Sustainable ag program delivering savings to farmers

News article |

A sustainable agriculture project being shared with farmers in the Mid North is already providing considerable cost savings, and helping build farming system resilience and drought-proofing.

Precise mapping of soil pH across paddocks on farms in the Robertstown/Emu Downs area is showing the value of targeted mapping and greater understanding of pH variability.

Farmers Herb and Chris Ruediger hosted a field walk and demonstration on their Emu Downs farm recently, where participants were able to see the difference in soil profile across two soil pits in one of their paddocks.

Sustainable ag program delivering savings to farmers
Emu Downs farmer Herb Ruediger and SARDI's Research Scientist Andrew Harding. Credit: Dale Button.

Explaining the soil profile and sharing suitable management practices to ameliorate constraints, such as lime for soil acidity, were PIRSA-SARDI senior soil consultants Brian Hughes and Andrew Harding.

The pair also precisely mapped soil pH across the paddock using SARDI’s Veris mapping technology.

And the Ruedigers were impressed with the results.

“I’m really happy with it,” Herb said. “We’re actually going to get Andrew to come back and do the Veris testing over two more paddocks to create a spreading map for next year.”

The Veris machine was used to map soil pH in the paddock and a calculation was then made to show the savings from only applying lime where it was needed, rather than a blanket application over the entire paddock.

The Ruedigers had planned to apply 2.5 tonnes of lime per hectare across the paddock.

However, the demonstration was able to show the soil pH variability across the paddock through precise measurement with the Veris machine, and using this data, Andrew calculated the lime savings by only applying lime to areas with a pH less than 5.5 (CaCl2).

It resulted in a potential cost saving of $3741 - 73.6 per cent - for that paddock, taking into account the cost of pH mapping, lime, freight and spreading.

The Ruedigers were able to use the spare lime - already purchased - on similar ground in nearby paddocks.

Sustainable ag program delivering savings to farmers
Project participants at a recent field site visit learning from Brian Hughes (PIRSA-SARDI) about soil variation within the paddock. Credit Andrew Harding (PIRSA-SARDI)

Northern and Yorke Landscape Board sustainable agriculture facilitator Molly O’Dea said, in addition to the hip pocket savings for farmers, the initiative also addressed some significant environmental impacts.

“Soil acidity - low soil pH - is an increasing and significant issue throughout the Northern and Yorke landscape region,” she said.

“It is having an impact on crop and pasture productivity, with poor plant growth leading to reduced profits for farmers and environmental impacts, such as land degradation.

“Keeping soil pH within the optimum range for plant growth increases crop and pasture productivity, leading to increased profits, and future drought resilience.”

The drought-proofing initiative is being run across South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

The project is led by Mallee Sustainable Farming, with a number of other project partners including the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, through funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Future Drought Fund.

Find out more about soil acidity.

A number of companies offer soil pH mapping in SA. Ask your local agronomist, or your local sustainable agriculture facilitator for more information.

More field walks and workshops will be held in the Mid North later this year. Register interest in attending by emailing Molly at molly.odea@sa.gov.au.

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