statistically analysed.
PLANT TISSUE TESTS
There was an increase in the amount of manganese in the plant tissue in the biochar treatments. This was the only statistical difference in minerals found in the plant tissue caused by biochar.
No significant differences due to the biochar treatment were detected with the feed test result. Higher fertiliser rate had a small effect on increasing fibre but reducing fat content.
This biochar video shows the trial being sown and discusses the trial.
Precision pH and Electro Magnetic Mapping Demonstration
Soil acidity is recognised as a major land degradation issue in the Fleurieu region. Historically, liming has occurred on a paddock by paddock basis and no account has been taken of pH variations across paddocks. pH mapping has the ability to determine in – paddock variation and lead to improve liming strategies which are both more cost effective and efficient in the treatment of soil acidity. This new technique will be undertaken on 10 paddocks on at least 5 farms. We expect this will be on around 300ha. Key aims will be to provide information on how well this new practice works in this region. This will include the accuracy of the technique and whether useful differences are observed and, if so, what landscape patterns are evident. For this reason, demonstrations will be undertaken on a range of different properties, soils and grazing regimes.
On each paddock evaluation of pH zones determined will be undertaken. In addition to producing the precision pH maps, evaluation work will be focussed on whether there is a relationship between surface pH zones identified and the pH in the 10-20cm layer ( i.e. subsurface acidity), and whether distinct landform patterns occur within the region so variation in pH can be estimated in other paddocks without the need for further testing.
The precision pH mapping machine has the capacity to undertake Electro Magnetic (EM) mapping at the same time. EM scanning should reflect the soil types, depth and depth to rock and clay so an evaluation of this technique will also be made. This may assist with the identification of moisture storage capability of different soil profiles.
The pH mapper results across the 10 paddocks and report can be found here.
Replicated soil health trials and case studies
Alternative soil health treatments across a replicated trial showed promise in building soil health. When compared to an unfertilised control, biologically treated plots showed improved mineral uptake, nitrogen use efficiency, pH and soil health indicators over a one-year period. The cost of the minerals added to the treatments were in most cases beneficial as they were taken up by the plants. The additional cost of biochar added to one treatment may have played a role in improving soil moisture and mineral availability and pH. Unfortunately, we did not find any statistical differences in plant biomass or feed value between treatments possibly due to the season and the method of analyses. A full copy of the report can be found here
5 Soil Health Case Studies
This project aims to provide a better regional understanding of the impact of the alternative and chemical fertilisers on soil moisture holding capacity, growing season length, soil acidity and other soil health parameters such as microbial properties (mainly bacteria and fungi), organic C and pasture production. The methods are used:
• Five paired case study sites on farmer properties measuring soil health (paired means one site has a soil health or chemical treatment and the other a control). The treatments here have been established for a minimum of five years. It is important to note that the paired site is either a different paddock on the same farm or a different farm (next door). All paddocks are adjacent to their comparison. Care was taken to choose similar pasture species and soil types, but the grazing management was not the same and soil health treatments also different.
There was a range of grazing strategies and this influenced soil health and plant available water. The soil health was generally better where there were alternative fertilisers, however the soil health was well supported where there was a high grazing pressure and low grazing days. The soil biology was not as good where there was low ground cover and less plant species diversity.
The cation exchange capacity (CEC) was always higher on the biological sites supporting the transfer of nutrients from the soil to the plant. Denitrification was higher on high chemical N input sites. The pH of the soil was better in biological side irrespective of liming treatment
The report highlights the importance of grazing management, ground cover, and mix of pasture species in conjunction with biological fertilisers to support soil health. The report can be found here
Soil Moisture Probes
At each of our replicated soil health trials and case study sites we have a soil mosture probe and a probe also into the control. There are 5 sensors on each probe down to 5 depths. We measure Plant Available Water (PAW), soil mositure, soil temperature and rainfall. The soil moisture probe data can be viewed here
For other soil moisture data information:
Link into the Barossa Improved Grazing group data here
Link into the SAMDB NRM network here
Taking the Next Step – Development and Expansion of the Fleurieu Forward Farming Group
The former steering committee decided in early 2017 that it was timely to consider the development of an expanded, ongoing group, with a more defined purpose and structure. Members of the steering committee and a number of interested local farmers undertook a strategic planning process that defined the group’s purpose and preferred structure and governance arrangements going forward. Implementation of the strategic plan so far has resulted in the appointment of a skills and representative based Board of local primary producers, landholders and agricultural service providers. The new Board was launched at a special event at the McCracken Country Club on 26th April 2018. The group has applied to become an incorporated association, which will enable it to deal with funding partners and manage projects in its own right. A number of processes and procedures to support the Board’s and group’s operations are being developed.