There has never been more reasons for soil, plant and stock improvement. The prices of fertilisers and farm chemicals have risen astronomically so reductions in chemical use and increases in fertiliser efficiency have never been so well rewarded. The Government’s push to reduce carbon emissions will affect agriculture and there is no doubt farmers will benefit from fixing carbon in their soils.
A move towards a more biological approach to farming is being seen across Australia as farmers begin to recognise the mass of associated benefits when it comes to reducing chemical inputs. Not only is biological farming a healthier option or a means to reduce carbon emissions and costs, it is creating soils that are balanced in nutrients, have good structure and high biological activity. It makes perfect sense that feeding the soil with its specific requirements will produce exceptional fruit and vegetables.
A critical component of a biological farming system is building soil carbon reserves. In addition to improving moisture retention, building soil carbon also significantly increases beneficial microbial populations. These soil microbes are responsible for crucial functions such as solubilising nutrients, disease suppression and fixing atmospheric nitrogen. This is ultimately the key to reducing dependence on excessive synthetic fertiliser and pesticide use. Including inputs such as humic and fulvic acid increases the efficacy and stability of fertilisers, thus giving the farmer the opportunity to reduce fertiliser inputs. Replacing low-efficiency, expensive soluble phosphorus fertilisers with alternatives such as soft rock phosphate is not only more sustainable but also economically more viable. It is the over-use of synthetic fertiliser that has been responsible for the massive reduction in soil carbon levels and ironically, this reduction in carbon has increased our dependence on synthetic fertilisers, creating a vicious cycle in which farms have gradually become less productive. With the current emphasis on carbon-sinks, in addition to the phenomenal increase in the price of chemical fertilisers, the importance of biological farming has never been more apparent.
So how do you ensure your soil is balanced? Soil testing is the key to achieving optimum soil and plant nutrition. Undertaking annual soil tests and regular leaf tests incur minimal costs but can achieve results beyond your expectations. A pecan grower located in the Lismore region, Geoff Bugden, was astounded at his crop production after applying a products that were personally developed for his soil requirements. The pecan production rose from 8 tonnes to 20 tonnes within a one year period.
Moving from conventional chemical farming to biological farming can be a little frightening if it is the way you have farmed for many years. However, most growers undertake a mixture of both methods for some time and this is still a very viable option.
There are many strategies that farmers can learn and incorporate into everyday farming practises. The best way to learn these strategies is to attend a four day course run by an Australian company called Nutri-Tech Solutions. The course is based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and for only $599 for four days it is exceptional value for money.