WEBINAR PART 2
BUILDING SOIL HEALTH – AND A HEALTHY COMMUNITY
Colin Seis, and Shane Joyce
This week saw the last of our Soil Health webinars, brought to you in partnership with the National Landcare Facilitator, come to a successful conclusion. Over 670 people registered for one or more of the webinars, able to interact and ask questions of our presenters during the course of the webinar. These webinars and the questions and answers generated now provide an ongoing resource for anyone interested in learning more about soil health – why it’s important, how to build it and how to monitor and measure to extend positive results.
If you don’t have time to watch them in full, this is Part 2 summarised below.
PART 2: HOW DO WE PRACTICALLY REGENERATE SOIL HEALTH?
COLIN SEIS. A grazier and cropper on the property Winona, near Gulgong in NSW, Colin is the leader in ‘Pasture Cropping’ and his techniques are being trialled more widely in Australia and overseas.
- Colin runs a mixed-enterprise 2000 acre (840 hectare) property, including 500 acres of crops (wheat, oats, rye), 4000 Merino sheep wool and meat production, cattle trading, native grass seed and working kelpie dogs.
- Farms need healthy, functioning carbon-rich soil. These will require less fertiliser, have better water holding capacity, will increase crop and pasture yield and reduce costs.
- Enabling farm pastures to function like grasslands results in healthy carbon-rich soil
- Colin changed his practices and regenerated his soil health by:
– Adopting low-input agricultural methods
– Reducing fertiliser inputs and stopping the use of pesticides
– Focusing on having 100% ground cover
– Starting time-controlled grazing
– Developing and implementing ‘pasture cropping’
- Pasture Cropping is a land mgt technique where annual crops are zero-tilled into dormant perennial grass and was developed by Colin Seis and Daryl Cluff ‘over a few beers’ in 1995.
- Pasture Cropping produces crops for grain and/or grazing, improves pastures by stimulating perennial grass species and species diversity, improves soil health and soil organic carbon and improves ecological function.
- Pasture Cropping allows multiple uses from a single paddock while building, not degrading soil health.
- Over a 10 year period, the soil on Colin Seis’ property now has 204% more organic carbon and holds 200% more water. Soil nutrients and trace elements have increased by an average of 172%.
- Colin’s inputs are lower, stock numbers are up, crop yields have been maintained, income is higher and soil health continues improving.
- Agriculture can be more profitable and regenerative, but practices need to function more closely to Nature’s original design.
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SHANE JOYCE. A grazier from Dukes Plain on the Brigalow Belt outside of Theodore in Central Queensland, Shane is successfully managing his grazing and regenerating vegetation to build soil health and deliver increased productivity.
- Dukes plain has certified organic beef cattle breeding and fattening enterprises, along with non-certified beef cattle fattening, backgrounding, and trading enterprises.
- When the Joyces took up management of Dukes Plain in 1982, soils and pastures were degraded and timber regrowth was abundant. They set a goal to have soils in the best possible condition.
- Shane sought advice in changing farm practices, undertaking courses, such as Grazing for Profit, workshops, field days and reading widely (including Permaculture Two by Bill Mollison, The One Straw Revolution by Masinobu Fukuoka, Water for Every Farm by P.A. Yeomans and Alex Podlinsky’s Biodynamic lectures).
- Shane admits he’s made mistakes along the way, including clearing much of the land with timber re-growth, which now yields less than similar land that was not cleared, but he re-phrases these as learning opportunities.
- Planned cell grazing has been key to Shane’s success in regenerating soil health. The techniques that have worked for him include:
- application of biodynamic preparations
- high density planned grazing
- appropriate rest for pastures
- tree retention
- planning and monitoring (including grazing charts, fixed-point photographic records)
- ensuring everyone involved is committed to the practices
- Benefits that have been attained on Dukes Plain include:
- Improved soil and pasture health
- increased carrying capacity
- water use efficiency
- deeper-rooted pastures
- diversity in fauna and flora
- easier stock handling
- reduced production costs
- less stress.
- Shane advises, if making a change in your farming practices, make a transition rather than ‘going cold turkey’ to ensure that production continues as new methods are adopted and farms can remain financially viable.
Thanks to everyone who participated, for your wide-ranging questions, interesting follow-up discussions and for helping us to build a community who understands the importance of healthy soils. Hopefully these webinars have inspired you to commence – or keep up – managing your soil health!
The Soils for Life Team