Soil Fertility Management Feedback

The conference and newsletter paper “Soil fertility management, towards sustainable farming systems and landscapes” attracted feedback from scientists, producers, business management consultants, farmers, water resource managers, ex-DPI officers and more. Below are some examples.

From a retired CSIRO Research Fellow:

“Maarten,  I have just caught up with your paper in the Sustainability #61 newsletter, it is absolutely right! I think not enough effort has been put into soil biology and in particular as a means to manipulate soil organic matter and carbon storage. I have expressed many times that the solution to the salinity problem lies in building up soil carbon – what we are doing is reducing soil carbon, so our catchments are getting drier rather than healthier. Part of the folly is in widespread tree planting – this does not help build organic matter on a farm.”

From a producer who had just registered as organic after starting with biological agriculture seven years ago:  

“My wife and I set out on the biological road to organic transition. The biological farming advice was “grow your livestock and crops (potatoes and maize in our case) organically but tailor your production costs to make a profit on the conventional market.”   This has been very difficult especially with a farm so addicted to destructive inputs! Anyway, I have just completed our Organic Management Plan for NASAA and commented to my wife that 7 years ago, knowing what to do to confidently head into pre-certification would have been way too scary. So it is serendipitous to read your paper to see how someone can so eloquently describe the vision and process. It`s also a great checklist for us when we feel we have wandered or lost control or worse still fallen into the “trusted” advice group of biological snake-oil salespeople.”

From a business management consultant:  

“I’ve just read your article in CSIRO Sustainability Network’s newsletter. The first comprehensive article on this topic I’ve read. Thanks for that!”

From a grazier:

“I just read your article on sustainable agriculture in the latest CSIRO sustainability network newsletter on sustainable agriculture. It was very interesting and helps my thinking in relation to our farm that we are trying to improve by managing remnant native grasses, planting more trees, renovating paddocks with native grasses and controlling weeds better.”

From a farmer with off-farm income:  

“Maarten, I very much enjoyed your article and wish you good luck in your research.  I suspect our property may be one of the “dots” mentioned in your article. We live in Central Victoria and have been actively restoring (revegetating) a degraded landscape for about 10 years.  In a broad sense we are revegetating about 100 acres of granite outcrop with aim of getting close to the original herb rich granite woodlands, while the remainder (about 60 acres) is being grazed. I’m a reader of Albrecht, Pat Colby, Holmgren and many others and try to incorporate the learnings into our management.”

From a farmer and water resource manager:

“’Modern’ high-input factory farming systems are far too brittle and require far too much energy input to try to keep them ‘stable’. And of course they aren’t kept stable – the soil and other resource bases on which the systems depend are degrading because their critical role in the complex agroecosystem was not recognized.”
From an ex-officer in a State Department of Agriculture:

“I only hope that those institutions which have a heavy base in analytical scientific thinking can recognise the situation and respond in time. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that within such institutions the reductionist point of view seems very effective in blindfolding many decision makers to the big picture situation. It is easy to buck-pass decisions if you break situations up into ‘component’ parts and claim it is not your part that is failing – it’s someone else’s responsibility! This is exacerbated by the tendency to promote specialists to managerial and policy positions – when I believe it is generalists, who see the big picture, who should be setting the directions…. but analytical science, like economics, has an enormous grip on our thinking and institutional behaviour.”

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