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TAS Country : February 3rd 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011 Tasmanian Country 19 studies science of growing more soil While most farmers are in the business of producing more grain, meat, fruit or other such commodity, South Australian farmer Stephen Ball has come home from his Nuffield travels with a novel idea -- producing more soil on his Riverton property. DIRT FARMER: Stephen Ball is itching to get back to his property to grow more soil. STEPHEN Ball and his wife Nikki Hannaford produce cereals, legumes and oilseeds on their farm in South Australia's Gilbert Valley, but after no-tilling with normal machinery for the last 13 years felt they'd hit a plateau. ''I needed to move to the next stage and I felt we had good control over what was going on above the ground but didn't know what was happening beneath,'' he said. So Mr Ball successfully applied for a Nuffield Scholarship and turned his attention to how growers around the world were retaining stubble and improving nutrient cycling. ''My research was on zero-till farming systems, looking at the use of disc seeders to enable maximum retention of all stubbles and looking at the soil biology and nutrient cycling in that system,'' he said. ''I went through United States and Canada, through down into Mexico and then through the major countries in South America -- Brazil, Argentina and Chile.'' He said there were many science people in the northern American countries, but a lot more actual hands-on work was done down in southern America. ''It was quite interesting that the two were quite different,'' he said. And it was in South America that the idea of not just retaining stubble but actually creating new soil came to his attention. ''There was the retention of the stubble, but they were also talking about actually increasing the amount of soil,'' he said. ''They were gaining one millimetre of soil per year on average, and that really sparked my fascination, because our soils are old and weathered and to be able to actually increase our soil would be a great thing to do.'' Is it feasible in Australia to retain enough stubble to actually see it break down and be converted into new soil over time? Mr Ball, whose scholarship was sponsored by Grains Research and Development Corporation, cautiously says yes. ''Not at the rates that they do, they talk about 10 tonne stubble, one millimetre of soil,'' Mr Ball said. ''We're looking around the five tonne stubble --- half a millimetre thereabouts, would be great.'' The process will begin with getting machinery capable of doing the job. The Balls are importing a new disc-seeding machine from South America that will allow them to maximise stubble retention. They will also be modifying their header to handle the increased amount of straw in paddocks at harvest time. Once the equipment is in place, Mr Ball hopes to see the agronomic benefits flow through, eventually to the back pocket. ''Agronomically we're looking for nutrient cycling within the soil, and so there is not the peaks and troughs of availability of nutrients,'' he said. ''It evens the flow out throughout the season and therefore will get us a better crop in the end.'' The first thing he needs to do however, is get back on to his Riverton property, which he leased out for 12 months. Not many Nuffield scholars do this, but it was a decision that enabled him to fully focus on his important research. ''We're itching to get back into the farming side, we worked with the lessee over harvest to get the stubble prepared how we want it to be done,'' he said. ''Next stop, get that seeder into Australia.'' Nuffield Australia provides opportunities to Australian farmers between the ages of 28 and 40 to travel the globe investigating a research topic important to them and Australian agriculture. Applications for 2012 close on June 30 2011. For more information please head to www.nuffield.com.au. 2056196-110204 Nitro-Cal B Nitrogen (N) as nitrate 15.8%w/v as ammonium 7.3%w/v TOTAL 23.1%w/v Calcium (Ca) as nitrate 11.8%w/v Boron (B) 0.02%w/v Nitro-Cal B supplies available nitrogen and calcium to growing crops. The high nitrate component is immediately available to crops. Nitro-Cal B does not contain urea. Triple K is a high analysis Phosphorous and Potassium product that can be used in Potato and other crops. Triple K contains soluble Phosphorous and Potassium that is immediately available to crops. To arrange delivery or more information contact: Wayne Firth - Yara Nipro O488 727 341 or Mark Rouse - Senior Agronomist Elders Tasmania 0488 094 140 Product is now available locally in 1000L IBC. For other Yara Nipro products new to Tasmania visit www.nipro.com.au Yara Nipro NPK liquid fertigation fertilisers are now available in Tasmania These clear liquid products are specifically designed for injection into overhead irrigation systems. Fertigation allows accurate and timely application of nutrients directly to the active root zone. Nitro-Cal B and Triple K are an ideal fit for potato, onion and poppy crops. Triple K Phosphorous (P) as water soluble 12.8%w/v Potassium (K)as phosphate 35.0%w/v
January 27th 2011
February 10th 2011