Farmers action Soil health at Mackay symposium

Dec 7, 2014 | ,
Hands holding soil
Soil Health has been identified as a priority issue for land managers in the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac area.

The spotlight was firmly set on soil health in Mackay this month, with a full-day symposium for farmers at the MECC held Thursday, 4th December.

With soil health one of the biggest challenges faced by our region’s growers, the symposium provided insight from leading soil and land management experts.

More than 80 cane producers and graziers attended the Reef Catchments event, which was free to all landholders.

Reef Catchments project officer, Belinda Billing, said after working closely with cane farmers, graziers and horticulturalists across the region this year, it was evident farmers were hungry for more information on maintaining and improving their soil health.

“There is much greater awareness in the farming community now about the importance of soil health, which has been declining over the years in the Mackay Whitsunday region, as it has been over much of Australia,” she said.

“Farmers have let us know they want to find out more about actions they can take to improve their soil health and their productivity. This symposium allowed them to hear from leading experts to find out about practice changes they can make on-farm. It also gave them a wider picture of the overall benefits and value associated with building more robust, healthy soils.”

Keynote speakers included Rodger Savory (Savory Grassland Management), Kym Kruse (RegenAG) and Christopher Cameron (Soil Health Manager, Jurgens Produce). Also presenting were local sugarcane growers and Nuffield Agricultural Scholars Simon Mattsson and Joe Muscat, whose research relates to the topic of soil heath with supported trials on their own properties near Mackay.

Soil expert, Rodger Savory, spoke to growers and graziers about the changes that could be expected under a holistic management approach, putting soil health in a wider context.

Rodger is the son of Allan Savory, renowned as a global pioneer of holistic farm management. He has spent a lifetime building his understanding soil health in Africa, America, Canada and now Australia.

“Every decision a farmer makes has an impact – on the land that his grandchildren will depend on, on his productivity, his bank balance and his family,” Rodger said.

“Holistic management is a process to ensure the farmer is making better decisions to achieve what he truly wants, without having unintended consequences. Once decisions are made in context, it is possible to begin to reverse the degradation of any landscape or property, and to restore life and fertility to the soil.”

Rodger’s work has focused on the reversal of degraded landscapes, turning severely damaged land into productive grasslands. There are now more than 40 million acres of land managed holistically around the world, a number that is growing dramatically each year.

“What people forget is that civilisation is based on healthy soil. It is critical that farmers, as controllers of the soil, are given the tools and the knowledge to understand what creates unhealthy soils, and how to prevent it, as well as what creates healthy soils, and how to encourage it,” Rodger said.

To register your interest in being notified about upcoming soil events, contact Reef Catchments on (07) 4868 4200 or email