BCG GAPP women

Sustainable soil symposium at Sea Lake

An enthusiastic group of agri-women met at The Juke Restaurant in Sea Lake on Wednesday the 9th of June to learn how to best support sustainable soils in the region. The event was part of the  Growth, Adoption, Productivity and Profit (GAPP) discussion group meetings and was supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority, and the Smart Farms -Small Grants stream through funding from the Australian Governments National Landcare Program. 

Facilitated by BCG’s Kate Maddern and renowned local agronomist Kate Wilson, AgriVision the group discussion centred around getting the most from soil tests for soil sustainability.   

“The event presented a great opportunity for women from across the Mallee and Wimmera to re-connect and discuss the long-term value of one of the farm’s most valuable resources: its soil,” said BCG CEO and attendee, Fiona Best.  

Dr James Hunt from LaTrobe University, Dr Cassandra Schefe from AgriSci joined the session through a livestream connection and their presentations generated robust discussion among attendees. While the two Kates ensured that the information had local relevance and practical applications. 

Dr Hunt explained his nitrogen bank theory which he believes has the potential to almost double growers’ wheat yields using the current rainfall received. The N bank theory is being researched as part of the Mallee CMA’s “Increasing Awareness of Farm Practices Influencing Soil Carbon Levels and the Impact on the System” project.  

“Australian wheat yields are only half what they could be for the rainfall received. Nitrogen [N] deficiency is the single biggest factor contributing to this yield gap. This is also likely to be true for other non-legume crops and this reduces farm profitability. Alleviating N deficiency would increase national wheat yields by 40 percent,” Dr Hunt said.    

“What we are finding in our trial at Curyo is the most profitable strategies all have neutral to positive nitrogen balances – more nitrogen applied in fertiliser than removed in grain – indicating soil organic nitrogen is not being mined,” Dr Hunt explained.  

Dr Cassandra Schefe shared her considerable experience of soils in western Victoria and the challenges of increasing soil carbon in such environments. 

Both presentations supported Kate & Kate’s discussion regarding the importance of soil testing, how to interpret tests and how the results can be used to make sound management decisions.  

Sheep Hills farmer and long-term GAPP member Kate Cowan said the day was both informative and social.   

“It was an enjoyable event with important take-home messages,” Ms Cowan said.

“Soil types between the Mallee and Wimmera vary so much but Dr Schefe’s presentation highlighted how, for all soil types, it’s important to feed the system rather than just the crop so it’s sustainable for years to come. Knowing this, I feel encouraged to continue working to improve our soil using the lessons communicated at the event.”  

The GAPP program began in 2015 with support from the State Government and as a result, seven discussion groups are now established across the Mallee and Wimmera for young, and young at heart, growers to learn together about managing the farm business.  

Meetings for the Managatang, Hopetoun, Quambatook, Southern Mallee, Rupanyup and West Wimmera groups are in July and will also focus on soil stewardship and soil fertility. Visit BCG’s events page to get involved or call BCG on (03) 5492 2787.  

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