16 November 2016

Soil Wealth: AORA Field Day at the Greater Sydney Local Land Services Demonstration Farm

16 November 2016

Soil Wealth Cowra popcorn
Caption: Popcorn, grown at the Cowra Soil Wealth demonstration farm. Photo credit: Facebook @SoilWealthCowra

Did someone say popcorn? This is just one of the crops involved in the Soil Wealth extension project at the Cowra site. Along with chickpeas at Kalbar, eggplant in Darwin, carrots in Gingin, coloured lettuce in Gippsland, and 8-kilo cabbages in Bathurst – these various projects look at tillage, soil structure, cover crops, and the resulting healthy soil using compost.

“There is a great opportunity to connect with the compost industry,” explains Dr Gordon Rogers, Managing Director at Applied Horticultural Research (AHR), who with Melbourne-based RMCG, are carrying out the Soil Wealth project. Along with his team of skilled research and communication professionals, AHR supports innovation through the horticultural supply chain, from farm to consumer.

Soil Wealth Cowra popcorn field
Caption: Popcorn, grown at the Cowra Soil Wealth demonstration farm. Photo credit: Facebook @SoilWealthCowra

At the beginning of November 2016, around 80 Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) members and industry stakeholders visited the Local Land Services Demonstration Farm in Richmond to learn about the Soil Wealth Project, headed up by Dr Rogers.

Dr Rogers went to explain that this is an extension project, not a research project. Soil Wealth focus’ on the vegetable industry, assisting growers and commercial agronomists to improve farm profitability while maintaining a strong customer focus through a workable system as opposed to an isolated research outcome.

The guiding principles specify that soil management must have a clear purpose, which means reduced input costs like pesticides, fertiliser, fuel, machinery and time, as well as improved pest and disease control which in turn assures planned yields and higher pack out rates.

Microbial communities in the soil also improve pest and disease control as plants are healthier and can defend themselves against pests and diseases more effectively. Water efficiency is another added bonus. Mulch and compost reduce the need for irrigation required by vegetables, and reduces the temperature of the soil, therefore reducing stress on the plants. 

Soil Wealth Werribee
Caption: Midi Cos lettuce at the Werribee Soil Wealth demonstration farm. Photo credit: Facebook @SoilWealthWerribee

Agronomists and growers have been searching for answers about soil biology, soil borne disease, soil test interpretation, biofumigation, as well as compost and mulches, and regional and crop specific issues. There are many demonstration sites around the country, with these best practice principles in action:

NSW: Cowra, Sydney Basin, Bathurst
VIC: Gippsland, Werribee, Koo Wee Rup
WA: Manjimup, Giggin
TAS: Forcett, Forthside
QLD: Bowen, Kalbar
SA: Mt Barker
NT: Darwin

Each has their own Facebook site, to keep track of progress (these are listed below). The sites produce case studies and fact sheets, host field days, and provide valuable information for webinars, videos, and master classes.

So, what makes a healthy soil? Things that add more carbon, or burn less carbon. This means less tillage, soil covered in mulches and cover crops, as well as the correct nutrition.

To learn more, head over to the Soil Wealth website or contact AHR on gordon@ahr.com.au.

Twitter: @SoilWealth

Facebook pages:
















Soil Wealth is run jointly by Applied Horticultural Research and RM Consulting Group (RMCG). 

Soil Wealth is funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited using the vegetable industry levy and funds from the Australian Government.

On-farm activities are supported by Applied Horticultural Research through funding from the Australian Government's Caring for Our Country program.


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