Lochaber soil studied to increase farm yields

A STUDY on soil types in the Lochaber and Woolumbool area is aiming to improve yields for local farmers.

Soil types in the Lochaber and Woolumbool regions are being studied to potentially increase future yields.

Soil types in the Lochaber and Woolumbool regions are being studied to potentially increase future yields.

Producers in those areas have identified struggles with two main soil types in their farming enterprises - acidic sands and alkaline clays - which pose different challenges to their businesses.

The sands are prone to erosion, have low soil carbon levels and are often acidic while the alkaline clays have issues with toxicity in the plants.

With funding through the Community Landcare Grants Scheme, the Lochaber Ag Bureau and Rural Solutions SA have been working together at two sites in the area.

They are continuing to monitor a sandy site at Graeme Clothier's at Woolumbool and establishing a new site at Bob Williams' at Lochaber which has heavier soils.

Rural Solutions SA's Melissa Fraser said some yield results had been reported at the Woolumbool site, which was established in 2012.

"We have been trialling the use of some organic matter such as composts," she said.

"Applied to the soil on the surface or via deep placement, using a commercial spader to mix the soil down."

Dr Fraser said results had been mixed and they would continue monitoring changes in soil chemical and physical condition, deeper root growth, pasture responses and the effects on general soil health and cover in response to the application of the composts.

She reported sheep manure was achieving favourable results so far.

The Lochaber site features heavier "duplex" soils - with a sandy surface over heavier clay below - creating issues with low pH in the surface and sodicity at depth.

"We started a trial looking at the use of gypsum and lime," Dr Fraser said.

"The soil is acidic at the surface and alkaline at depth...both of which need different treatments."

Organic matter will also be used at the Lochaber site.

Dr Fraser said monitoring and analysis will continue at both sites until the project ends in March next year.

A field walk will be held at both sites later in the year.

Dr Fraser presented the findings to the Lochaber Ag Bureau on May 28, which were heralded as informative according to bureau member Yvonne Correll.

"These projects are so vital to investigate the options we can use with our farm practices," she said.

"Trying different methods and applications that we can include in our soil."

Mrs Correll said it was important trials like this continue.

"Only over several seasons do you get a good look at the results," she said.

- The Lochaber Ag Bureau, part of the State Bureau which has been running for 125 years, was formed in 1949 and is an organisation where local farmers can get together and share ideas.

They often bring in guest speakers to talk to the bureau about a range of topics including technology, farm practices, farm business and health issues.

"It's a local group that can get together and discuss relevant topics to their farm practices and businesses," Mrs Correll said.