Acidic soils targeted by champion farmer


23 February 2018

Pioneering a system to turn around unproductive, acidic soils has won a Burracoppin farmer the title of the 2018 Wheatbelt Soil Champion.

Five years ago Warakirri cropping farm manager Tony Murfit, began using strip trials up to three kilometres in length to address the sandy, acidic soils typical of the eastern Wheatbelt.

The trials led to the development of a system using soil identification and zoning, variable rate lime and gypsum applications, fallow to control weeds, deep ripping and a cover crop.

This rehabilitation during the fallow year set him up for growing a profitable canola crop, achieving yields of up to two tonnes to the hectare, followed by several wheat crops.

“The eastern Wheatbelt sandplain country rarely grows profitable canola crops,” Tony Murfit said.

“We owed it to our investor to make this soil type productive, and by introducing multiple soil health practices we’ve turned it around.

“By using a multi-pronged approach, we’ve tackled weeds, soil compaction, low pH, aluminium toxicity, low levels of potassium, non-wetting soils and disease issues.

“Last year we used this rotation on 5500 hectares of the 20,000 hectare property.”

Natural resource management groups from across WA have joined forces to search for each of their region’s Soil Health Champions.

Wheatbelt NRM’s Bonny Dunlop-Heague said it was part of a bigger program designed to promote sustainable farming practices.

“Tony Murfit along with his support network, has helped pioneer a system using existing soil health practices for increasing the resilience of sandy, acidic soils,” Bonny Dunlop-Heague said.

DPIRD with GRDC funding have continued research into the property’s sub soil constraints and the outcomes are being presented at this year’s GRDC Crop Updates.

“The sharing of this information with other farmers and grower groups is just one of the reasons he’s been chosen as our Soil Health Champion,” Bonny Heague-Dulop said.

Each of the winners will receive an all-expense paid trip to the 2018 Talkin’ Soil Health conference to be held in Dalwallinu or Katanning in March.

A short film featuring each of the finalists will also be shown at the event.