Published April 2017 by Rachelle Armstrong, Business Manager, Soil Restoration Farming.
Former CSIRO scientist, Dr Maarten Stapper, delivered some hard hitting messages to Dandaragan farmers recently about the challenges modern farming practices are creating.
“Current soil problems are the result of gross oversimplification of fertilization and ‘plant protection’ practices that use harsh chemicals and ignore the delicate balance of microbes, trace minerals, nutrients and carbon in the soil”, said Dr Stapper to the room of 40-farmers and industry sponsors who travelled long distances to hear the renowned biological scientist present.
The two-day program was put on by Soil Restoration Farming, a non-profit, education-based business that strives to improve the farming community’s awareness of biology-friendly farming and grazing practices that increase biodiversity above and below ground.
The event had 9 sponsors, including the Northern Agriculture Catchment Council (NACC) and 8 biologically aligned companies, supporting independent education that empowers farmers to make decisions about farming in harmony with nature for more productive and profitable outcomes. The companies were, Hi-Tech Ag Solutions, C-Wise, NutriSoil Liquid Biological Fertiliser, Best Environmental Technologies, EcoGrowth, IntuitEarth, Australian Mineral Fertilisers and Konynen Farm.
Local soil problems were discussed with a recognition that most issues such as low fertility, compaction, salinity and acidity start with the loss of both active soil biology and soil organic matter (carbon) which is why farmers end up having to depend on synthetic fertilizers and chemicals.
“It’s a vicious cycle and it’s common Australia-wide and world-wide regardless of different environments and soil types,” Rachelle explained later.
“Farmers will be more profitable if they can harness the power of natural soil processes and thus can improve their use of inputs and understanding those practices that negatively impact on soil health,” Dr Stapper said.
Dr Stapper explained how biological agriculture combines the science of agriculture and environmental sciences on-farm.
Therefore, lower use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals leads to higher biodiversity, less runoff, better water and air quality, and thus results in healthy catchments.
Farmer speakers, Di Haggerty of Wyalkatchem and Nick Kelly of Newdegate, presented compelling case studies from their farms, with practices put into place that align with biological principals discussed. They had both found the current recommended agricultural practices challenging to be profitable and looked for ways to farm by enhancing natural processes.
Feedback from participants at the seminar was that it was a really worthwhile two-days. Those already engaged in biological farming received plenty of information and motivation to continue. Furthermore, they felt compelled to share the learning with others, raising public awareness of the importance of the consequences that farming practices have on soil health and ultimately food quality.
The day after, Dr Stapper gave a community health presentation in Dandaragan. Along with alarming concerns about the effects that the food we eat has on our health, he offered practical suggestions for healthier eating to improve our gut health, that links to many health conditions, including the brain and thus our mental health. Following this, he spoke to a Horticulture class at Moora Secondary College, which made a significant impact on the teachers and students. The students who are aspiring to be our future farmers, learnt new ways of farming that focus on restoring the soils, other than problem focussed, encouraging them to have a positive outlook.
Events like these bring knowledgeable people, industry and farmers together which is necessary to build the biological farming movement. As a self-organising group, fast growth, success and acceptance as ‘the norm’, is critical to restore soils and secure our land and future food production for the health of our nation.
For future educational programs, please contact Rachelle Armstrong of Soil Restoration Farming via email firstname.lastname@example.org.