Farmers across south-west WA are soil test ready

We have had a record turnout at the DIY (do-it-yourself) soil sampling workshops held in eight catchments across south-west Western Australia (WA) this November.

A total of nine training sessions brought together 190 landholders to learn how to gather soil samples from their own paddocks. This year, for the first time, 94 farmers outside of the Healthy Estuaries WA catchments were involved through the Soil Wise program.

GeoCatch project officer Jenelle Schult said the training helps support farmers’ nutrient management decisions.

“The training provides farmers with the information they need to confidently adapt their fertiliser application to target what is required, resulting in improved productivity and a higher profit margin for the farmer, as well as reduced nutrient loss to waterways,” Jenelle said.

The fertiliser management program provides farmers with access to soil testing, various workshops, and one-on-one tailored advice from an agronomist.

The DIY training sessions led by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) are based on national guidelines and enable farmers to take accurate soil samples that represent their property.

The training included:

  • how to set up and use the sampling drill and auger
  • where to sample and areas to avoid
  • how to use an app to record the sample locations with GPS
  • the importance of using correctly labelled sample bags
  • how to store samples before sending them to the lab for analysis.

Farmers will soon be taking their own soil samples from paddocks across their farms. The results will be provided at workshops in the new year, where farmers receive support and training to interpret the results and use them to inform their fertiliser decisions.

Most farmers chose to purchase the sampling equipment that was offered at a discounted price. This was a new offering this year resulting in some very happy farmers that will continue soil testing in future years.

A specialised nutrient calculator has also been developed for south-west WA pastures in high rainfall zones to help independently guide fertiliser decisions. During February and March 2024, we will be providing sessions on using the nutrient calculator with DPIRD – keep an eye on our events page or contact your catchment officer to hear about events in your area.

There will also be an opportunity to attend Accu-Spread demonstration days (12‒22 March 2024), to learn how to test and calibrate fertiliser spreaders and make sure spreaders are applying the right amount of fertiliser in the right places.

Since 2009, we have worked with 1,630 farms to take more than 30,000 soil samples. After another successful year of the program, these numbers continue to grow and provide benefits within the community and for our waterways.

The fertiliser management program is delivered by DPIRD, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and partner catchment groups as part of State Government initiatives: Healthy Estuaries WA, Revitalising Geographe Waterways and the Bindjareb Djilba (Peel-Harvey estuary) Protection Plan. The program is also supported this year by Soil Wise. Soil Wise is funded by the National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants – an Australian Government initiative.