The Soils Project has two main focuses. Firstly to explore the benefits of increasing the biological activity in the soils by adding live biology and a nutrient mix to enhance the micro and macro activity in the soil to promote better grass production and healthier livestock, while minimising the use of artificial fertilisers. The initial results are very good and we have experienced benefits we did not expect such as better soil friability, increase in Ph and the ability to grow top soil very quickly. A first year report is available on the web at http://sweetersoils.com.au/cms/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Mitta-Valley-one-year-on..pdf
Secondly, we gained some funding through the Farm Mentor Grant and a NECMA grant to conduct four field days and to have some comprehensive soil test carried out to better understand the chemical and biological interaction within the soil and how to interpret soils tests
Field Day 1 – 17 February 2016: This field day was presented by Amanda Conley and covered the Interpretation of our current low level soil tests and agronomic advice given. We looked at the soil tests to determine the basic chemical and mineral levels and discussed the impacts on plant nutrition and growth. Also covered was the importance of the biological interactions in the soil and the part macro and micro organisms play in keeping the soil friable and productive.
Comprehensive Soil and Tissue Tests: On 1 May 2016 soil and plant tissue was collected from 10 sites within the Mitta Valley and sent to SWEP Laboratories for comprehensive testing. These test were carried out to determine the effectiveness of more expensive but substantially more comprehensive soil tests and to determine the usefulness of tissue testing and how they gave more information to determine the health of the soil and pasture. This will also give us the bench mark to see the effect of the biology and any soil amendment made in future years.
Field Day 2 – 17 May 16: This field day was presented by Dr Cath Botta and Mark Brookes and covered the interpretation of comprehensive soil and tissue tests to highlight limiting factors to plant growth and possible animal health issues caused by nutrient deficiencies in the soil and tissue samples. Cath Botta produced an excellent presentation and explained what all the number mean on the soil test, how pH and aluminium relate to available phosphorus, phosphorus buffering index and the cation exchange capacity of soils. Mark Brookes (ruminant nutritionist) gave a presentation of the nutritional requirements of stock and the effects caused by mineral deficiencies.
Field Day 3: – 16 August 16: This field day was presented by Dr Cassandra Schefe, where we examining soil pits to see what is happening below the surface of the paddocks, root development/ growth and understand the physical properties of the soil and learn how to describe our soil types.
Field Day 4: – 8 April 2018: This field day was presented by David Hardwick and covered how to make compost inoculants and foliar feeds using everyday ingredients for farm and garden. How to make great compost using the “no turn method” and how to turn carp into something useful for the garden or farm. If you would like any further information on how to make the inoculants please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Further grants have been applied for so we can continue to evaluate the use of biological stimulants to improve the soil structure, top soil depth and health soil and livestock.