image from Clover Estate Field Day

Soils for Life Field Day participants inspect the improved soils on Clover Estate, near Mt Gambier SA, 1 April 2014.

Clover Estate Field Day participants were treated to an excellent example of soil improvement and how it facilitates healthy food and stock production at the Soils for Life Field Day on David Clayfield's Clover Estate at the beginning of April. Guest speaker Walter Jehne explained how such techniques are essential for sustainable food production and the economic viability of rural communities into the future.

Over 30 people attended the Field Day, including local farmers, natural resource organisations and agronomists from Distributor stores – Elders Mt Gambier, Millicent Farm Supplies, Landmark Naracoorte and Cox Rural Naracoorte.

image from Clover Estate Field Day

Property owner David Clayfield hosted the day highlighted by a tour of the farm to observe the changes he has made to his soil of the years and the health of the flourishing improved pastures. A hole dug on site clearly demonstrated the changes in soil colour and texture at depth, as sandy soils have in time been converted to dark, fertile ones which much more effectively retain moisture.

David discussed the fertiliser program he has used over the years, with the major focus being on biology and humic-based fertiliser application. As a result of increased soil health and active soil biology, David is achieving more effective nutrient cycling, and so, pastures are healthier and so are the stock that feed off them.

The farm tour was highly interactive with many questions on the ins and outs of David's extensive experience in building soil fertility.

image from Clover Estate Field Day

Soils for Life's scientific advisor and soil microbiologist, Walter Jehne, gave an informative presentation tying together practices such as those applied by David and the requirements for sustainable farming into the future. Walter discussed:

  • The focus for sustainable agricultural research in a changing climate is now on the longevity of growth season of plants, not on speed of growth of plants.
  • Natural systems rely on nutrient cycling not applied nutrition – which is very efficient. Can we model agriculture on natural systems?
  • In natural systems, the products of photosynthesis (sugars) 30% go to above ground growth, 30% to root growth and 40% go to produce exudates to feed soil microbes.
  • 95% of Super phosphate applied over the last 80 years is still in our soils. Much is locked up as Ca- and Fe-phosphates, microbes are the key to unlocking phosphorus.
  • Fungal hyphae - there are 25,000km of hyphae per square metre of healthy soil.
  • In industrial systems nutrients must come from the soil solution. Nutrients are ‘sucked up’ like a straw ie there is no differentiation. In natural systems nutrient uptake comes via fungal hyphae, and as a result, uptake is selective, providing the correct amounts and ratios of mineral nutrients that plants need.
  • Key to renovating sandy (poor) soils is plant succession.

You can read more about Walter's presentation in the Stock Journal article, Spotlight on soil health and more about what David Clayfield has achieved on Clover Estate and how he has achieved it in his case study, Turning sand into fertile soil with applied soil science.

Thanks to the team at LawrieCo for their efforts in bringing this Field Day into fruition.

This event was sponsored by:

Sponsors - LawrieCo, Landmark, Millicent Farm Supplies, MG Trading, Elders, AIRR


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