Waikerie farmer’s quest to nurture existing soils

Written by admin on 25/04/2020 Categories: 老域名

IMPROVE STRUCTURE: Waikerie farmer Allen Buckley has made many changes to improve soil structure. Photo: REBECCA JENNINGSFOR SAgraingrower Allen Buckley, soil health has been a near life-long quest.

He was one of the first Mallee growers to adopt no-till farming more than 20 years ago; back in an era when the region was notorious for losing millions of tonnes of topsoil to wind erosion.

Since then, hehas been on a journey to turn around his farming system and the sustainability and profitability of grain growing in the region.

Mr Buckley farms near Waikerie and was one of the early movers to establish Mallee Sustainable Farming.

As the founding vice-chair, he worked closely with the late researcher Dr David Roget to map out strategies for growers to tackle the dust storms that characterised the Mallee region.

“We had dirt banking up higher than a five-strand fence,I knew something had to change,” he said.

“There had to be another way of farming to address wind erosion, which was the single biggest problem of farming in these sandy soils.”

Over the years, the5000-hectare mixed-farming enterprise Mr Buckley and his wife, Jenny, operate has become an example of how no-till farming can improve soil productivity, increase disease suppression and capture moisture in a low-rainfall environment to increase average yields.

Building the organic matter of his sandy loam soil to improve water-holding capacity is important in a system that receives about 160 millimetres of growing-season rainfall –or250mm annual rainfall.

His system is designed to capture as much moisture as possible.

The ribbon banding system with 305mm row spacings creates a ‘thatch’ of residual organic matter between the seeding rows for a mini-ecosystem of microbial activity.

“I try to look at farming from an environmental point of view; we have to work with nature, not against it, especially in a low-rainfall area,” Mr Buckley said.

“This thatch is an example of how we can get nature to work for us.The system channels rain off each side into the adjacent seeding row so it infiltrates where the roots are.By keeping the zone between the rows dry, we also slow weed germination and growth.”

To keep up with demand, Mr Buckley is spreading his own compost blend.

The main aims are to increase soil organic matter, improve soil structure and reduce fertiliser costs.

He wants to consistently achieve protein of 11.5 per cent and higher.

Mr Buckley is also trialling cover crops to keep living roots in the soil through summer and would like to see more research into mixed crops and crop sequencing.

It is all part of his strategy to optimise the productivity of his existing land.

“What I have done is try to improve my system so that I can get 100pc out of every hectare rather than having a lot more hectares,” he said.

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