Getting to the root of soil health and improving production

Recent workshops held with agroecologist Mark Tupman and farmers around south-west Western Australia dug a little deeper into soil fertility. These sessions, supported by our Soil Wise program, examined the fundamentals of soil health and plant nutrition.

There has been a demand for practical strategies for farmers that can lower inputs (such as fertilisers) to improve plant production and economic returns, while protecting the environment. The ‘Optimising plant nutrition’ workshops attracted nearly 100 farmers across the six events held by catchment groups.

One farmer who attended commented that ”soil health is essential for healthy pastures to reduce input costs and increase productivity of operations”. Another farmer said: “excellent nutrient management to me is both financially and environmentally important.”

Part of the session included practical step-by-step instruction on making nutritional amendments that can be applied as foliar sprays. Many farmers were interested to take the new information back to the farm and try the foliar recipes provided, especially for trace elements. They were also keen to undertake soil testing to understand what macronutrients they may or may not need to apply to the soils.

Mark went into detail on important processes such as nutrient transfer in plant roots and soil structure formation. He explained the implications of varying grazing pressures, plant diversity and fertiliser management.

When landowners are looking at doing something differently, an initial trial ‒ for example on a small area ‒ is recommended as a sensible first approach. That way, you can monitor and compare any changes over time, to see what does and does not work.

Improving soil health can help protect our waterways, keeping nutrients on farm for plant growth and out of our waterways where they can cause harm.   

These events were facilitated by catchment groups as part of our Soil Wise program. Soil Wise is funded by the National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants – an Australian Government initiative. It is supported by Healthy Estuaries WA – a State Government program.