Crop Diary, October
[Transcript of Crop Diary, October]
There is a problem in Australia called subtle soil degradation. This is when there is soil degradation is not noticed by the farmer, because it is so subtle from one year to the next, taking years and decades to be recognised. By this time, it can be very expensive to reclaim.
Over 20 years, I have travelled throughout the Australian Agriculture belt, and continually see this happening, even to the extend where soils have been abandoned to productive use.
I have also travelled to other countries in the world to understand their soils. I visited an agriculture research centre and farming area in central China and learned that farmers in that region had been farming and continues cropping for over 4,000 years.
Our western style agriculture with chemical fertiliser and herbicides have only been introduced over the last 30 years, and older framers are saying soils just aren’t preforming like they use to be.
These are just some of the inputs that are responsible for soil degradation, inputs that have a real impact on soil life.
But what are alternative inputs that we can use that don’t destroy living biology in the soil and still enable the farmer to achieve desired yields which is important because of high costs.
Firstly, it is important to understand that balanced soils and balanced plant nutrition play a key role in the plants resistance to insect and fungal attack.
Which means chemicals that are detrimental to soil life don’t need to be used. Resources for balancing soils and plants are readily available and farmers through a process understand their own farm nutritional status do not use these chemicals.
Another example is to understand that nitrogen use efficiency is very dependent on adequate sulphur, zinc and calcium. These nutrients are synergistic and there are many examples of nitrogen fertiliser inputs be halved when this balance is addressed, and still achieve the desired yield but higher protein.
Balanced soils mean less chemicals need to be used. For example, cape weed and silver grass are an indication of low calcium levels in the soil. Correct the calcium deficiency and these weeds will simply disappear without the use of chemicals. An example of inputs that are friendly to the soil environment are ammonium nitrogen sources rather than urea. And mineral rich fertilisers such as Guano instead of traditional phosphate fertilisers. For a family farm a lifetime of building soil carbon and soil structure and fertility is the best thing you can do for future generations.