There is a growing awareness that healthy, productive soils are a key driver of dairy farm performance, efficiency and profitability. Quality soil grows nutrient-rich pasture for stock and supports the long-term sustainability of farmland.
Soil health guidelines
The Soil Health website from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at The University of Western Australia, publishes guidelines and principles for managing the biological function of soil. They include:
- Soil erosion should be controlled to minimise loss of soil organisms.
- Plant organic matter should be retained to maximise nutrient cycling and soil aggregation.
- Some disturbance of soil is necessary to maximise soil biological diversity.
- Nitrogen fixing bacteria should be selected that match the host, soil characteristics (such as pH) and environmental conditions.
- Inputs of nitrogen fertiliser should be calculated to complement biological soil nitrogen supply.
- Inputs of phosphorus fertiliser should be calculated to complement and enhance the activities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.
- Any substance added to soil should be assessed in terms of its effects on soil biological processes and soil biological diversity.
- Crop rotations and tillage practices should be selected to avoid the development of soil conditions that enhance the growth of plant pathogens.
- Working the land growing pasture and running stock should be considered in parallel with efforts to maintain and/or increase soil biological fertility.
- Sufficient time should be allowed for establishment or restoration of a level of soil biological fertility appropriate for particular soils and land management.
Farm composting allows farmers to transform a range of organic waste materials into a valuable product that can be applied to crops and pastures for beneficial results. Through the composting process, many nutrients from the organic matter are safely and conveniently returned to the soil.
Conventional composting techniques can be used to convert organic farm wastage such as spoiled hay and silage, fouled bedding, manure, and effluent treatment pond sludge, into compost.