Vetch and serradellas on radar for soil health

Vetch and serradellas on radar for soil health

Cropping News
Yuna Farm Improvement Group secretary (YFIG) Nicole Batten (left), president Brady Green and treasurer Greg Creasy.

Yuna Farm Improvement Group secretary (YFIG) Nicole Batten (left), president Brady Green and treasurer Greg Creasy.

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"This is about growing feed to minimise hand-feeding."

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AN increasing focus on building structure in sandy soils for a range of benefits is seeing more experimentation in the northern Wheatbelt.

It was reflected by two farmers who showcased what they are doing on their farms.

For east Yuna farmer Jason Batten, who is a share farmer with a mixed crop-stock regime, a trial of serradella is proving promising.

"This is about growing feed to minimise hand-feeding," Mr Batten said.

"So we're evaluating legumes to support perennials in a pasture manipulation to try to reduce native species and graze out the ryegrass and radish.

Elders Geraldton agronomist Nick Eyres talks with farmers about the value of growing vetch crops. Apart from feed value and nitrogen-fixing, vetches also suppress weeds, although a few blue lupins have 'ducked' the canopies which have done a good job with wild radish and grasses.

Elders Geraldton agronomist Nick Eyres talks with farmers about the value of growing vetch crops. Apart from feed value and nitrogen-fixing, vetches also suppress weeds, although a few blue lupins have 'ducked' the canopies which have done a good job with wild radish and grasses.

"We're trying to demonstrate what we can achieve with serradellas and we know they will keep going to December if the moisture is there."

The other benefits are cover and residual value with the option of rotating with vetch.

"We can look at building organic carbon and nitrogen and improving soil health," Mr Batten said.

"At this stage it's a concept for the long-term sustainability of gutless sands."

Another farmer, YFIG president Brady Green, is trying out vetch.

"On this dirt we can't grow lupins very well and we've already had three years in wheat so vetch is worthy of looking at where it fits," Mr Green said.

Elders agronomist Nick Eyres said vetch was worth considering in the northern Wheatbelt.

"Improving soil health is the driver, so it's not all about instant profits," Mr Eyres said.

This is probably the paradigm shift facing farmers who traditionally have been locked onto every paddock making dollars every year.

While vetch has outstanding attributes to improve soil fertility, structure and organic matter and offering a rotation break for cereals, the key to growing it is moisture.

As Mr Green said, vetch "poses more questions than answers".

"It's far from simple."

But there is one certainty.

There is a stronger desire among farmers over the past 10 years to improve soil structure and fertility.

That has been reflected in soil amelioration.

Now the focus is on how to profitably carry that forward towards the goal of increasing water-holding capacity in sandy soils.

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