Dig deeper into soil health

February 10, 2020

Farmers are excavating on their properties to learn more about soil health.

Fishery Falls cane farmer Glen Anderson, Tully cane growers John and Kate Knight and Mutchilba lime and tea tree growers Michelle and Ante Milicevic are among the numbers digging deep pits for field days that have brought primary producers together from all over Far North Queensland.

Mr Anderson said the variety of soils on properties highlighted how important it was to manage different areas of farmland in different ways.

The third-generation farmer grows cane on land that has undergone soil tests since the 1950s and has benefitted from legume fallow crops for decades, and changes to minimum tillage and variable-rate fertilising in more recent years.

“We’re trying to focus on the soil to improve lower-producing areas and to make sure we’re sustainable and profitable into the future,’’ Mr Anderson said.

He is one of 18 farmers in the latest six-month Digging Deeper Plus soil health course delivered by Terrain NRM for primary producers ranging from cane and dairy farmers to beef cattle, tropical fruit, lime, tea tree and flower producers.

Terrain NRM’s Rowan Shee said farmers received a free soil test and on-farm soil health advice as part of the program, which is led by soil fertility specialist David Hardwick and is based on all the participants’ properties.

“The soil pits days are a great way to start – we are used to paying attention to just the surface soil but there’s a lot going on deeper down and pits can help answer questions about crop development, compaction, soil quality, structure and variety,’’ he said.

“In the Wet Tropics, we have everything from fertile red volcanic soils to light granite soils but many of the take-home messages are the same – about knowing your different soil types and learning how to build soil health across all of them.

“Learning how to better understand soil tests results and apply them to land management is also a big part of this program.”

The Digging Deeper Plus program is supported by Terrain NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Learn more about your soils by watching our series of Wet Tropics Soil Health videos featuring David Hardwick and local farmers.