Digging Deep to Improve Pasture Management

An early start did not deter farmers in northern Tasmania from turning out in strong numbers for a pasture and crop management field day held at Rob and Jo Bradley’s Woollen Park property near Longford. The event was held by NRM North and Southern Farming Systems (TAS).

Tasmanian agricultural systems have traditionally benefited from relatively high organic carbon content due to climatic and soil influences. However, many areas in the Tasmanian midlands have a long history of tillage, fallows, and set stocking, leading to declines in soil organic carbon and overall soil health. Friday’s field day focussed on the results of local trials aimed at investigating and demonstrating cost-effective and relatively easy implementation systems to overcome these soil constraints on-farm, through manures, tillage and drainage mechanisms.

Adrian James, Land Program Manager from NRM North said five-foot-deep pits were dug to examine the varied soil profiles existing on the site and the benefits the incorporated manure may have had.

“Below average rainfall levels this year have limited the data available for the lucerne pasture drainage trial. However, early soil improvements in the incorporated chook manure trial show that positive carbon gains could be achieved under variable conditions,” he said.

The latest research and technologies to assist farmers in pasture management were also presented by a host of speakers. UTAS researcher, Geoff Dean, discussed findings from subsoil manuring trials, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation with initial support from NRM North.

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Tasmanian farmers inspect soil conditions in one of the trial pits on-site.

For those interested in new technology, Southern Farming Systems (VIC) introduced Pasture Paramedic, a pasture assessment tool developed by Meat and Livestock Australia, and Dr Shane Powell from UTAS discussed E-Nose, a tool in development that has the potential to detect gases given off by soil microbes, recently funded by Soil CRC. Add to this a discussion from Macquarie Franklin about the importance of early planning for good autumn pasture practices, and recent work monitoring dung beetles by Southern Farming Systems (TAS) and farmers left with plenty of new ideas to incorporate in their own cropping and pasture systems.

The Hon Guy Barnett MP, Minister for Primary Industries and Water said the early trial results are encouraging.

“Outcomes from this trial, combined with new technology available to Tasmanian farmers, will help the industry to increase the value of Tasmanian agriculture to $10 billion by 2050.”

The trial collaboration between NRM North and Southern Farming Systems is part of a wider soil carbon project supported by NRM North, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.