Successful Soils for Life Field Day

Local producers Greg and Sally Chappell, in conjunction with GLENRAC and the Soils for Life Organisation hosted a hugely successful field day last Wednesday 21st November at Shannon Vale Station.  The field day was attended by 130 interested participants, mainly producers from across the New England and North West, with some visitors travelling from as far afield as Goondiwindi, Barraba, Grafton and the Northern Territory.

The Chappell’s property had been selected as one of nineteen properties across Australia as a case study of regenerative property management. As part of their involvement with the Soils for Life program the Chappell’s hosted the field day with assistance from GLENRAC in organising and funding the event.

Major General Michael Jeffery was the key note speaker at the field day. He has recently been appointed as Australia’s Advocate for Soil Health by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Michael’s presentation highlighted his interest and passion for enhancing soil health to create healthy food and healthy people.

He quoted “that today there is 1 hectare per person globally from which to produce food, fibre and other resources to live and that by 2050 there will be only 1 hectare for every 1.5 people from which to deliver the same resources. Coupled with an increasing population the area of productive agricultural land is declining at a rate of 1% per annum due to degradation.   Food security was the basis of many current and future issues and the supply of both land and water is limited.”

As the Advocate for Soil Health, Michael Jeffery is keen to have soil and water recognised as critical national assets and for farmers to be recognised as the primary carers for the condition and health of the Australian landscape. The Soils for Life program is focused on providing opportunities for sharing information between land managers, showcasing leading land managers and encouraging the adoption of these practises across a wider area of the nation.

Bart Davidson, the consulting agronomist for Shannon Vale Station discussed the principles of managing the whole farm to achieve a more biologically active production system to maintain plant growth and production and ultimately animal production in a cost effective manner. Bart discussed the need to implement a system for monitoring soil, plant and animal data to measure the success of implementing management practise change and to extract cost benefit data to justify each dollar invested.

Greg Chappell gave us a brief overview of the challenges they have faced at Shannon Vale Station and the change in mind set they have had to turn problems, such as African Love grass into opportunities, creating a diverse pasture base with many pasture species. The Chappell’s goal is work more closely with the biological components of the soil and to establish long term sustainable pastures capable of achieving the production goals of their stud Angus herd. Since 2007 Chappell’s have not used chemicals for weed control, with the exception of blackberry control; have not used cultivation in the establishment of new pasture and apply compost annually.

The afternoon of the field day saw the group split into three groups to visit demonstration sites on Shannon Vale Station. These sites gave visitors the opportunities to see how several different management strategies have been implemented with success including broadcasting pasture seed in conjunction with compost application, use of direct drilling to establish new pastures with no knock down chemicals and the use of mulching to reduce the plant density and population of African Love Grass.  Local producers Geoff Smith and Peter Dowling contributed their local knowledge and experience to the group visits as well as Bart Davidson and Bruce Picone adding their own areas of expertise.

More information on the Shannon Vale Station story can be found by accessing the Dulverton Angus website or the GLENRAC website. More information on the Soils for Life program can be found at www.soilsforlife.org.au website.

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