Half a million dollars for south west soil project

LAKE BOLAC - Southern Farming Systems, based in Lake Bolac, has been awarded more than half a million dollars by the Federal Government to work towards solving the commercial constraints preventing adoption of subsoil amelioration, which is the process of improving subsoil quality.

"New on-the-ground projects will give farmers in Wannon more tools and research to help them reduce farm costs, increase productivity and achieve greater returns at the farmgate," Member for Wannon, Dan Tehan said in announcing the funding.

Southern Farming Systems research and extension officer Corinne Celestina said Southern Farming Systems will receive a Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (DAFF) Caring For Our Country (CFOC) Innovation Grant of $515,000 to solve the commercial constraints preventing adoption of subsoil amelioration in South West Victoria.

The barriers to adoption of this concept are the lack of commercial machinery and access to sufficient quantities of suitable organic material.

The project will involve the design and development of commercial subsoil manuring machinery, development and testing of amendments/ameliorants such as excess crop stubble and dairy effluent, on-farm demonstrations of commercial machinery and ameliorants, and presenting a business case for commercialisation by private enterprise.

Crop yields in the high rainfall zone of southern Australia are often limited by subsoil constraints that occur on the duplex soils common to the region. These dense, frequently sodic clay subsoils restrict crop growth and limit yields.

Subsoil manuring involves incorporating high volumes of organic matter deep into the soil profile - at a depth of between 30-60cm - in order to ameliorate subsoil constraints.

This concept of subsoil amelioration (referred to as subsoil manuring) has been pioneered by Dr Peter Sale (La Trobe University) and Dr Renick Peries (DEPI) with early trial work conducted with Jon Sheehan (farm manager at Yaloak Estate, Ballan)

Field trials across Victoria have resulted in large, consistent grain yield increases with consecutive crops. These increases are largely due to the resulting increase in bucket size (plant available water) that occurs as a results of subsoil manuring and suggest that there may be a long-term change to the structure of the subsoil.

Mr Tehan said Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, approved funding for 31 new projects across Australia as part of the Australian Government's $21.2 million Landcare Innovation Grants, including the Southern Farming Systems project.

"These grants have been awarded to a range of industry and research organisations to develop ways to reduce input costs and generate better returns at the farmgate, while still ensuring our natural resources are used sustainably," he said.

Mr Tehan said that he welcomed the $515,000 grant which had been awarded to SFS to help farmers in Wannon improve their management, profitability and sustainability.

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