QFF ‘talks dirty’: Caring for your soil

By ROSS HENRY, QFF Project Manager- Natural Disaster

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In 2015 your soil looked after you, the least you could do in 2016 is return the favour.

Queensland Farmers’ Federation natural disasters project manager and soil scientist Ross Henry gives his tips on how to start the year right by your soils.

Follow these simple points and principles to get the most out of your soil:

Soil testing

Like with anything you like to keep healthy it’s good to get a check-up every now and then. This works the same for soils. Soil testing continues to become more and more popular as its accessibility increases. Even though soil test prices have decreased, some people are still missing out on this hand soil health and nutrient check tool. Using an accredited lab, coupled with accredited agronomic advice, can help you get the most out of your soils for the year to come.

Soil carbon amendments

Soil carbon levels, or more commonly soil organic matter, is linked to soil health, soil biology populations, water holding capacity, soil structure, nutrient mineralisation and many more important soil functions. Adding manures, compost, green manure crops or stubble retention methods are all good ways to maintain or increase this essential soil nutrient. Soil carbon levels drastically drop after flooding and it is advised to consider addressing in post flood recovery.

Don’t under fertilise

Maintaining optimum soil nutrient levels for pasture or crop production is key to all farms. Under fertilising soils can leading to depleting soil nutrient levels that can effect pasture and crops yields. It is important to maintain good soil nutrient levels for production, soil health and the farmer’s bottom line.

Don’t over fertilise

Conversely it is also important not to over fertilise. Plants only require a certain amount of nutrients, over and above these levels costs money with little return. This is particularly evident as we all know with nitrogen, this volatile nutrient leached, runs off with rain, volatilises and denitrifies. The money spend on the fertiliser is lost to the plant and the risk to the environment increases.

Nitrogen run-off is also a key impact of farming’s impact on the health and wellbeing of the reef and water catchments. Controlling nitrogen run-off on farm makes good economic and environmental sense.

Surface cover

Maintaining surface cover over the past few dry months would have been hard for many graziers but the benefits would be seen now. Increasingly the differing cropping industries are maintaining surface cover as well.

The benefits are great in the short and long-term. Erosion risk can be reduced with ground cover.

With a vast area of Queensland in the Great Barrier Reef catchment reducing the risk of erosion is a good thing not only for the farm and the soil but the wider environment.

QFF continues to work with its industry member organisations to ensure best practice and knowledge is shared throughout the sector.

By sharing and learning from one another we can do a better job in moving the sector forward and better look after key environmental assets such as the Great Barrier Reef.

To get more tips on improving your relationship with your soil connect with your industry Best Management Practice.

These programs offer informative advice and information to improve your on farm practices to benefit your bottom line:

Sugarcane: http://www.smartcane.com.au

Dairy: http://www.dairysat.com.au

Horticulture: http://www.hort360.com.au

Nursery and garden: http://www.nqiq.com.au

Cotton: http://www.mybmp.com.au

Grazing: http://www.bmpgrazing.com.au

Grain: http://www.grainsbmp.com.au