Pasture Wise Field Day digs deep on soil testing

Farmers who joined in a spring field trip to explore pasture trial sites in the Geographe Catchment came away with a deeper understanding about the value of soil testing to inform their treatment decisions.

The Pasture Wise Field Day was a free bus tour of three pasture trial sites and was jointly hosted by South West NRM, GeoCatch, Western Dairy and Western Beef.

The Soil Wise NKS (nitrogen, potassium, sulfur) trial, run by DWER, is a two-year project involving eight locations and aims to assess the potential impact of trace elements on pasture production, ultimately providing farmers with greater confidence in selecting the most effective and economical treatments according to their soil constraints.

South West NRM Program Manager Sustainable Agriculture and Ramsar Wetlands Peter Clifton said the NKS trial was showing the effect different elements could have on pasture growth when separated out from fertiliser blends.

“What we can see is different combinations of elements such as nitrogen, potassium, sulfur and trace elements can have a big effect on pasture composition and yield,” Peter said.

 “During the field trip we raised awareness of water repellent soils, poor nodulation and root disease in sub clover, the potential benefits of deep ripping compacted soil, and the effectiveness of liming on yield.

“After the event, several attendees said they would look at using tissue testing to better understand what factors might be limiting pasture growth, and to better assess micronutrient deficiencies.

“Others said they would take more care with fertiliser applications and look to only apply what is required.”

One of the trial sites has several constraints, including compaction and clover root rot. The trial is pitting the existing weedy pasture against a variety of pasture renovations, including ryegrass and clover and pasture mixes including brassicas, coupled with combinations of liming, cultivation, and deep ripping.

All data collected from the trials is being fed into the Pasture Trial Network – a national database that growers can use to select pasture varieties best suited to their needs.

The data is all stored online here. 

 This event was supported by funding from Soil Wise. Soil Wise is funded by the National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants – an Australian Government initiative. It is supported by Healthy Estuaries WA – a State Government program.