A new project on six south-west Victorian dairy farms will bring in leading soil specialists to help farmers improve their soil, plant and animal health.
As part of the drive to advance Australian agriculture to a more sustainable form of farming, Kim Deans from Integrity Soils will lead a collaborative team to help Heytesbury and Otway farmers improve their soil health and farm productivity by activating soil biology.
The project will identify soil and animal health constraints associated with a lack of soil health and develop strategies to improve soil health and ecosystem function.
The joint Heytesbury District Landcare Network and Central Otways Landcare Network project is funded by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Smart Farms Small Grants and will engage more than 100 farmers in south-west Victoria at field days, workshops and on-ground activities.
The work will build on the success of HDLN's Keeping Carbon on the Farm project and COLN's Gellibrand River Sustainable Dairies Program to improve run-off efficiencies and develop an ecological check list for farmers.
HDLN landcare co-ordinator Geoff Rollinson said the project would support farmers to use regenerative farming techniques such as applying biological stimulants, adaptive grazing management and revegetating paddocks to improve soil health.
Tests will quantify soil and pasture improvements in the next two years.
"There is a consumer-driven desire for food to be produced with less or no chemicals, herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilisers," Mr Rollinson said.
"What happens at the point of production flows through the whole food supply chain.
"Improving soil health will improve root depth of pastures, nutrient uptake by plants and pasture growth.
"This will help farmers to cut back on costly inputs, which will be good for the soil and for their budget."
COLN landcare co-ordinator Andy Gray said farmers would work with the consultant to test some of the actions they could take to improve their soil and ecological systems.
Mr Gray said dairy farmers tested for cell count, calcium and fat but should also value the mineral content of soil.
"If we valued what is coming through the soil to the cow and the milk and make available as many nutrients as possible, we would see better land values," he said.
"Other grazing enterprises have come up with regenerative farming programs to improve the mineral density of their soil by using natural biological inputs as opposed to synthetic fertilisers.
"We aim to get dairy farmers understanding the role of soil biology, so they no longer need to use synthetic fertilisers."
Kim Deans, supported by Integrity Soils team leader Nicole Masters, will visit twice during the project to work with the farmers and run workshops.
The project is in conjunction with Corangamite CMA and Agriculture Victoria.
To register for email updates about the program and to get involved in field days email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title - Add me to Activating Soil Biology mailing list.
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