Soil researchers share knowledge with farmers at field day

Lead researchers involved with Southern Cross University’s $2.5 million Soil Extension Program shared their knolwledge with Northern Rivers farmers at a recent tea tree farming field day at Casino.

Professor Terry Rose has a diverse knowledge of soil nutrition, cover cropping, nitrogen efficiency and impacts of soil amendments across a range of pasture and cropping systems.

He is advising researchers across six of the eight projects within the Soil Extension Program, which is supported by the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry:

  • Multispecies cover crops in subtropical horticultural plantations
  • Multispecies summer cover crops for Western Australia
  • Investigating the benefits of multispecies cover crops in low rainfall mixed farming systems
  • Soil Carbon Research Program 2.0 (20-year data set to understand the effects of farm management on soil organic carbon)
  • Central Victorian Regenerative Farmers multispecies cover cropping and regenerative pasture management project
  • Measurement of changes in soil organic carbon levels in response to new regenerative farm management practices by graziers in Northern NSW.

These industry-led projects are researching the benefits of regenerative agricultural practices in restoring degraded soils.

Building soil resilience

At the field day, Professor Rose spoke to farmers about soil structure and fertility, soil carbon and different ways farmers can manipulate water and nutrient retention.

He investigated two soil pits on-site, identifying potential subsoil constraints, demonstrating dispersion and examining root growth.

Southern Cross University Adjunct Professor, Dr Lukas Van Zwieten – who also works on the Soil Extension Program – was another guest speaker at the field day.

“Every single soil has a constraint, whether it’s chemical, physical or biological,” he said to the farmers.

“Declining soil organic matter is a key issue in a lot of farming systems, because soil organic matter helps to store water and provides energy and shelter for soil microorganisms.

“We have to understand soil to manage soil, and we have to build soil resilience.”

For more information about soil biology, watch Dr Van Zwieten’s Soil CRC webinar.

Sharing ideas

Southern Cross University Senior Lecturer and plant pathologist, Dr Jay Anderson, was the field day’s third speaker. She discussed disease management and control measures, and encouraged farmers to look at factors such as the environment (time of planting and plant spacing), hosts (using resistant or tolerant varieties), pathogens and drainage.

The Knowledge to Know-How field day was hosted by Farmacist, AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil and the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association.

Alice Moore, Extension Officer for the Enhanced Extension for the Australian Tea Tree Oil industry project, said it was important to bring growers and researchers together in the field.

“Field days like this give us an opportunity to understand any issues, discuss ideas, offer practical advice and develop plans for the future of our farms and industry,” she said.

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