Soil health goes on trial at Corrigin

Soil health goes on trial at Corrigin


Grains
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SOIL amelioration methods will incorporate different amendments hoping to improve health and fertility on sandy soils at a Corrigin Farm Improvement Group (CFIG) trial at Corrigin.

SOIL amelioration methods will incorporate different amendments hoping to improve health and fertility on sandy soils at a Corrigin Farm Improvement Group (CFIG) trial at Corrigin.

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Corrigin Farm Improvement Group executive officer Veronika Crouch looks at the different soil types at depth.

Corrigin Farm Improvement Group executive officer Veronika Crouch looks at the different soil types at depth.

The trial, funded by the National Landcare Program's Smart Farms Small Grants, is a large-scale grower trial looking at four amelioration treatments and four soil amendment treatments.

Amelioration treatments will include a speed tiller, mouldboard, deep ripper and disc plough.

Already applied soil amendment treatments include two tonnes of lime per hectare, 5t/ha of chicken manure, 2t/ha of lime plus 5t/ha of chicken manure and the C-WISE compost pellet.

There is a total of 25 treatments including controls in each block, which are being implemented across three soil types in the paddock including sandy loam, sand over gravel and gravel sand.

CFIG executive officer Veronika Crouch said the aim of this project was to determine if there were suitable alternative amelioration strategies to improve soil condition, organic matter and nutrient balances of these soils in the region.

"The machines chosen are commonly used in the region and they serve a different purpose on farm; from stubble management to addressing weed and non-wetting issues," Ms Crouch said.

"Sandy soils are often acidic and non-wetting.

"They account for approximately 30 per cent of the Corrigin district's arable land."

The poor structure and coarse texture of sandy soils results in low water-holding capacity.

Ms Crouch said the nutrient contents and nutrient retention were low, causing a low inherent fertility status for agricultural production.

"To increase the productivity of these soils, growers need to implement sustainable management practices," she said.

"This project will determine if there are suitable alternative amelioration strategies to improve soil condition, biological fertility and nutrient balances of these soils in our region."

CFIG was looking at ways to use more sustainable and organic amendments to bring up the fertility in otherwise marginal soils.

Ms Crouch said she wanted to trial if farmers did not have to rely heavily on fertilisers but rather increase the organic matter and soil structure to achieve similar benefits.

Over the trial period Ms Crouch hoped to conduct in-season tests like checking the biomass comparisons, establishment, yield and grain ?quality.

But the trial has hit a bit of an issue with no amelioration yet to be carried out on the site due to the dry start.

Ms Crouch said that was the interesting thing with trials, the season had to be taken into account as well.

"If it had been a wet summer we would have done the site preparations already but so far only the chook manure and lime sand has been spread out," she said.

"Now we are just waiting for the rain.

"There is no point mouldboarding when it's this dry because you won't get a nice inversion."

But the amelioration is critical to the trial with each method having a different control strategy.

"Different machines will target different issues," Ms Crouch said.

"Whether it be weeds, stubble or non-wetting, these machines should affect them in some way."

This trial would link in with the Soil Cooperative Research Centre for high performance soils research and become part of the data on sandy soils.

Ms Crouch said they had quite a few project partners involved in this trial including Professor Richard Bell and Dr Simon Cooke at Murdoch University who were consulting on the project.

"We have just received some product donated to the trial from C-WISE," she said.

"Another major part of our trial is the growers and their various equipment which are donated to the trial."

This year CFIG also received some funds from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development grant for the Internet of Things.

"We plan to use frost sensors and soil moisture probes at this trial site," she said.

"It will be handy for in-season data collection and how to utilise that technology to assist with your in-season decision making.

"But also with the trial and how the changes within the nutrient levels might effect different treatments as well."

Between CFIG and its group sponsors they have over 30 trial and demonstration sites organised for the 2019 season, with a mix of cropping, pasture and livestock projects.

Other trials for CFIG this year include; seeding systems to improve cereal crop establishment on heavy textured soils, demonstrations of legume crops for reliable profitability in the western region, demonstrating the benefits of soil amelioration, a perennial legume Lebeckia harvest demonstration, grazing crops to increase farm profitability and forage systems for optimal weaning management and finishing.

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