Warragul & Drouin Gazette: Healthy soils leads to nutritious foods

Published 3 October 2017.

Healthy soils, nutritious food, healthy people was the key of a workshop hosted by the Baw Baw Food Movement on 21 September. The free event, held at the Drouin Country Club was attended by a group of 120 enthusiastic people keen to hear how nutritious food improves our gut health.

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The Weekly Times: Soilkee pasture renovator a saviour for tired soils

TONY FAWCETT on April 20, 2017

GIPPSLAND farmer and inventor Niels Olsen says sales of his SoilKee pasture renovator have risen markedly in recent months following findings it can aid in the ­accumulation of carbon credits. The worth of the renovator, which aerates the soil with minimal pasture disturbance while burying organic matter, top-dressing with soil and drilling seed into the rows, is being evaluated in a three-year Healthy Soils Sustainable Farms study on the 457ha grey loam property of Madeline Buckley and Ross Batten at Buffalo, in South Gippsland.

While that study is not due to finish until next year, Niels said results were shaping up as similar to those of a year-long independent study (click to Soilkee Renovator summary doc) conducted on three Gippsland properties by farming systems agronomist Maarten Stapper up to May 2014.

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Biological Farming, Soil Health and Water Use

Background to the presentation by Dr Maarten Stapper at the Water Resources Management Forum organised by the Perth Natural Resource Management in Gingin, 27 September 2017.

Soil fertility is the capacity to receive, store and transmit energy to support plant growth. These processes require healthy soils – living, self-organising systems with physical, chemical and biological components all functioning and in balance.

Continuous use of acidic or salty synthetic fertilisers, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides disrupts this delicate balance.  Organic Farming has recognised this, but needs to follow its leaders to active soil fertility management.

Carbon, in particular, is of critical importance and needs to be maximised through capture with solar energy through photosynthesis by green plants, and optimum storage and use in soil. Continue reading

Incorporating Biological Farming into your Future

Maarten presented this during the YLAD seminar and field day on 10-11 October 2012 for their 10th year anniversary.

Maarten talked about the following points:

  • Demand for chemical-free, healthy food
  • Farming Systems in working ecosystems, complex but resilient
  • Systems too complex for single-factor science – holistic approach needed
  • Biosensitivity: manage with observation and feelings, not numbers
  • Change of paradigm needed in practice & science
  • Self-development, learn by doing & participatory learning
  • Built knowledge network with locals
  • Slow changing climates by carbon sequestration, emission reduction & water retention
  • Become sustainable with the triple bottom line: people-finance-resources

Biological Farming or Regenerative Farming is the way to sustainably feed the world in the future with quality food from soils regenerated by and with soil carbon under much reduced needs for synthetic inputs. Maarten describes the process as the 3rd way of farming, a step-by-step transition from Industrial (input-output) to Biologic-Organic (soil health) Farming Systems. The step-by-step approach allows the agro-ecosystem, including the soil, to adjust in natures timing during successive seasons. Keeping the budgets per hectare the same, a workable first step is a 20% of budget change into biologicals.

 

Evolutionary Advances in Farm Machinery – the Soilkee Renovator

National Carbon Farming Conference, 7-10 July 2015, Albury NSW.

In this presentation, Maarten describes the significant results of trials he did with the Soilkee Renovator in nine paddocks on three farms in Gippsland during 2012-14. He explains the scientific background of how successive passes with the Soilkee Renovator do result in such striking soil improvement. For example, the increase of soil organic carbon with 0.9% in one year as an average over nine trial paddocks. Another outcome of increasing soil organic carbon and soil health to be explained is the shift away from primitive, less competitive weeds such as onion grass, lovegrass and serrated tussock.

The invention of the Soilkee Renovator implement relates to the one-pass tilling system which tills, cultivates and renovates soil of pastures to overcome compaction and poor root growth. It enhances the growth of both existing and newly sown plants with the least amount of grazing days lost compared to current techniques available. It saves time and fuel costs for pasture renovation while increasing the quality and quantity of grazing.

Wheat Crop Paddock Walk

Maarten participated on a YLAD Field Day paddock walk at Rocky South near Young, NSW.

Biological Agriculture: a Third Way?

Maarten gave this presentation at the 10th International Permaculture Convergence at Wadi Rum in Jordan, 19 September 2011. He discusses regenerative, Biological Farming as the transition from Industrial (input-output) to Biologic-Organic (soil health) Farming Systems.

What affects Gut Health, Food Quality and Soil Health? How are they connected?

A dietician’s and agricultural scientist’s insights and suggestions.

Summary from Baw Baw Food Movement workshop ‘Healthy soils, Nutritional food, Healthy people‘, 21 September 2017.

By Marieke Rodenstein, Dietitian and Nutritionist (www.thenutritionpractice.com.au) and Dr Maarten Stapper, Farming Systems Agronomist

The mention of the word bacteria typically conjures up fears of disease and has us running for our hand sanitizer. Most people think of bacteria as dangerous and dirty, more foe than friend. Subsequently, our focus has been on the microbes that harm us, ‘those germs’, and how we can eradicate them. Yes, there are many bad bugs that can have serious consequences on our health. What goes largely unnoticed is the critical role that bacteria play in keeping us healthy.

Microbes are the smallest and most prolific organisms on planet Earth. The vast majority manage the health of larger organisms both from the inside and outside, and create healthy environments for all to live (eg human, animal, plant, soil, landscape). Such ecosystems are characterized by a symbiosis, an interdependence between organisms. Pathogens, which form less than 15% of microbes, on the other hand, play another game. They cause disease when they find a hole in the defence systems created and maintained by beneficial microbes. Continue reading

Why is a soil healthy? When is a soil sick?

Dr Maarten Stapper focussed on the health of soils with the Horticulture class at Central Midlands Senior High School in Moora, 9 March 2017.

Firstly, we went to the garden and compost heap. There we wondered how we can see whether a soil is healthy or sick. Looks can deceive! By digging with fingers, we can feel the soil status, crumbly (aggregation = healthy) to dusty, or too hard to penetrate. We discussed the composting process; how a good finished compost looks, feels and smells, and what it does when applied to soils. Then we went to the class room to discuss various aspects of soil status with pictures.

There is a focus on healthy soils, but what is a sick soil? Students came up with a list of soil conditions that lower production: compaction, acidity, salinity, low soil carbon, water repellent, poor infiltration, water logging, and wind and water erosion. Next the importance of soil biological activity to create and maintain soil health was shown and explained.

The lesson made a significant impact on the teachers and students. The students who are aspiring to be our future farmers, learnt something about the new practice of biological farming. One with a focus on restoring the soils to health and productivity, rather than the current problem focussed approach to farming.

Students were encouraged to have a positive outlook to farming with and within the environment.

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Building Healthy Communities

Dr Maarten Stapper discussed food production & processing, with support of Marieke Rodenstein, nutritionist & dietitian, ‘How our gut flora influences our health’.

World-wide industrial farming practices are degrading soils and bringing about dependency on the use of more synthetic fertilisers and chemicals, which increase chemical contamination of foods and the environment. Their continuous use affects the health of humans and soils. It decimates the abundance and diversity of soil-microbes which greatly lowers the nutrient density of food. Synthetics in foods and living environments are also increasingly associated with chronic diseases.

Healthy soils and healthy humans are both dependent on an abundance and diversity of beneficial microbes. Producers’ soil awareness and consumers’ healthy food demand are now leading to farming practices that use far less synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, or none (ie. organic). Such agroecological, low-external input farming improves food quality, soil health, landscape biodiversity and farm profitability. Associated soil carbon sequestration, reduction in GHG emissions and increased soil water retention help slow global warming.

Our gut flora influences our health. The gut is a major producer of our immune system and the gut-brain connections determine what and how we feel. Consumers, supported by nutritionists, are driving the process of change to healthier foods.

An important skill consumers, gardeners and farmers do need to (re)develop and use is the capacity to be biosensitive, that is, to trust nature and to be in tune with, sensitive to, and respectful of the processes of life.