CONVERTING the intensive animal section, which comprises paddocks and a Dorper sheep flock, to be more sustainable is the aim of a regenerative agriculture project at the WA College of Agriculture, Harvey.
Regenerative agricultural practices provide a system to tackle farming issues in a way that enables farming to be more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.
Principal Stephen Watt said the college began the project because it was increasingly noted that current agricultural practices were often not compatible with the Australian landscape.
"Issues such as soil degradation, salinity, herbicide resistance, eutrophication of waterways and biodiversity decline are all issues that confront us and to some extent have been created or exacerbated by our current agricultural practices," Mr Watt said.
Year 12 student Geoff Tozer is knowledgeable about the project and said there were many benefits of regenerative agriculture.
"Regenerative agricultural systems make use of natural ecosystem cycles and are based on creating and maintaining healthy productive soils," Mr Tozer said.
"Microbial activity, soil carbon and biodiversity of plant species are all key factors of the regenerative agriculture system."
Ultimately, regenerative agriculture is about harnessing natural systems to support crop growth and therefore animal growth as a result.
Components include encouraging soil biological activity and nutrient cycling, biodiversity of plant species and soil microbes, use of mineral fertilisers and softer chemicals.
Having already used some processes in other paddocks and noticed differences in insect pest prevalence and fodder quality, the college plans to couple that with measuring performance via soil testing and pasture measurements so it can quantify the changes over time.
Mr Watt said it was important for the college to be exposing students to regenerative practices.
"It is critical that the current generation of young people understand the importance of soils as fundamental to farming systems and the techniques that can be applied to preserve and protect them," he said.
"The college has a long history of preparing graduates for employment in agriculture and providing a strong base in conventional practices, but what is missing is exposing students to other more sustainable practices.
"We hope that students will learn that farming with the ecosystem, rather than against it and healthy ecosystems, managed on a sustainable basis, are the keys to future farm profitability."
Mr Watt said students were enthusiastic about the opportunity to look at regenerative agriculture systems.
"The benefits will include the future generation of agriculture practitioners being better equipped to develop sustainable farm systems," he said.
"Once the demonstration site proves the concept, it can be scaled up on the rest of the college farm and in doing so the property is being better protected for the future."
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