Monitoring soil activity

23 Sep, 2013 02:00 AM
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UWA Institute of Agriculture School of Earth and Environment senior honorary research fellow Dr Lyn Abbott (left), assists participants as they inspect soil under a microscope.
UWA Institute of Agriculture School of Earth and Environment senior honorary research fellow Dr Lyn Abbott (left), assists participants as they inspect soil under a microscope.

YOUR soils are alive and it's important you monitor them.

That was the key message from UWA School of Earth and Environment and Institute of Agriculture research fellow Dr Lyn Abbott at the Liebe Group Spring Field Day last week.

An exciting collaboration between the Wheatbelt NRM and UWA, known as the On Farm Soil Monitoring Project, was designed to introduce landowners and farmers to the diverse nature of organisms in their soils.

Dr Abbott said on-farm monitoring of soil fauna and mycorrhizal fungi contributed important district knowledge about the way agricultural management practises influenced the condition of soils and between seasons.

She said the project also focused on soil biological fertility as well as on physical fertility and soil chemicals.

The program demonstrated methods about how soil fauna could be monitored using simple equipment, as well as root assessment procedures for the presence of mycorrhizal fungi.

Dr Abbott said the information would be presented in the On Farm Monitoring Handbook, and would be made available on the Wheatbelt NRM website.

She said it would allow growers to explore seasonal changes and the effects of agricultural practises on soil organisms on their property.

"The handbook will highlight new methods for on-farm soil monitoring," she said.

"This is about what you can do to look at what is living in your soils.

"It does not provide an automatic status of all soils but it will enable you to ask the right questions."

Dr Abbott said there were currently a greater focus on studying productivity rather than soil health and sustainability.

"We don't know what the effects of inputs on the soil are," she said.

"But whatever we are using now, it will have effects on the soil."

According to Dr Abbott there was too much focus on fertiliser use, and farmers were missing the benefits of soils that built over time or from a biological base as residues built up.

Participants were shown a simple monitoring method using a Coke bottle and were given the opportunity to inspect soils under a microscope under the guidance of Dr Abbott.

FarmWeekly

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