Home' Grower : May 2011 Contents The South Australian Grower -- May 2011
INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ORGANIC MATTER MANAGEMENT & OST USE IN HORTICULTURE
Compost symposium attracts
cream of industry to Adelaide
CONVENER of the International Symposium
Organic Matter Management & Compost Use in
Horticulture Johannes Biala says the event has
enhanced the political profile of organics and
the use of recycled natural products -- within
and outside of the carbon debate.
With 10 keynote speakers, 175 delegates and
69 oral and 17 poster presentations, he said
clarification of soil carbon sequestration, what
might be achievable under various
environmental and farming conditions and the
benefits different organic soil amendments
might deliver were major points for discussion.
Mr Biala said the role soil carbon
sequestration could play in a future carbon
trading scheme was also given a high profile.
Presentation of international and Australian
cutting-edge research and technical information
on the use of composts, mulches and other
organic soil amendments, and the management
of soil organic matter in horticultural production
systems, were examined.
Mr Biala said major outcomes included:
•Improved profile of using organic soil
amendments in horticulture.
•Improved profile of 'science' in
manufacturing and using compost and other
organic soil amendments.
•Demonstration of the agronomic, economic,
environmental and societal benefits of using
composts, mulches and other organic soil
amendments in horticulture.
•Provision of opportunities for national and
•Gathering of key stakeholders and discussion
of risk management in the context of using
organic soil amendments and food safety in the
production of horticultural crops.
•Building bridges between the organics
recycling and horticultural industries,
conventional and organic farming, Australia and
"Unfortunately, the 'bridge-building' effort
between different 'camps' of organic soil
amendments (manure, green manure, biochar,
compost) largely failed," Mr Biala said.
Profit from soil health
By ANGELA LUSH
THE Newman family, Hills
Fresh, have been growing
vegetables in the Adelaide
Hills for six generations. These
days, they produce lettuces,
cauliflowers and leeks -- sold
through the Adelaide Produce
Markets and local independent
grocer y stores.
During the past few years, Hills
Fresh has been adopting more
sustainable farming methods
while maintaining the quality of
its products and the profitability
of the business.
It is a complex balancing act in
which compost has started to play
a big role.
Production manager at Hills
Fresh Steve Newman says
economic pressures mean they
need to crop continuously.
"Traditionally, we planted cover
crops in between vegetable crops
to maintain soil health and
organic matter levels," he said.
"Now we need to crop
continuously which leaves no
time for cover crops."
Hills Fresh also had problems
with the structure of its soils. In
the past, soils had been difficult
to work up before planting
because of a cr ust that formed on
Three years ago, Hill Fresh
started trialling compost and saw
enough benefits in early trials to
further explore using compost on
"We started using compost on
one block, saw good results and
so started using it on other
blocks," Steve said.
The Newmans wanted to
improve the structure and health
of their soils by increasing organic
matter, aeration and water-
holding capacity. They also
wanted to improve soil fertility
through slow release of nutrients
and provide beneficial microbes
that make nutrients more
available to plants.
Compost from a commercial
supplier is broadcast over planting
beds once a year before
"With compost, we can
improve soil health and structure
without the down time needed to
grow a cover crop," Steve said.
Using compost has allowed
Hills Fresh to crop continuously
while looking after the soils.
"Soil tests show that organic
carbon levels have not decreased
since compost has been used,"
Steve said. "This is remarkable
since the heavy cropping regime
would be taking out a significant
amount of soil carbon."
Using compost has also helped
to improve soil structure
"Compost use, in conjunction
with other strategies, such as
controlled traffic farming, has
made a huge difference to the
friability of our soils," Steve said.
"The soil has a better structure
and is easier to prepare for
Hills Fresh has sometimes
found it difficult to get the
compost into the right place on
established planting beds and has
started to incorporate the
compost into the soil to stop it
washing from beds with heavy
rains. The Newmans will continue
to experiment with application
methods to determine what
works best on their farm.
"We've seen definite
improvements in plant and soil
health during the past three years
of using compost, but still been
able to produce a quality
product," Steve said.
While it was too early to put a
dollar figure on the yield benefits
of compost, Steve said his plants
and soils have obviously
benefitted from compost.
www.compostforsoils.com.au and click
on 'Fact Sheets' to read more about Hills
Fresh as well as other compost case
studies. Kaylee Maitland, Compost for
Soils 7329 0422, 0408 818 438,
Steve Newman has no
doubts about the
composting. It has
allowed Hills Fresh to
while still looking after
We started using compost on
one block, saw good results
and so started using it on other
-- Steve Newman
Economic pressures require
Soil structure improved with-
out need for cover crop
Increased aeration and water
AT A GLANCE
CUSTOM Composts' director Andrew Gulliver says the first
question agribusiness must ask -- and answer -- when
designing programs for commercial farming is 'will the farmer
make more money from economic trials'?
Presenting Precision placement of compost in cauliflower
crops demonstrates improvement in crop development and
economic yield, he said the need to improve yield and quality
should not be blurred by the need for financial outcomes.
"But more money in the bank will drive change," he told
delegates at the Evaluating benefits of SOM management in horticultural production -- sustainability and
Mr Gulliver, from Mandurah in Western Australia, who is also chairman of Peel Sustain -- a group which
encourages agriculture and agri-industry -- and a member of several ministerial and industry advisory
groups, said growers were already time poor "so we must work with their schedules."
Money 'drives change'
Andrew Gulliver says trials must
consider what farmers will get
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