It would be almost impossible for me to capture the incredible depth and breadth of wisdom shared during the Soil Restoration Forum in Kojonup on Tuesday 24th March. Katanning Landcare was fortunate, through funding from the Caring for our Country initiative of the Federal Government, to subsidize the entry fee for 10 farmers from the Katanning area to attend a full day workshop on soil health. 20150324_110122 The keynote speaker, Dr Christine Jones, blew the crowd of 110 people away with her deep knowledge of soil, in particular the microbial and fungal components, and her ability to make complex ideas accessible and actions achievable. 20150324_095103 As best I can recollect them, her key messages were:
  • keep living roots in the soil – always
  • if you add chemical N and P and K you actually diminish the ability of the living things in the soil to feed the plants with the naturally occurring nutrients in the soil
  • there is actually enough of almost all key nutrients, even in the shallow poor soils of Western Australia, to feed and grow healthy nutritious plants, if the full biological system of photosynthesis, soil & microbes, plants, and animals are all supported
  • Get away from mono-cultures, and find companion planting systems, like the three sisters principle of the Native Americans.
20150324_095045 Three other speakers talked about their experiences with putting these principles into practice in different types of farming systems. Some have had great success straight up, others have needed to be more patient, and one, Di Haggerty and her family, have the system down to a management practice that they apply to every new piece of property they farm. Everyone who attended gain a new insight and new contacts and reinforced several ideas that you can farm successfully in a less input driven way, without compromising the potential profitability of your farming business.