Digging deeper into soil health

December 18, 2018

It was all about the soil when farmers from the Tablelands to Innisfail, Tully and Ingham kick-started a new program last week to boost productivity and sustainability.

Twenty-six landholders converged on a farm in Millaa Millaa and met in Ingham to hear from soil fertility specialist David Hardwick in the first of six sessions to be held over the next half-year.

They were from grazing properties, dairy and fruit farms, and cane land.

Terrain NRM’s Rowan Shee said the ‘Digging Deeper Plus’ program, funded through the Australian Government’s Regional Landcare Partnerships initiative of the National Landcare Program, will help farmers improve their soil’s carbon, organic matter and nutrient levels to manage their land for the longer-term.

Mr Hardwick told landholders good soil structure was the most important thing.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re conventional, organic or biodynamic - you need good soil structure no matter what type of soil it is,’’ he said. “But the chemical, structural and biological parts of your soil’s health are all important and it’s about getting the balance right.’’

Longtime beef cattle producer Bruce Carcary, whose Millaa Millaa farm was the venue for one session, said participants were looking to “farm smarter”.

“We’re lucky enough to have very good red volcanic soil here but there are always ways to do things better – to farm smarter and improve our bottom line,’’ he said.

Grazier Stuart Loudon said participants wants to learn more about what is going on under the grass.

“Our farm’s red soils dry out fast and this year has been hard because of stocking rates,’’ he said.

“We’ve been doing things a bit differently in recent years, trialling things like fish mulch, worm juice and foliar sprays on pasture. We’re looking for different ways to improve what we are doing while also looking after the land and making cost-effective decisions.”

Digging Deeper Plus includes a free soil test for participants as well as on-farm soil health advice. The program is also being funded by the Wet Tropics Soilcare Group.

Mr Hardwick said the goal was to help farmers build on their soil management skills in a way that helped at each individual property.

A third session planned for Peeramon last week was postponed due to Cyclone Owen, while another nine farmers were part of a refresher ‘Digging Deeper’ day at Kairi last week which followed on from successful Terrain NRM Digging Deeper programs in 2014 and 2015.

Other farmers interested in learning more about their soils can watch a series of six new videos available online

For more information about the National Landcare Program visit www.nrm.gov.au.