$2 million to tell stories

Soils For Life funded to produce case studies

Agribusiness
DRY CONDITIONS: Regenerative agriculture covers a number of agricultural practices, one of the more contentious ones is the retention of weeds to protect ground cover.

DRY CONDITIONS: Regenerative agriculture covers a number of agricultural practices, one of the more contentious ones is the retention of weeds to protect ground cover.

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Soils For Life has been funded to produce case studies of regenerative agriculture

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A charity endorsing regenerative agriculture has been granted $2 million by the Federal Government to deliver case studies promoting the practice.

Soils For Life CEO Rod Chisholm said he considered the not-for-profit an independent research organisation.

"What we do according to our project mandate is to advocate for practice change to regenerative forms of agriculture and to produce case studies into farmers who have adopted regenerative forms of agricultural practice," he said.

"We run and participate in field days and range lands conferences and that sort of thing, once again to advocate for changes to regenerative agriculture."

Read more: Profit shortfall from regenerative agriculture

Mr Chisholm, who has a background in the defense force, said the organisation was set up ten years ago by former Governor General Major General Mike Jeffery.

"He set up a trust and got some very generous donations from some big Australian names, we also got a grant from the agriculture department to carry out more of these case studies," he said.

"So over the years with a fluctuating bank balance we have been churning out as many case studies as we can."

Mr Chisholm said the $2 million in funding, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the Dubbo NSW drought summit earlier this year, would be used to fund a further 20 farmer case studies, bringing the total developed to 50.

"By the end of the year we should have 30 case studies live," he said.

Read more: Why farmers should avoid magic and opt for science

"Starting this year we are base-lining soil biology, soil chemistry and pH and monitoring it over time, in the past we haven't always done that very rigidly.

"We are not agriculture consultants, we don't tell farmers precisely what they ought to do on their property, we tell the story and put it on our website and various other social media feeds."

Mr Chisholm said the organisation did not work with the Research Development Corporations or utilise the research they funded.

"We tell the stories of farmers various journeys on the adoption of regenerative agriculture, we don't comment on research or findings of grains council, Meat and Livestock Australia, CSIRO or anyone else, it is about farmer Jones and what Mr and Mrs Jones achieved," he said." he said.

"We regard examining a regenerative farmer in fairly fine detail as a research activity.

"We've noticed that people who have regenerative practices underpinning their business have much healthier soils in general."

Mr Chisholm said the organisation measured the success of its activities by surveying farmers.

"The take up rate of regenerative practice, after each case study we conduct a field day and in the coming year and two we contact almost everyone who attended those field days and follow up with their interest and actual adoption of regenerative practices," he said.

"We make comment on what farmers have done to improve the organic carbon content of soils, that being the cornerstone of healthy soils, in fact we have been given another grant by government to run a soil carbon measurement development workshop with the University of Tasmania next year."

Mr Chisholm said the organisation did not have specific economic advice regarding the adoption of regenerative agriculture.

"Most farmers production statistics speak for themselves, I can think of a few farmers who have had a rocky couple of years in terms of getting a start with regenerative practice but it depends very much at the rate at which they want to adopt regenerative practices," he said.

"Where we come from is trying to build food and water security as we lurch toward the year 2040 and beyond. We might have $10 billion people on the planet and a crisis in food and water security."

Mr Chisholm said the organisation was agnostic to some of regenerative agriculture's more contentious practices, such as the retention of exotic or invasive weed species.

"We tell people stories and most farmers can document the improvements they have made to yield and production, there are some farmers who believe in keeping plants that some people classify as weeds," he said.

"But we are fairly agnostic on it, we tell people stories, we don't tell them what to do."

The story $2 million to tell stories first appeared on Farm Online.

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