Home' Grower : June 2013 Contents The South Australian Grower -- June 2013
suggest to farmers is to pick their
worst block or paddock and give it
a go on that area."
Kate Hamer, Environmental
Protection Agency, reminded
growers of their environmental
obligations when working with
Operators producing less than
200 tonnes of compost annually
do not need an EPA licence, but
must locate their heaps so as to
'reduce adverse environmental
Peter Lehmann senior
viticulturist Nigel Blieschke shared
his experience using compost to
improve water infiltration on
vineyards at Marananga in the
Mr Blieschke has applied worm
casting compost tea through his
drippers annually since 2007. He
also spread 160 cubic metres a
hectare of Jeffries Dura Mulch on
his own 1.39ha vineyard in 2008
and has been monitoring its effect
"One of my big motivators for
using mulch is that for irrigation I
use SA mains water and it's very
expensive," Mr Blieschke said.
"Being out at Marananga, our
rainfall is a bit lower than on the
valley floor, so I'm trying to save
water wherever I can."
The cost of buying and
spreading the mulch was about
$4000/ha in 2008 but Mr
Blieschke said it was well worth it.
"I think it's been a very good
investment -- the $4000/ha over
five years -- I'm getting some good
bang for my buck," he said.
"One of the things I've seen
with the mulch and using the
Grower support officers Belinda Rawnsley and Lora Smith and Step Up
Soil Condition project manager Noel Johnston (centre) were instrumental
in organising the Compost and Soil Condition Symposium at Nuriootpa.
Food Forest spreads change
COMPOST is an integral part of The
Food Forest operation.
Owner Graham Brookman
(pictured) and his wife Annemarie
make it on-site but also buy-in
compost to meet their large scale
The 15-hectare permaculture
farm just outside Gawler produces
hundreds of varieties of fruit,
vegetables, nuts and cereals.
Compost has delivered a stream
of benefits to the property,
including increased moisture
infiltration, water holding capacity,
root and vegetative growth, and
crop yield, as well as better weed
control, less root disease, and
more beneficial insects.
"We use our compost both as a
mulch and as a fertiliser," Graham
Compost made on-site is applied
to the vegetable plots in huge
amounts -- averaging 150 tonnes a
hectare annually -- and utilises
waste products from other crops.
"We want to create a mixture of
different components to give us a
ratio of about 30 parts of carbon to
1 part nitrogen," he said.
"We've taken all the fleshy hulls
off the pistachio nuts -- they are
high in nitrogen and if you just
leave them in a heap they will
putrify. If you mix them up with
some nice carbon-rich material it'll
turn into the most beautiful
compost you could imagine."
Graham uses a mulching mower
to chop organic waste, and
incorporates old vegetable plants
and vine prunings into the
He said moisture management
was one of the most critical
factors to monitor.
"Don't even contemplate using
mains water for this task -- you
want to make sure you have
access to cheap water of some
sort," he said.
"We turn every two or three
weeks, and you water every time
you turn -- that way you're actually
keeping that heat working for you,
making sure that all of the
microbes in the heap have plenty
of water to go on with. Just like
we have to drink, they have to be
in a moist environment to multiply
and do their job.
Heat is also essential, to kill
weed seeds and pathogens.
"You really want to get the
temperature - not just in the core
of the heap but a fair bit of the
heap -- above 60 degrees and you
should easily hit 70 degrees in a
lot of heaps that are well-made,"
The Food Forest's compost needs
are greater than what they can
produce, so the Brookmans buy-in
truckloads of Peats Cultured
Compost, which is spread at a rate
of about 12t/ha just before
planting for annual crops, and
every year or two for trees and
"It's is always under $30 a cubic
metre spread -- if you look at the
percentage of nitrogen and
phosphorous and those things, it's
actually quite competitive with
industrial fertilisers, but you're
getting all the micronutrients as a
bonus," Graham said.
compost teas is that my yields are
becoming more consistent, and
while that's obviously good from
my perspective, it's also good from
the winery's perspective because
we're not getting a fluctuation in
He said his shiraz vineyard was
now averaging 7.5t/ha, despite
pruning to limit yields.
"There's definitely an
improvement in soil health and
organic matter content. We're
seeing a decrease in water use and
the mulch is actually acting as a
weed mat so I'm using less
herbicide," he said.
He has also noticed an
improvement in the quality of fruit
"The fr uit is sought-after -- I've
got more buyers than fruit," he
Mr Blieschke selected a coarse
mulch rather than a fine compost
for longevity and to boost weed
suppression. He is now considering
applying another batch of mulch to
refresh the vineyard soil.
Other speakers at the
symposium included Geoff
Johnston, One World
Environmental Solutions, who said
South Australia was the best
composting state in Australia,
composting 500,000t each year.
Ash Martin, Microbiology
Laboratories Australia, outlined the
breakdown rates of various carbon
sources, while CSIRO scientist Jeff
Baldock explained what growers
needed to do to qualify for carbon
Organiser Noel Johnston,
Irrigation Management Training
said the symposium was held in
response to questions raised during
the Step Up Soil Condition
"Caring for Our Country
provided the Hortex Alliance with
funds to develop a program to
enhance the knowledge and
management skills of 200 growers,
resulting in improved management
of 1000 hectares of land with a
focus on organic farming," he said.
"Grower support officers
delivered the program to grower
groups in their specialist
commodity area. They included
protected cropping vegetables,
broadacre vegetables, winegrapes,
almonds, some citr us and
stonefruit. We ended up with 232
participating growers, and we
covered over 19,000ha."
We're seeing a decrease in water use and the
mulch is actually acting as a weed mat so I'm using
-- NIGEL BLIESCHKE
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