Building soil health naturally leads to profitable production
Soil health expert Nicole Masters of Integrity Soils held a workshop on KI in mid-March with farmers coming from across the island and further afield to learn from her experience.
The three-day workshop, hosted by Natural Resources Kangaroo Island (NRKI) with financial support from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, focussed on optimising soils for crop and pasture production.
Presiding member of the incoming KI Landscape Board, Andrew Heinrich, was pleased that Ms Masters visited the island to share her extensive knowledge with farmers.
“Ms Masters has more than 22 years’ experience building soil health and is supporting landholders across the USA, Australia and New Zealand to manage more than 1.1 million hectares to increase profitability while building ecosystem health and long-term resilience,” Mr Heinrich said.
“The feedback we received from farmers who attended was positive with many remarking how lucky we were to benefit from her experience.”
Participants gained an understanding of the science behind regenerative agriculture and learnt how to improve soil structure, increase soil water holding capacity, build soil carbon and organic matter, improve plant nutrient availability, increase and balance soil microbial activity while reducing pest activity; all while lowering the cost of production.
KI farmer Carly Bussenschutt, who is now trialling the practices demonstrated, said that on a visit to her farm workshop participants learnt about how to treat hydrophobic (Water-resistant) soils.
“It was enlightening to look at our farm and our farm systems from a different perspective; Nicole’s back to soil basics approach demonstrated how it’s easy to get distracted and sometimes the basics are what works best,” Ms Bussenschutt said.
“From a simple water infiltration test on our farm soil, participants learnt that bacterial dominance is creating hydrophobic soil to an extent not seen before by Ms Masters.
“Hydrophobic soil can lead to a huge runoff with the loss of valuable water and soil, so we are trialling one of Ms Masters’ treatments to increase fungal matter to address this without costly chemical treatments.
“Ultimately, we were enticed to trial some methods as they promise a low-cost system that delivers results as opposed to a more conventional high input, high cost model,” Ms Bussenschutt said.
The uptake of regenerative farming practices is growing nationally and internationally. It has been shown to increase profitability, reduce reliance on expensive fertilizers and other agricultural chemical treatments while sequestering more carbon, and building resilient ecosystems.
Demonstration farms are being established so farmers can share their learnings and results as they trial these techniques to see what works best on KI.
To find out more about regenerative agriculture practices from Nicole Masters visit www.integritysoils.co.nz or to find out more about the event hosted by Natural Resources Kangaroo Island sign up for our newsletter, Growing KI here.