Adam Willson from Soil Systems Australia, talks about the decline in Australian soil health

The decline in Australian soil health

Adam Willson from Soil Systems Australia, talks about the decline in Australian soil health

The building of soil carbon in Australian farmland should be regarded as a an national priority because it the bast way of sequestering atmospheric carbon, soil carbon also holds significant amounts of water, reduces erosion across catchments, increases biodiversity, increases nutrient use efficiency and is a key to increasing yields and food quality. With Australian climate already experiencing temperature extremes impacting vast areas across the continent the need for implementing soil carbon building practices is urgent. To begin this process both the Australian government, the organic industry and conventional counterparts need to immediately start baselining organic carbon in soils. Carbonlink is one Australian company that is developing a soil carbon monitoring process and can measure deeper soil carbon down to 1m – Carbonlink (2015). This data is critical for establishing the effectiveness at which farming practices build soil carbon, biodiversity and resilience across the farming landscape.

All across the world there has been a dramatic decline in soil carbon levels, in particular colloidal soil humus. Deforestation, reduced pastures and meadows, continuous cropping, over cultivation and excessive use of nitrogen fertilisers have all led to reduced soil carbon levels. This carbon has left the soil as carbon dioxide, one of the 3 primary greenhouse gases, and made its way into the atmosphere and ocean (causing acidification).

Soil Systems Australia guide companies and producers with project management, agronomy, horticulture, commercial and on-farm composting, organic consultancy, dairy production, waste water management (for rendering plants & abattoirs), establishing market gardens, education and soil surveys.

Soil Systems Australia
http://www.soilsystems.com.au/

So what is soil health - living soil

So what is soil health?

So what is soil health?

or Understanding and Managing Soil Biology

Soil health is a made up of its physical, chemical and living components, but can only be assessed by its living components, if the soil has no living components then it’s dirt. If the physical and chemical components are correctly balanced, but other factors stop the growth of life, then it is unlikely that soil could maintain a healthy status. New research has shown the critical importance of Soil health and organic carbon balance to soil health. Soil organic carbon is the main component of soil organic matter, or the broken-down remains of plant and animal life. So what is the connection between soil carbon, soil health and soil biology?

Here is the important bit

“Organic matter can not break down by itself!”

What's Composting?

Decomposition is done by a vast army of shredders, fungal feeders, predators and herbivores that devour plant and animal matter whole, dissolve it with acids and enzymes, grind it to a paste, and suck its juices! This work is carried out beneath the surface of the soil by creatures that can number billions of organisms per gram of healthy soil, imagine one teaspoon of soil can containing up to 1 billion bacteria. That equals a mass of over two tonnes of livestock per hectare! No wonder some people talk of ‘micro herds’.

The challenge for modern farming
is to understand the needs of the ‘micro herds’
and how to best use the hard work of these creatures to
improve the health and sustainability of our farms.

Imagine a farm where most of the required soil nutrients are provided free, where workers manage pests and diseases at no cost, and where weeds no longer require the unrelenting program of expensive spraying. Right now that might sound impractical, but solid scientific research is showing that with proper management of the biological component of our soils, these objectives don’t sound so crazy.

Science has long known and understood the nature of suppressive soils.  Suppressive soils resist diseases; with research is showing that we can grow massive biomass crops using only 10-20% of current nitrogen inputs; farmers are discovering a reduction in weed pressures when the underlying causes of the weeds are understood. These findings have a common explanation in soil biology.

It’s not the soil that’s weed suppressive,
Its whats living in the soil.

Soil Survey

These benefits are coming from bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms that are controlling pathogens, fixing free nitrogen from the air, and maintaining nutritionally balanced soils. Proper management of soil biology is central to sustainable agriculture. These skills have to be learned and applied across the full range of agricultural landscapes. This book represents one step on a journey into a new way of thinking about agricultural sustainability. It provides growers with practical help to start thinking about soils as ecosystems. What is a good bug and what is bad? How many is enough, too much or too little? What do these bugs tell me? And how can I adapt my management practices so that I am not working against the billions of organisms in my soil that can work for me?

There is an old saying that the best fertiliser is the farmer’s footprints – i.e. there is nothing as valuable as having a good close look at what is happening at ground level in the paddock. Central to discovering soil biology is development of the ancient art of observation. Although most farmers feel there is not enough time in the day, it is hoped that a focus on soil biology will encourage growers to climb down from the tractor, take out a 10x lens and take a really good look at what is going on down where it matters, in the soil. What changes are happening seasonally? How has a particular activity impacted on bug numbers? What can I do to boost their numbers? What benefits can I observe from looking after the micro herds?

The pressure from declining terms of trade has promoted a quantity mindset with quality in second place. That pressure threatens to push farms beyond their productive capacity with resulting declines in productivity, rises in pest and disease pressure, and a range of off-site environmental impacts such as sediment or nutrient export to waterways. Managing for quality as well as quantity depends on improved understanding of the soil as an ecosystem. Such knowledge will support landholders’ aspirations to farm sustainably and leave the land in as good or better condition than when they took over.

Compost builds a healthy soil with healthy biological function will produce healthy food and healthy livestock. It may not produce greater quantities of food or livestock, but it can produce comparable quantity with greater quality.

Soils Alive!

Understanding and Managing Soil Biology
Authors: Declan McDonald, Section Leader
Denis Rodgers, Soil Ecosystems Project Officer
Sustainable Land Use, Land Conservation Branch,
Resource Management and Conservation Division
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment
city climate change OZ Turners

Compost, The Solution to Climate Change?

Organics Recycling and the Return of Compost to Soils Delivers Fundamental Solution to Climate Change

US composting councilCompost, The Solution to Climate Change?

European Compost Network, Composting & Anaerobic Digestion Association of Ireland, Australian Organics Recycling Association, The Compost Council of Canada, and the US Composting Council join in common voice during International Compost Awareness Week 2016 to encourage the recycling of organic residuals and compost use for improved soil health and climate change mitigation

Recycling organic residuals instead of throwing them in the garbage is the first step to capturing the full potential that these under-recognised resources can play to address a wide range of current global environmental issues. And on the occasion of International Compost Awareness Week 2016 (May 1 – 7), a global network of organisations, devoted to organics recycling and compost use, are combining their efforts to bring attention to the multiple benefits to be realised when organic residuals are viewed as resources rather than waste.

READ MORE AT compostingcouncil.org

 

Recycling silage reduces contamination and eliminates risk of stock digestion problems

Finding value in farm waste?

Have you ever considered the value of the Farm waste material around your property?
Maybe it’s time to take a look at composting

Recycling silage reduces contamination and eliminates risk of stock digestion problems

Over the last few years there has been a steady movement returning to “old school” farming practices like use of manures, composting and remineralisation. Farmers are realising that what we have been told about, nitrogen is not the complete picture with real concern about decline in soil structure and soil/herd health.

The challenges of skyrocketing production costs, both fertilisers and feed, compacted soils and increased runoff meaning less rain utilisation and increased irrigation costs. It’s now becoming clear that many consultants and industry groups don’t fully understand all the issues related to declining soil health.

OZ Turners and JPH Equipment offers a complete solution to reducing on-farm fertiliser costs by composting using our CT Series of compost Turners. It’s not just about selling a piece of machinery but providing to you all the practical expertise in how to continually produce an top grade soil remediation product.

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