REGENERATIVE farming is a buzz word this year, with the Talkin’ Healthy Soils conference last week at Dalwallinu focusing on ways to look after soils.
The two-day conference focused on the importance of increasing soil fungi and microbes, which can dramatically help improve the uptake of key nutrients, including phosphate (pH) and nitrogen (N).
More than 85 people heard from keynote speaker and New Zealand-based Integrity Soils director, Nicole Masters.
“On average, our crops are only utilising about five per cent of the phosphates and nitrogen we apply,” Ms Masters said.
Drawing on significant research and her passion for soil health and science, Ms Masters said the problem was many modern farming practices worked against the natural system.
“If we improve our soil health by supporting and feeding microbes and fungi, we can produce a much stronger, efficient, healthier and productive plant,” she said.
Ms Masters also strongly believes that by making a stronger root system, a buffer can be made against major cropping constraints in the Wheatbelt, including acidity, salinity, temperature and moisture.
Another speaker was Soils for Life chairman, Major General Michael Jeffery, who discussed the importance of looking after agricultural soils.
Case studies were also discussed at the conference with topics such as agricultural practices for the benefit of soil health, results of 15 years of liming and soil testing in the Gabby Quoi Quoi catchment, comparing tillage practices to address non-wetting soils in the Corrigin area, understanding the implications of rotations in a low rainfall zone and putting technology and science to the test to increase nitrogen use efficiency and environmental care.
The 2018 Soil Health champions were announced at the conference.
Burracoppin farmer Tony Murfit was named Wheatbelt Soil Health Champion.
He’s turned around acidic soils by using soil identification and zoning, variable rate lime and gypsum applications, fallow to control weeds, deep ripping and a cover crop.
This has helped produce yields of up to two tonne to the hectare on canola crops in the eastern Wheatbelt.
Carnamah farmer Brendon Haeusler won the title of the Northern Agricultural Region’s Soil Health Champion.
He has turned around areas affected by salinity using revegetation and W drains for grazing and cropping.
A website was launched at the conference showcasing farmers who have undertaken sustainable agriculture trials.
These trials vary from wood pellets to increase soil carbon and biology, precision agriculture to improve nutrient efficiency and tackling soil acidification.
The agtrialswa.com.au site is a collaboration between the State’s seven natural resource management groups.
The conference continued in Katanning on Thursday, March 15 and Friday, March 16, where the guest speakers were able to educate a completely different demographic of farmers.