Home' Grower : Dec 2011-Jan 2012 Contents 10
The South Australian Grower – December 2011/January 2012
❏ By JOHN NORTON
THE November column highlighted
synergies that optimise outcomes on-
farm. The final installmentt of this two-
part feature looks at the relationships
among biology, soil food, compost, soil
promotants and humates in the quest for
• Earthworms and soil food: Reclaiming
large numbers of earthworms in the soil is
the holy grail of the biological approach.
These creatures are little fertiliser
machines that can reduce input costs as
their numbers grow. Food is the key to
Provide food and they will arrive like bees
to a honeypot, but what is the favoured
food of these dynamic soil conditioners?
Earthworms love organic matter so they will
arrive when you provide green manure
crops and cover crops. They also love com-
post, but in this case it is not the digested
organic matter that is the key attraction but
rather the creatures the compost contains.
Earthworms feast on fungi, so fungi-dom-
inated compost will prove most productive.
Their most favourite fare, however, is pro-
tozoa, so a simple tea made from lucerne
can provide a rapid boost. Liquid fish with
oil intact (Nutri-Sea Liquid Fish) boosts
both fungi and protozoa, so it becomes an
Similarly, humic acid is a powerful fungi
promotant, so it can also serve to call in the
earthworms via the fungi bait. A great
repopulating strategy involves setting aside
part of a paddock specifically to grow earth-
worms. The new workforce can then be
transported around the farm to areas that
• Compost and fertility: Composting is the
accelerated conversion of organic matter
into humus with a little human help. This
practice is set to become the single most
important strategy in our battle to neu-
tralise global warming, as the mantra for
the next decade may well become ‘fix car-
bon or fall’. This inter vention in the carbon
cycle stores carbon in the soil and keeps car-
bon-dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
Compost builds fertility and soil life more
effectively than any other input and its
humus component can hold its own weight
in water. If you can build your organic mat-
ter levels by just 1 per cent, your soil can
hold 170,000 litres of water a hectare that it
would not other wise have stored.
This water is retained right beside the
roots and water storage doesn’t get more
efficient than this!
It is a primar y earthworm promotant and
it can be used as a major tool to stabilise and
magnify applied fertilisers. We have found
that minerals can be applied at rates as low
as 10 per cent of what is required (accord-
ing to a soil test) when these fertilisers are
combined with compost.
We have coined the term microbially
enhanced nutrient deliver y to describe this
phenomenon. There can be tremendous
benefits in putting the microbes behind the
minerals. This principle also applies to micro-
bial inoculums like compost tea or Nutri-Life
Biological agriculture becomes a creative,
problem-solving enterprise when there
4/20. If small amounts of foliar fertilisers are
combined with these microbial inputs they
will be utilised much more efficiently.
• Soluble fertilisers and humates: This is
probably the greatest example of synergy
as it involves the combination of chemical
agriculture and natural inputs that is the
essence of the best of both worlds fusion
farming approach. The performance of
soluble fertilisers is dramatically enhanced
when they are combined with small
amounts of soluble humates.
Acid phosphates become phosphate
humates with the potential to deliver phos-
phate throughout the crop cycle. Urea
becomes a urea humate with greatly
enhanced stability and longevity. Highly
leachable boron becomes a boron humate
which is now stabilised and absorbed much
more effectively. Even nitrate based fertilis-
ers like calcium nitrate can be chelated with
humates and foliar sprayed to great effect.
When soluble humate granules are combined
with DAP/MAP, the carbon dense humic acid
can help reduce the damage to mycorrhizal
fungi that is now known to be associated with
these acids. Even the harshest of all fertilisers,
anhydrous ammonia, can be softened using
humates. In this case the gas is first passed
Race to gain chemical-free control
over fruit fly sees potential in SIT
THE value of chemical-free fruitfly control
methods has been highlighted by the recent
suspension of the widely used chemical
dimethoate for a range of horticultural crops,
according to the Tri State Fruit Fly
The use of dimethoate – a key chemical
used by horticultural industries to protect
against fruit fly – has been suspended for
use in some crops, and is under review in
others, by the Australian Pesticides and
Veterinary Medicines Authority.
Dimethoate has not been suspended for use
in the citrus industry.
Tri State chairman Andrew Green said the
changing availability of the product
threatened one of the most important
safeguards against fruit fly.
“Dimethoate and fenthion have been
important chemicals in our fight against
fruitfly and restrictions on the use of
dimethoate mean we’re now really down to
just one of these across a broad range of
crops, citrus being an exception,” he said.
“There are no replacements on the horizon.
This means we need to introduce non-
chemical methods of control, and the one
with the most potential is sterile insect
Mr Green said SIT was a proven, chemical-
free, environmentally-friendly method of
containing and eradicating pest insects.
“It’s time to explore the potential of a large-
scale SIT program targeting fruit fly in
Australia,” he said.
“SIT has been used to suppress – and in
some cases eradicate – pest insect
populations in several countries. It has been
used to eradicate melon fly in Japan, screw
worm in Libya and Australian painted apple
moth in New Zealand.
“It has also been used to successfully
suppress Mediterranean fruit fly in South
Africa and Israel, and to prevent fruit fly
incursions in California.
“Sterile insects are bred in large numbers
and released on a pest population. It’s cost-
effective: in Mexico, a Mediterranean fruit fly
containment program was found to have a
benefit-cost ratio of 150:1.”
Mr Green said a large-scale program
integrating SIT and integrated pest
management could provide a long-term and
cost-effective solution to fruit fly in Australia.
“Fruitfly is the worst fruit pest in the world,
and costs Australia about $28 million a year
to deal with it,” he said.
“We have all seen the terrible impact of
recent fruitfly outbreaks in New South Wales
and Victoria and how much it is costing fruit
industries and taxpayers.”
Details: Andrew Green 0418 804 368
■ Dimathoate suspended in range of
■ Environmentally-friendly SIT recom-
■ IPM a proven tool for producers
☛ AT A GLANCE
through water to create aqua ammonia.
Productive synergies create a result which
is greater than the sum of their parts.
Biological agriculture becomes a creative,
problem-solving enterprise when we seek
out these synergies.
The aim is to create a functional hybrid
which outperforms all other forms of agri-
culture in terms of both sustainability and
Details: Bio-Tech Organics 08 8380 8554 or John
There is a need to introduce non-chemical
methods of control, and the one with the
most potential is sterile insect technique.
Feed earthworms to promote organic matter
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