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Soil Health a Major Focus for Wheatbelt Farmer

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Sustainable Industries

Fifteen years since he trialled his first bio-stimulant Buntine farmer Stuart McAlpine is playing the long game with organic amendments and happy with the results.

A keen employer of regenerative farming practices, the fourth generation Wheatbelt grower still uses the organic stimulant he introduced to the paddocks at his 5000 hectare enterprise in 2006.

Despite the arid climate and occasional dry year since, he says he has seen a major improvement in soil structure and health and a reduction in his reliance on fungicides and pesticides.

“I was probably fortunate that I did actually see some yield, which is what everyone is looking for,” he said.

“But I was probably more interested in the better grain quality that I saw from it in tougher conditions.

“I was seeing quite a quick change in soil structure, particularly in the lighter country, a little bit slower in the heavier country.

“That has continued to improve over time.”

McAlpine is one of three farmers and soil health advocates who will take to the stage in Wongan Hills on March 18 for the Wheatbelt NRM bio-amendments workshop, Composting for Soil Carbon.

While he acknowledges all treatments, both organic and inorganic, will behave differently with different soil types, conditions and seasonal variances, he believes his approach has brought significant improvements over the long term.

“I’ve probably focused more on the longer term benefits of building a better soil foundation to allow for better soil structure, planned health and greater efficiencies,” he said.

“The other thing that I’ve noticed is that my fertiliser usage has been lessened over time as I’ve had more trust in the biological systems.”

McAlpine is working with Wheatbelt NRM in a national project funded through the Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils.

His farm is part of research comparing carbon function in soils of established regenerative farms compared to paired conventional properties. 

It is hoped the analysis will shed some light on whether carbon capture and storage differs in agricultural systems aimed at stimulating natural renewal.

To register for the Wongan Hills workshop email Bonny Dunlop on bdunlop@wheatbeltnrm.org.au.

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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