Soil Improvement Project Commenced March 2022 in Parkesbourne.

The Soil Improvement Project, starting in Parkesbourne, is designed to reduce the need for chemicals and, over a period of 12 months, completely remove their use by improving the quality of the soil using Regenerative Farming practices.

Craig Hunt’s Soil Improvement Project  - Parkesbourne

Purpose of this Document

The purpose of this document is to outline the Parkesbourne Soil Improvement Project, now in progress and adopted by Landcare Goulburn Mulwaree Regenerative Grazing and Farming group (LGM G&FG ). The document will explain how the project fits into LGM G&FG’s overall Regenerative Farming Transition Program.

Background

The Hunt family has been farming in Parkesbourne for over 150 years and at the moment there are two generations farming the land, Craig and two of his sons. The land owned by the family totals 600 acres.

Farm Profile

Craig is principally grazing prime lambs on his property.

The soil on the trial plots is a sandy loam.

The trial plot is a 2ha paddock that was most recently planted with a lucerne crop and prior to that a wheat crop. Both were used for fodder.

Motivation for the Project

The main motivation for the project is to reduce the need for chemicals and, over a period of 12 months, completely remove their use by improving the soil using Regenerative Farming practices.

Why Regenerative Agriculture?

Through Craig’s investigation into how he might achieve his goal as stated above, Craig came across Regenerative Agriculture. Craig’s preferred method of gaining new farming knowledge is through podcasts and three in particular influenced his thinking:-

  1. Nutrition Farming (Graeme Sait) https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/nutrition-farming-podcast/id1500903366.
  2. Regenerative Agriculture (Regenerative Agriculture Podcast - Google Search)
  3. Biological Farming Round Table (Biological Farming Round Table on Apple Podcasts)

Graeme Sait’s podcast really highlighted for Craig that healthy soils are diverse living  ecosystems that produce pastures of high nutritional value without the need for synthetic inputs.

The Project

The key agricultural outcome that Craig is seeking from his project is a successful multi-species pasture. The paddock to be used has been ploughed many times and its soil biology severely damaged by the overuse of a selective herbicide.

The above outcome is to be made possible by improving the health of the soil by improving biological activity through the use of beneficial agents and reducing use of synthetic fertiliser and herbicide. The multi-species seed will be direct drilled and plots will not be ploughed, as soil compaction is not significant.

Assuming that the trial does deliver healthier soil, the benefits will include the ability for it to hold more moisture, to promote deeper plant roots and to sequester more carbon. The reduction and longer term planned elimination of the use of chemicals will reduce Craig’s costs. 

The project comprises 11 plots covering an area of 2 ha and will include two control plots. 

Craig is working with both Nutrisoil and Best Farming systems whose products will kick-start and then grow the soil biology. Landcare Goulburn Mulwaree does not officially endorse any particular soil improvement products.

Guiding Principles of The Project

The guiding principle of the project is that implementing proven practices will, over time, deliver an improvement in the quality of the soil. The services of an independent agri-ecologist will be used to assist in the conduct of the trial.

The success of the project will be judged by comparing the results of the non-control plots with the control plots. This will be supported by bi-annual soil tests and comparative results from other participating farmers in the group. The project is not intended to operate under a more rigorous scientific basis, if only because the project budget is very limited. Changes to the project inputs will be made as it progresses based on the results achieved.

Benefits

  1. Carbon Sequestration and Credits

Soil contributes to climate solutions through carbon drawdown into organic matter and avoiding disturbance. If 10% of GM farmers oversow perennial pastures with legumes and practise optimal grazing methods, this would draw down 19,100 tonnes of CO2 each year and earn $1.5 M per annum on the international carbon market. Retaining 1% of GM’s perennial pasture each year would avoid 137,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions reference is ZeroSE’s fact sheet on carbon sequestration opportunities on agricultural land in Goulburn Mulwaree (https://1drv.ms/b/s!AmkgLZ0xX6yQzjQxTENX2_blj7K_?e=nxfqf1)

2. Financial Benefits

To be supplied

Progress So Far 

As of 28th March, the trial is in progress.

An advert has been placed for a project coordinator.

Multi-Species Pasture

The multi-species comprises:-

  • oats (Blackbutt) 30 kg
  • chicory 2kg
  • field peas 2kg
  • brassica 2kg
  • radish 0.5kg
  • plantain 2kg
  • white turnip 1 kg
  • lupins 2kg
  • fescue 2kg
  • phalaris 2kg
  • white clover 1 kg
  • red clover 1kg and
  • three different types of sub clover, 1kg each variety

Most of the seed was purchased from Laggan Grain Shed who also donated the clover seed.

Project Approach

There will be 11 trial plots of equal size across a 2ha paddock. They include 2 control plots that will have no chemical fertilisers and no Nutrisoil or TM product.

Reduced amounts of synthetic fertiliser, as detailed below, will be spread on the plots, the control plots excepted:-

  • plot 1 - 75kg Dap fertiliser to be used plus Nutrisoil and TM. Craig normally uses 100kg of Dap, but 150kg of DAP is usually recommended in Southern Tablelands
  • plot 2 - 50kg Dap fertiliser used plus Nutrisoil and TM
    plot 3 - 25kg Dap fertiliser  used  plus Nutrisoil  and TM
  • plot 4 - 25kg Dap fertiliser used   plus  Nutrisoil and  TM (this plot also has had molasses based feed pellets fed to sheep)
  • plot 5 - 0 kg fertiliser used, only  Nutrisoil and TM
  • plot 6 - total control no fertiliser or Nutrisoil  or TM used
  • plot 7 - 75kg single super used plus Nutrisoil  and TM. Craig normally uses 125kg of single super, which is the normal amount for the Southern Tablelands
  • plot 8 50 kg single super used  plus Nutrisoil and TM
  • plot 9 - 25 kg single super used plus Nutrisoil and TM
  • plot 10 – 0 kg used, only Nutrisoil and TM
  • plot 11 - total control with no fertiliser and no Nutrisoil no TM

All the seed will be mixed with Nutrisoil and TM prior to sowing but not that planted on the two control plots.

 
All the plots will be sprayed-out with glyphosate, but at a reduced rate and water with a pH of 3 will be used to dilute the glyphosate. The reduction in the pH of the water will be achieved by adding fulvic acid and citric acid to the tank mixture. The objective of the spraying is to remove unwanted grasses and weeds. The two control plots will also be sprayed.

 Project Governance

The project would be headed-up by ?? who would report to the G&FG committee or to a project steering committee, comprising of at least two committee members.

Proposed Project Support from Landcare Goulburn Mulwaree

The proposed project is in accordance with the objectives of LGM’s Smart Farms Small Grant application and it is proposed to use some of that grant to support the project.

The following support for the project by Landcare Goulburn Mulwaree is agreed:-

  • Project Admin Support using money from the Smart Farms Grant. The amount of support required has not been scoped and will depend on the number of farmers involved. Likely activities will include:-
    • Keep a record of the project on Facebook and our Landcare Gateway
    • Liaise with farmers involved and also external bodies involved, eg Soils For Life
  • Subsidy for the cost of the soil test and soil improvement training course that Craig has commenced. Amount to be determined
  • Other??

Project Steps

  1. Conduct a soil test using EAL, as recommended by the independent agro-ecologist Completed
  2. Complete online soil improvement training with agro-ecologist, that starts with how to interpret the soil test above – in progress
  3. Plant the seed
  4. Conduct a number of crash grazing sessions once the pasture has grown to around 20cms. This will be followed by a rest and recovery period before further such grazing sessions, expect to number three
  5. Report on progress of growth in non-control versus control plot
  6. Repeat soil test after two years
  7. Based on the above results, make any necessary changes to the trial

Project Progress 17th June - on the way!!