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Digging deeper into soil management for farmers

Agroecologist David Hardwick will be back to lead Terrain NRM’s new Digging Deeper Plus soil health program for farmers.

FREE soil tests and on-farm soil health advice are again on offer to Tablelands farmers.

The popularity of a ‘Digging Deeper Plus’ soil health program has led natural resource management organisation Terrain NRM to run a second round for farmers across all industries.

Terrain NRM’s Rowan Shee said there are places for 18 landholders, who will meet once a month at farm workshops led by agroecologist and soil fertility specialist David Hardwick.

The program is open to farmers in the Wet Tropics as well as neighbouring Northern Gulf and Cape York regions.

Mr Shee said farmers ranged from cane cockies and graziers to pineapple, lime and coffee producers in the first round of Digging Deeper.

“Soils range from red volcanic to light granite in this region – it is all about knowing your different soil types and learning how to build soil health across all of them,’’ he said.

“The focus is on improving carbon, organic matter and nutrient levels to manage and maintain soil for the longerterm. It’s also about better understanding soil tests results and applying them to land management.

“Some farmers in the last course have made changes since, like planting more legumes, lightening fertiliser use and fencing to separate soil types and get the most out of grazing in each paddock.”

The new Digging Deeper program will run from November to next April. This project is supported by Terrain NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Peeramon beef cattle producer Colleen McLucas said she and her husband Peter were focusing on soil health to “grow the best possible pasture sustainably for the lowest cost”.

Digging Deeper gave them a much better understanding of their soil test results and how to apply that knowledge, she said.

Mossman grazier and tropical orchardist Carmen Henning- White said visiting properties and learning about other farmers’ challenges and solutions was also invaluable.

One of a small group of farmers who formed Wet Tropics Soil Care after Digging Deeper workshops in 2015, she said soil health was growing in importance to farmers. The group now has more than 70 members from Cape Tribulation to Ingham and the Atherton Tablelands.

“You learn to look at soil in a different way in relation to your crops and to really think about what inputs you are using,” she said.

For more information about the new Digging Deeper Plus program, farmers can visit www.terrain.org.au/projects/digging-deeper

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