Home' Grower : September 2011 Contents The South Australian Grower – September 2011
◗ Soil management
Living soils road
viticulturists and vegetable
growers depend on healthy soils
and understanding. And it is critical to
their long-term success as producers.
Healthy soil is an ecosystem home to
millions of living organisms that bring the
soil to life – giving it structure and texture.
A living soil can best be described as an
ecosystem that nurtures and nourishes
growing plants naturally by providing a
healthy medium to grow roots through a
steady supply of nutrients.
But not all soils are the same, with sandy,
loamy and clay soils varying from light to
heavy within each category. But they all
need to be healthy, living soils to be a
benefit to growers.
Among the soil management issues
growers can face are weed control,
degraded soil structure, low soil fertility,
poor water intake and use efficiency, soil
erosion and poor post-control methods.
Any of these problems can have an ef fect
on the quantity and quantity of production
and, of course, viability and profitability.
Common problems with soils can occur
• Soil compaction.
• Soil too low in organic matter.
• Reduced biological activity resulting in
• Inability of the soil to hold moisture.
Low to non-existent biology in the soil is
not what nature intended, but is the by-
product of such practices as:
• Over-working and/or over-cropping.
• Heavy use of toxic chemicals.
• Too little being done to keep all soil factors
in a balanced state – lack of liming, use of
gypsum or treating with organic material.
Given these common issues faced by
some growers, it needs to be understood
that some popular agronomical practices,
particularly in broadacre scenarios and with
some inter-row practices in horticulture
and viticulture may need to be reviewed.
Too many practices disregard the role
biology plays in the soil.
Modern farming often becomes a vicious
circle: too much fertiliser and high
chemical applications which wipe out the
soil biology and reduce its capacity to build
up organic carbon levels.
Organic material not only holds moisture,
it also ties up nutrients that become available
as a result of the actions of soil biology.
The use of inter-row cover crops has
become increasingly popular in recent
years, but it is a practice that requires some
additional equipment and time.
It can involve the use of a disc and/or
cultivator, a rotary hoe and/or mulching
machine, a seeding machine and
equipment for dealing with the crop when
it starts to mature.
Options include incorporating into the
soil as green manure, turning it into fodder
by cutting and baling it or simply slashing
it and leaving it on the ground as moisture
Not only does green manuring build up
organic content in the soil, it also encourages
increased worm activity which, in itself, is a
sign of a well-aerated and healthy soil.
Slashing and leaving the cover crop on
the ground as covering mulch is another
option because it can be carried out
quickly and cheaply. Drying and rotting
mulch material, however, can also play host
to many unwanted pests and diseases.
Cover crops also help keep dust levels
lower, prevent erosion due to heavy rain,
mid-row traffic and wind, help reduce
water logging and can be another tool in
weed control. They will also help in
slowing down soil compaction.
Growing the best possible produce for
the best possible returns will always be
about growing it in living, breathing
Much of the content of this article is
based on a paper by Brenton Byerlee, of
Soil Management Systems.
Details: 08 8659 0000.
In future issues, SA Grower will examine other
issues affecting living soils, including alternative
fertilisers, organic growing, composting and the
use of liquid fertilisers.
■ Ecosystems nurture healthy plants
■ Over-working reduces returns
■ Encourage worm activity
☛ AT A GLANCE
Brenton Byerlee, of Soil Management Systems, says cover crops also help keep dust levels
lower, prevent erosion due to heavy rain, mid-row traffic and wind, help reduce water logging
and can be another tool in weed control.
Organic material not
only holds moisture, it
also ties up nutrients
that become available
as a result of the
actions of soil biology.
By DAVID EAST
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Steve Brauer Mobile: 0438 821 593
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ABN: 85 103 271 432
Phone: (08) 8659 0000
Fax: (08) 8659 0021
Brenton: 0428 810 088
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