Soil health trial for south-west

Soil health trials to be carried out on Ecklin South dairy farm


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SOIL TRIAL:  Claire Pritchard, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Geoff Rollinson, Heytesbury District Landcare Network, Tim Tutt, Deakin University, Sam Doolan and farm employee Sam Ferguson.

SOIL TRIAL: Claire Pritchard, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Geoff Rollinson, Heytesbury District Landcare Network, Tim Tutt, Deakin University, Sam Doolan and farm employee Sam Ferguson.

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A south-west dairy farm is trialling revegetation, carbon-sequestering and energy reduction strategies.

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An Ecklin South dairy farm is being used for a series of soil trials, which will test what types of applications are best for improving soil health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Keeping Carbon on the Farm is testing a suite of activities dairy farmers, and other primary producers, can undertake to reduce their emissions and better prepare for climate change.

The pilot at the Doolan family farm will include revegetation, carbon-sequestering soil amelioration trials and energy reduction strategies.

Sam Doolan said the trials would test which applications best improve soil health and increase carbon content.

"We will run the cows as usual and won't fence off any of the plots so we get a true indication of the success of the applications, "Mr Doolan said.

"One of the goals is to cut back fertiliser use for cost savings and better environmental results."

The trials are being driven by a project committee led by Heytesbury District Landcare Network and funded by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, through the Virtual Centre for Climate Change Innovation program.

Field trials started last week to test a mix of 10 per cent biochar and 90pc compost. Fifteen plots were established, consisting of three controls, three controls with fertiliser, and three each of low, medium and high biochar-compost applications with fertiliser.

An energy audit has been completed at the farm and will be repeated in mid-2020 to compare improvements and three soil tests will be conducted to check carbon levels and microbial activity.

A total of 5000 trees will be planted to create new shelter belts and future plans could also include solar panels and an energy monitoring system.

An initial energy audit found 12 different meters being used around the farm.

"We've gone through the report and are about to implement changes to reduce our energy use," Mr Doolan said.

"We hope to transform our farming practices and save money on energy and make sure everything is more efficient.

HDLN Landcare Coordinator Geoff Rollinson said it was hoped the results could be shared with other dairy farms and potentially beef and sheep farms.

"It's not just about reducing emissions for the sake of reducing emissions, you get improved soil health and better animal health and production which are important to the farm's bottom line," Mr Rollinson added.

"We're getting baseline information now and 12 months down the track it will be an interesting story."

On-site field days are planned later in the project to share updates with the farming community.

The project group includes HDLN, DELWP, the Doolan Farms family, Deakin University, Corangamite CMA, Corangamite Shire, Triple R Biochar, Camperdown Compost and Dr Jane Stanley who leads the energy audits.

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