Soil testing provides valuable information for farmers to enable them to fine-tune their nutrient application to meet the needs of their crops. With the reintroduction of on-ground compliance activities in the reef catchments, soil sampling methods have been updated.
Soil testing is required prior to planting to calculate the optimum amount of nitrogen and phosphorus to apply to crops, saving money and reducing the risk of surplus nutrients ending up in waterways.
As one of the key elements of Smartcane BMP, a growing number of Queensland cane farmers are seeing firsthand the benefits of soil testing and responding to soil issues based more on scientific data and less on gut instinct. Soil analysis is only one management tool, but the results can greatly influence many decisions and practices which affect farm profitability and productivity.
Faced with depleted soils, escalating fertiliser costs and increasing pressure to reduce nitrogen run off into the Great Barrier Reef, cane farmer Mario Raccanello has responded to the challenge by trialling bio-fertiliser on his 370-ha farm near Tully.
“There have been a lot of sleepless nights trying to work out how to use bio-fertiliser simply and cost effectively. It is an ongoing learning process as we keep looking for ways to improve the way we’re doing things but there’s a great satisfaction in knowing we are rejuvenating our soils for the future,” Mario said.
Mario was one of more than 70 farmers who attended the 2017 Project Catalyst Forum in Cairns. He said being a part of a network of farmers who are involved in innovation and conducting many different trials was invaluable. Read more.
In recent years cropping regions across Australia have seen declining yields, putting the spotlight firmly on soil health. The message for farmers is it’s never too late to do something about the health of their soil. This has not been lost on sugarcane farmer John Attard who began seeking answers to his own declining yields on the land his father also farmed.
“In the early days, we were getting a good price for our sugar so we were doing a lot of crop maintenance, putting lime on, filter press and just looking after it,” John said. “When the sugar price collapsed, we stopped doing the maintenance and we found as soon as we stopped looking after the soil, our yields just started going down and down and down.”
Working with a consultant, making their own fertiliser, doing soil tests and utilising bio-fertiliser, John reports he's using half the fertiliser now for the same size crop, with an expected 10 per cent yield increase every year. Read more.