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Torquay Landcare Group farmers visit experimental sites of the Woady Yaloak Catchment where alternative sources of nutrients are being trialled in cropping & grazing country.

Varied Sources of Nutrients for Farm Land
Murray Johns
Faced with the challenge of maintaining productivity,
profitability and the health of their most important asset,
their soil, many Surf Coast region farmers have considered
the use of nutrient sources other than “conventional”
fertilizers. There are many different nutrient sources
available to producers nowadays, from animal manures
and biosolids (byproduct of sewage treatment), to fish and
seaweed extracts, to biological soil conditioners, but until
recently there has been very little independent research
conducted into the use of many of these products. In
2009, the Woady Yaloak Landcare Group received
funding through ‘Caring for our Country’ to conduct
independent trials of a number of these products, and
engaged respected soil and pasture scientist, Cam
Nicholson to set up a number of trials on producers’
properties within the Woady Yaloak catchment, stretching
from Rokewood to Cressy. Nine trial sites were set up, 3
in crop paddocks, 3 in lucerne, and 3 in pasture. At each
site 8 alternative treatments were applied, along with a
conventional fertiliser treatment. Each treatment was
randomised and replicated 4 times to ensure the accuracy
of results.
On the 20th of September, 15 Torquay districtproducers made the trip to Rokewood to inspect and learnmore about the trials, and hear of the preliminary results.The group consisted of livestock producers, broadacrecroppers, and lifestyle farmers. We were met by CamNicholson at the Rokewood CFA shed, where for the nextcouple of hours Cam not only explained the basis of thetrials, but also gave us a lesson on soil health and thefactors influencing and interacting within it.This not only demonstrated the lack of research andknowledge in this area, but generated lively debateamongst the group.
Following lunch, we travelled northwest ofRokewood to one of the trial sites. Here we inspected awheat crop. Although it was too early in the growingseason to identify significant visual differences betweentreatments, there was a noticeable difference between sometreatments. It has to be remembered that they are onlyhalfway through a 3 year trial, with changes in soil healthnot expected to be obvious for at least 2 or 3 years, andthe visual appearance of treatments being of lessimportance than the yield and quality measurementsconducted after harvest.
The producers that attended left the day with anincreased understanding of the availability and use ofalternative nutrient sources, but overwhelmingly with theunderstanding of how lacking in scientific knowledge weare in this area, and how much more independent researchis required, and were committed to supporting furtherresearch into this important subject. Thanks must go toCCMA and DPI for providing the funding to enable us toattend the day, Lisa Miller (DPI) for facilitating funding,and Woady Yaloak Landcare Group and Cam Nicholsonfor hosting us and sharing their knowledge with us. Wewish them well with the rest of the trial, and look forwardto seeing some valuable results at the end of the three yearperiod.