COVID restrictions meant a much anticipated farmer workshop investigating soil status had to be held virtually in 2022. Farmers were able to draw on knowledge from experts in soil fertility to understand their soil requirements for the season ahead.
A total of 32 farmers from the high rainfall areas of the Peel-Harvey catchment were selected for subsidised soil sampling which took place over summer. Participants typically graze cattle and are reliant on fertiliser to boost pasture production, which can influence the health of our rivers and estuaries due to nutrient run-off from excess fertiliser application.
The program provided landholders with important soil nutrient analysis on a paddock by paddock basis. A report with easy to read, colour coded maps was provided containing soil status information including soil acidity, environmental risk and soil nutrients essential for healthy pasture. To ensure participants understood their results, an online workshop was provided with experts in soil structure, fertility and acidity. Two workshops were held in March which allowed farmers to ask any questions, as well as individually evaluate their results.
The majority of farmers discovered their soils contained excess amounts of phosphorus, meaning increased application of phosphorus would not improve production. The most common way to improve soils was addressing soil acidity. When pH is lower than 5.5 plants are unable to utilise all the nutrients in the soil, the addition of calcium carbonate (lime) will help to neutralise the soil and improve yield.
There has been an overwhelmingly positive response from participants in the project who will now also have access to an agronomist consultation as part of the project. With the large increase in fertiliser costs this season, money which may have been spent on unneeded phosphorus-based fertiliser can now be allocated to address other limiting nutrients or lime to increase pasture productivity. The reduced application of phosphorus rich fertiliser will also reduce the amount of nutrients leaching into our waterways. This may result in reduced algal blooms and oxygen poor water which can kill our aquatic life.
The program is a collaboration between the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
For more information about the program or if you are a farmer interested in applying for the next round of soil testing contact Megan LeRoy, Peel-Harvey Catchment Council’s Healthy Farms and Habitats Coordinator on 6369 8800 or email@example.com
This project is a part of the Healthy Estuaries WA program funded through the State Government’s Royalties for Regions.