Building up the fertility of soil in our country

Due to historical degradation of soil there is the possibility Australia’s farmland could become desert in the future, a Candelo farmer has said.

“Globally, the world is losing one per cent of its top soil each year,” Bruce Davison said. 

“With a rising population that wont end well and could result in desert.” 

He said before European settlement the soil in Australia was extremely rich. When Europeans started to head out west across the continent, horses had trouble pulling their wagons as the soil was so dense and organically rich. 

Mr Davison is the coordinator of the Restoring Fertile Productive Soils project, which is researching the benefits of fertilising land and aims to increase such fertilisation in the Bega Valley. 

He is now in the fourth year of his five-year project and is running a field day on October 15 to share some of the information the research has produced. 

There are four trial plots on his property and a “stark difference” in growth can be seen between the two that have been fertilised and the two that have not. 

There are several key findings so far. Mr Davison said it was important to provide sufficient fertilisation to maintain or increase fertility of the soil and the cost of not doing that was further soil degradation.

He said the success of crop or pasture reflected fertiliser application and the timing of such an application was important. For instance, soil may need a lot of fertiliser, but it should not be applied all at once. 

Mr Davison said a benefit was that weeds could not grow in fertilised soil. 

Such plants include African lovegrass, serrated tussock and he has inconclusive evidence that fireweed struggles in fertile soil as well.

He said his research indicated that while fireweed grows well in the first year land is fertilised, by the second year it starts to diminish. 

At the same time as fertilising, Mr Davison said it was important to increase organic matter in soil as across Australia there was an 80 per cent reduction in such matter. 

He said farmers were “paying a high price” for this, which was the result of overgrazing and cultivation without fertilisation. 

While he said fertilising an entire farm would involve prohibitive costs, it was affordable on a paddock scale and improving a land’s fertilisation would increase returns for farmers by allow them to raise better-fed stock. 

The Restoring Fertile Productive Soils Forum and Field Day will be on October 15 at the Candelo Town Hall from 9am to 4.45pm. 

The focus is on soil fertility, winter feed as well as general pasture production and quality and there will be several agronomists as speakers. 

Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea will be provided, but registration is essential for catering. 

The cost is $20 to assist with soil and leaf analysis with the cost payable on the day. RSVP to Heidi on 6493 2131 or heidi@candelosalers.com. 

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