Past soil projects
Soil tender Project
During the period from 2010 – 2012, Natural Resources South East ran an innovative program in the region known as Soil Tender.
Soil Tender was funded by the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country program and was designed to promote the issue of sub-surface soil acidity and to assist landholders in high risk areas in addressing soil acidification on their properties. Soil Tender focused on three separate areas known to be susceptible to sub-surface soil acidity; an area east of Naracoorte, an area near Kalangadoo and an area near Mingbool.
The program successfully assisted 18 landholders in treating over 900 ha of land for soil acidity.
Below is a case study of one of the participants, James Ellis:
Many soils in the South East are prone to soil acidity and most landholders would be quite aware of the pH of their soils in the surface (0-10cm) horizon. However, sub-surface soil (beyond 10cm) acidity is not often recognised as an issue because these lower horizons are not routinely tested. However, sub-surface soil acidity has been shown to significantly limit crop and pasture production as a direct result of plant roots being impeded by acidic soil horizons lower in the profile.
Application of lime to the soil surface is a well-recognised practice and an effective way of treating acidity in the surface soil horizon. However, lime moves quite slowly through the soil profile at a rate of roughly only 1cm per year. Therefore if subsoil acidity has developed, lime applied at the surface will take many years to have any effect on acidic sub-surface soil. Applying lime to the surface followed by incorporating the lime with cultivation equipment is one method of getting lime deeper into the soil profile to treat sub-surface soil acidity.
James Ellis was one of the landholders successful in gaining assistance through Soil Tender to treat sub-surface soil acidity on his property in 2012. James’s property, in the Binnum area north east of Naracoorte, is situated on highly productive loamy redgum soils. However, soil acidity limits productivity with the sub-surface pH being on average 4.7 in calcium chloride before treatment began (the optimum pH for most crops and pasture species is 5.0 or above in calcium chloride). Through the Soil Tender program a local soils expert was engaged to visit the site and prepare a management plan to deal with sub-surface soil acidity. Of the management options identified in the plan, James chose to apply lime to the surface and incorporate it into the soil to a depth of 10cm before establishing a perennial pasture.
Through the Soil Tender program, James gained assistance to treat a total of 41 ha by applying and incorporating lime to 10 cm, followed by the establishment of a perennial pasture consisting of phalaris, cocksfoot and subterranean clover. The lime application and incorporation and pasture establishment took place in 2012. Two years after establishment, the pasture is thick and healthy and produces much more stock feed than the neighbouring paddocks on James’s property. Having observed the increase in production gained through lime application and incorporation, followed by perennial pasture establishment, James hopes to expand the area treated by this method in the future to maximise production from his property.
Although the Soil Tender program is now completed, the Limestone Coast Landscape Board is to provide on ground technical advice regarding soil management.
Enhancing Soil Health Project
From 2010 – 2013, the South East Natural Resources Management Board (SE NRM Board) implemented the Enhancing Soil Health project; with funding provided by the Australian Government Caring for our Country program and the SE NRM Board.
As part of this project, the SE NRM Board established six demonstration farms where existing paddock management techniques and new demonstration sites were evaluated in terms of impacts on soil health. A demonstration farm is not a scientific trial; rather it tries to measure things that are happening in working farm situations.
The demonstration sites had been chosen where the farming families have applied a lot of different treatments to their soil over the past decade. These sites were tested for soil conditions such as carbon content and acidity levels; testing the effects of the treatments.
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