A new group, Central Queensland Soil Health Systems (CQSHS) has been formed in recognition that soil is much more than just somewhere to stand your crop.
The group is open to membership from all sectors of agriculture, farming, and grazing and the wider community.
Major issues in Mackay soils are lack of soil carbon and plant available calcium as well as compaction in the field from heavy machinery resulting in poor soil microbial activity. CQSHS is currently auspiced by Pioneer Landcare Group but intends to form its own official entity.
The CQSHS group believes addressing soil health must take a systemic approach. Addressing one issue at a time is a lengthy procedure with resultant improvements from each trial often being too minuscule for farmers to warrant adoption of changed farming practices. Farmer driven research and trials can address multiple issues at any one time with multiple science disciplines working on the same project.
Currently, trials and practices to improve soil biology are being conducted which include
- the multi-species planting of alternate crops
- annual applications of calcium and the incorporation of other soil ameliorants
- the inclusion of micro-nutrients in fertilising programs
- the use of composting; and other forms of organic or biological farming
The desired objectives of these trials is to increase microbial activity and improved soil biology in order to achieve healthier soils, reduce inorganic inputs and increase yields, benefiting both farmers and the environment.
Four members of CQSHS have been sponsored by the Reef Catchments Regional Landcare Facilitator (RLF) program to attend the Biological Conference in Lismore in early November to assist with improving knowledge and networks. The group considered there were four recurring themes that were important take home messages.
- The importance of calcium, not only for plant nutrition but also for biological function
- The importance of carbon in all its forms from plant exudates to organic matter to humus
- Understanding how plant diversity plays a key role in all aspects of carbon building
- The value of compost for both plant health and biological function
- The value of biochar and how it can be used and applied, including how it can be fed to animals for increased animal health and soil health
Central Queensland Soil Health Systems group will be open to membership from all sectors of agriculture, farming and grazing, and the wider community. It is believed that practical and science based research trials driven and owned by membership will be able to achieve the CQSHS stated objective of restoring and building soil health through combining practical knowledge and science.
The overall result should see a reduction in the sodicity of the soil, with increases in water storage and reduced water logging.
Support for this project is provided by Reef Catchments through the Australian Government Regional Landcare Facilitator (RLF) program.