Healthy Farming in Dandaragan

On the 14th of February, Callum and Anna from the Sus Ag team were lucky enough to help support and attend the Healthy Farming Pathways Day with Dr Christine Jones in Dandaragan.

This Soil Health Workshop and Learning Event was a part of Dr Jones’ regenerative farming systems tour in Western Australian. The Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, DPIRD, NACC NRM, Earthwhile Australia, Soil Restoration Farming, Dandaragan CRC, West Midlands Group, Perth NRM and RegenWA all came together to put on this incredible day.

Dr Christine Jones is an internationally renowned and highly respected groundcover and soil ecologist. She has been working with innovative landholders to implement regenerative land management practices that enhance biodiversity, increase biological activity, sequester carbon, activate soil nutrient cycles, restore water balance, improve productivity and create new topsoil.

The day kicked off with a BBQ breakfast at Murray Grey’s property on Gillingarra Rd. Murray has one of NACC NRM’s Growing Great Ground perennial pasture sites, which was sown in 2022. The Earthwhile team conducted infiltration tests on Murray’s sand-over-gravel paddock. The tests showed that the water infiltrated the ground where there were plants much faster compared to where there was bare soil. When the perennial grass was pulled out of the ground, everyone could see the plant’s roots had healthy mycorrhiza around them. Mycorrhiza improves the physical, chemical and biological health of the soil around it. In the paddock, Christine also explained the importance of having a variety of plant families in your pasture mix such as grasses, legumes, cucurbits and Forbes/broad leaf plants. By having a mixture of different plant families, the plants will have different root types and lengths, helping them to get nutrients from different parts of the soil and making them less likely to compete for resources. Christine also said the more plant family diversity there is in the paddock, the more microbial diversity there will be, improving the overall health of the soil. Legumes are also very important for soil fertility by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere to make it available in the soil, which will reduce the need for fertiliser. Flowering plants in your pasture mix can also increase insect activity, which will reduce the need for insecticide! So if the soil around your perennials is non-wetting and the perennials aren’t performing as well as you’d like; maybe it’s a sign you need to introduce more plant families into your paddocks!

Thank you to Christine and Earthwhile for sharing your amazing knowledge about healthy farming systems and improving our soil health!

This event is supported by NACC NRM’s Growing Great Ground project through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Callum Love – Sustainable Agriculture Program Coordinator

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