NSF is working in WA

Any questions or comments you have about Natural Sequence Farming processes. These could include general questions or ones about your personal problems.

We do not endorse any answers from anyone in this forum except Peter Andrews himself.

Please remember, Natural Sequence Farming has to be tailored for your specific problem and to follow general advice may create more problems for you.

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Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

1 Year ..................zip!

Post by Ian James » Sat Feb 07, 2009 5:38 pm

Wow, that went quick!
Plenty to post.... just need the time to do it...
Just letting all know I am still here and will soon be updating with news.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Avon NSA is bringing Peter to WA

Post by Ian James » Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:56 pm

On the 24th of March Peter Andrews will be in WA as a guest of the Avon Natural Sequence Association.

During this time he will be visiting many properties throughout the catchment.

There will be many events for interested people to visit and attend during the week and we invite everyone to take part and learn from Peter with us.

Peter's trip will culminate on Sunday the 29th of March at the Northam recreational centre where he will be a Key note speaker along with many other distinguished guests at the Avon Earth Solutions Expo.

Properties where Peter will visit are in the following shires.....
Mount Marshall

Please contact me for any information if you would like to attend any of the field walks on the above properties.

My numbers are: Mobile 0429303131
Home 0896 362 125
Email: ianjodijames@bigpond.com

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Peter visits my next project

Post by Ian James » Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:16 am

On Thursday the 26th of March Peter Andrews visited my farm.
We traveled by motorcar over the area and Peter asked me to stop.

He pointed out to me with a sweep of his arm a slight depression some 50 m in front of us, he then asked me to follow with my eye the line of the contour at the elevation of the land where the depression began to form, that is, at the top of the depression.

I was able to follow the contour for some 300m before it became difficult to distinguish due to the flattening nature of the landscape at each end of the visible contour.

Peter told me I was to create a cut along this contour for as long as I could define the contour.

He drew me a simple diagram on a unused paper napkin we found. The diagram was of a gentle slope and showed how by using a common road grading implement and driving along the contour I should cut into the up side of the slope and move the cut earth to the down side with the original surface elevation unchanged exactly halfway from side to side. The resulting cut surface should be level, sloping not at all.

He explained that by moving the topsoil from the upside and creating a bank of this moved topsoil to the down side I will achieve a bank of topsoil below which plants should be encouraged to grow and even planted.

We then drove further ahead and as we drove Peter pointed out more and more similar land forms and I soon began to recognize such forms for myself and point them out to Peter in order to test my understanding of that which he was explaining to me.

I soon found it a breeze, although Peter stressed that before I went ahead and made any earthworks it was essential that I used correct contour surveying tools to make sure I worked exactly on the contour as even a minor deviation from the contour would cause an undesired effect and even erosion.

The focus of the site that we visited on my farm is a salt scald and we soon made our way up to the edge of this highly degraded area. It is an area totally devoid of vegetation, covered in a white crust of salt crystal and seeming to be perfectly level apart from an eroded channel meandering through the middle some 15 to 20 cm deeper than the flat. It is in essence a drain some 70 m wide and 400 m long.

On the south side there are what I call bull rushes (Juncus acutus) grow where fresh groundwater seeps from the side of a bank rising gradually between 100cm and 150 cm up from the scald to the height of the surrounding sandy paddock which continues to rise gently in all directions from the salt scald to the key line or ridge some 1000m to 2000m distant at an elevation some 50 to 80 m above the scald.

The soil at the level of the scald is moist tight dark clay, some rocks do show, they are not larger than a basket ball and they are isolated and rare. At the northern edge of the scald some gravel earth areas are present.

It is clear that the sandy paddock surrounding is laying on an impermeable layer of gravel/clay Which roughly follows the surface topography at a depth. Precipitation recharge soaks very quickly into the non wetting white sand and moves at a depth along the impermeable layer down the slope until reaching the low point in the landscape which is the salt scald.

At this point there is no sand covering the impermeable layer and the ground water under the pressure of the upslope ground water breaks out at the side of the scald. At this point it is fresh and Juncus acutus grow. Slightly lower in the scald itself the ground water lies exposed to the surface and evaporates leaving the concentrated sodium to crystallize.

At the highpoint of the scald is an old tank stand beside a pioneer soak. The soak is a depression dug by man into the level of the groundwater. It is about 300cm deep and half full of red highly saline water. Some 150 m away and slightly higher in elevation is another, larger soak, it is also about half full but the water is a greenish colour and is fresh enough for dry ewes and weathers to drink comfortably.

At the low point of the scald it narrows to resemble a channel some 20 cm deep and Juncus acutus grow and increasing density until it disappears altogether into an area of Juncus acutus nearly half the size of the scald itself.

Peter took one look at this salt scald and declared, this will be your most productive country in one year if you undertake this project.

I drove our vehicle onto the firm moist surface of the scald and Peter asked me to stop. He gestured with a sweep of his arm and described the actions I should take thus, create an impediment to the flow of the surface water on this scald at a diagonal to the flow. Start at the top elevation just below the salty pioneer soak and cause the water to bank up behind the impediment and move to the edge of the scald and into the bank or raised land beyond the edge of the soak. At this point create a reservoir with an overflow. Create another bank to catch this overflow and take the flow directly back to the opposite edge of the scald where another reservoir with an overflow should be situated, continue this pattern in a zig zag fashion the full length of the scald.

In the areas between the banks deposit as much biodegradable material as you can get your hands on, with manure being most desirable and quickest to degrade and hay as well, being slower to degrade and more protective from the sun and wind.

Into this plant a grass crop during the winter and millet or sorghum over the summer. Anything that will produce a lush crop will be fine as long as you achieve a saleable product.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Damming material

Post by Ian James » Tue Apr 07, 2009 8:42 am

Last Friday as we drove home from Perth, my wife Jodi commented to me on the railway works taking place along side the Great Eastern Highway.

This is the main rout between Perth and Sydney and also Kalgoorlie. We use it to drive to Perth and we get a good look at any work happening on the road, pipeline and rail during our frequent trips to and fro.

We had noticed that the rail sleepers were being replaced in the section adjacent to our farm. The sleepers seem to be placed at intervals of about two to a meter. In other words, there are thousands and thousands stockpiled along the way.

Jodi said “why don't you ring up and tell those workers that they can dump those sleepers on our farm?"

I looked at her with disdain. "Keh??"

"You can lay them in the creek and use them to form the ponds you want to build" she sail matter of factly " they will probably be wondering how to deal with such a huge number of those things and they would be perfect for what you want to do."

Of course, she was right again. The simplicity and practicality of the idea astounded me. Of course they would be wondering what to do with all those sleepers, the freight alone to move them would be enormous.

As soon as I got home I was on the phone, it took three calls and I was talking to the local area manager, I could have 2000 for nothing, available next year but I would have to pick them up and load them myself.

They weigh 3 to the tonne or 75 to the semi trailer load. There are 10 000 stockpiled 40 km east at Tammin and if I want more I can talk to the man there to make an arrangement,

No problem. Done deal!

This problem of finding enough material was a huge roadblock to my building more ponds on my creek. The surrounding earth is basically sand and the areas of gravel and rock would all be turned into quarry.

The last thing I wanted was to dig big ugly holes all over my farm mining materials to put in my creek. This is the main reason I have not built any further ponds. I estimate that I will need three to the Km and I have around 7 Km of this particular creek through my property for starters.

On with the job.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Post by Ian James » Fri Apr 17, 2009 11:15 pm

Hi, it is an interesting idea to merge NSF with carbon sequestration and carbon trading schemes.

Today I had a visit from two girls who represented "Men of the Trees".

I invited them since I had received an e-mail from one of them informing me that they had 200 000 un-allocated trees available for planting this August.

They had become aware of our Avon Catchment Natural Sequence Association through the publicity we received last week when Peter visited our catchment as a Key note speaker at the Earth Solutions Expo held here in the Avon.

They contacted me, as the president, through Duane to explore the possible interest from within our association for the planting of these trees.

This is what I learnt.

Men of the trees is a not for profit organisation which has been functioning for the last 30 years.

The primary goal of the group is to assist in the restoration of the environment through the planting of trees.

The group through funding supplied by "Big Business" and with the help of volunteer helping hands have played a large role in the environmental work done but have struggled to make a fundamental impact on slowing the continuing degradation of farm land across Western Australia.

Three years ago though, with the rise of the "Carbon Credit" economy/ debate, a few lateral thinkers devised an off shoot to Men of the Trees which is called "Carbon Neutral".

Through "Carbon Neutral" companies that will possibly factor heavily in any future carbon trading/credit scheme are encouraged to invest funds to be managed by Carbon Neutral where trees are planted by Men of the trees and are carefully planned and organised so that all carbon sequestration taking place in each particular plantation is pooled by Carbon Neutral and allocated to an investor on a funds for carbon basis.

The land holder/manager is not required to do anything other than make his land available and to agree not to destroy the plantation. Stock are free to graze the land after the initial nine month period and the land holder will receive a payment per Ha, based on the amount of carbon that is being sequestered.

The payment is not payed for the first three years but then increases yearly after that until a decade from the date of planting.

There are two basic variety mixes available being oil mallee monoculture or a bio diverse mix with the focus being on local native species with oil mallee as the prominent species of the mix.

The Oil Mallee can be harvested after five years without affecting scheduled payments to the land holder with all income from the harvest being available 100% to the land holder.

Oil Mallee can recover from the harvest procedure completely and are available for harvest every five years for the life of the plantation.

As a result of the meeting on my farm today it has been decided to continue with the paperwork to enable the 200 000 available trees to be planted at no cost to myself this year as a part of Avon Catchment NSA demonstration on my farm.

Angela Helleren
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat May 19, 2007 6:45 am
Location: Victoria

Post by Angela Helleren » Sun Apr 19, 2009 7:12 am

It's always interesting to read your reports Ian. Sounds like you will be very busy over the next year designing the landscape for 200,000 trees and all those wonderful sleepers headed your way. Brilliant lateral thinking Jodie!

If my memory serves me right, my brother and his wife planted 500 trees on their property about 5 years ago through the LandCare programme but only the seedlings were supplied, the hard work was left to them.

I recently took up the hobby of metal detecting, so the thought of 200,000 holes dug by volunteers sounds like MD heaven. :D On my last visit to my brothers farm, I managed to find a fencing tool that my brother had lost, a few old coins from the late 40's ( the property was once under the soldier settlers programme) and numerous bits of old fencing wire etc .
You never know what may lay just beneath the surface but it's fun finding out! Even better when all that's needed (you, Jodie or the kids?) is a quick sweep with a MD while supervising the digging.
Ian, you did say your property is enroute to Kalgoorlie... :wink: :D
Many hands make light work.
Unfortunately, too many hands stirring anti clockwise, has spoiled mother natures recipe.
Back to basics.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Breaking rains!

Post by Ian James » Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:52 pm

That’s right Angela, we are on the road to Kalgoorlie, but if there's one thing I've learnt, it's "not all that glitters is gold"....sometimes its shiny green leaves!

We had a deep trough running north to south right along the coast of Western Australia on Saturday, as it moved eastwards and inland it combined with mid level turbulence and some small localised heavy falls resulted.

Half of my farm received a good 25 ml during a twenty minute downpour.
I spent the time with my two sons and their grandfather desperately trying to cover our neighbours recently received pile of fertiliser.
Fertiliser does not like being wet. It becomes sticky and clumpy and will not flow at all well. Normally it will coagulate and lodge in the seeding equipment blocking the flow and causing great heartache to the poor operator who has the unfortunate job of working with it.

It can dry our if left undisturbed in the hot sun for a week or two but at this time of the year the chances are that another rain during the drying period will create further havoc.

If the farmer is lucky enough that the fertiliser does dry out enough to be used he is faced then with the problem of rock hard lumps of fertiliser that form during drying blocking the seeding implement.

So it's not a happy story for my neighbour just now, fertiliser is expensive and I estimate that he had around $40 000 worth wet before we had it covered.

It could have been worse; I think we received only 10% of the downpour before we had the cover over.

On the flipside, to receive a rain like that at this time of the year is the sort of start to the season every farmer dreams of, so the lucky farmers in my area who did get around the 20ml mark are all busting their boilers just now to get some early seed in the ground.

There is a risk at this time of the year that we may get what is called a false start. This is what we all dread and just means that a chance thunder storm like this one is not the start of winter at all and for the crops that we plant to survive we will need either another lucky thunderstorm or the real break of the winter season within the next three weeks or else the planted crops will suffer severe stress from which they will not recover.

Chances are though at this time of the year that we will get more rain, so it’s a gamble but the odds are in our favour. If we do get more rain the early crops will easily out yield the later sown crops.

Just looking at the four day forecast and there are good rains predicted for Tuesday and possibly Wednesday morning which is just beaut!

So the plan for the morning is to get a seeding machine going, whatever it takes and keep going until it starts to get dry. That would be Wednesday night or so if we don't get any more rain but could extend until next Sunday if we get more on Tuesday and Wednesday as predicted.

So this is it, we are away....wish me luck.

Angela Helleren
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat May 19, 2007 6:45 am
Location: Victoria

Post by Angela Helleren » Mon Apr 20, 2009 6:09 am

Ian wrote - but if there's one thing I've learnt, it's "not all that glitters is gold"....sometimes its shiny green leaves!

:D You'll get no argument from me on that statement!

Ian, I'm sure your neighbour was very grateful for the extra hands provided to cover his fertiliser. Which reminded me of this previous post from you last year..

http://www.naturalsequencefarming.com/f ... .php?t=324

Are you still using the worm pee and have you started a worm farm of your own?

Good luck!!!
Many hands make light work.
Unfortunately, too many hands stirring anti clockwise, has spoiled mother natures recipe.
Back to basics.

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Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:44 pm
Location: Central Coast, NSW

Post by duane » Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:38 am

Here is a brief report on Peter's recent visit to the Avon in WA. It was written by Caroline Barr, Avon NSA Committee.

Earth Solutions Expo 2009:
Peter Andrews Natural Sequence Farming Presentation

When West Australians heard Peter Andrews would be visiting the Wheatbelt towns of Quairading, Meckering, Beacon and Northam - culminating in a presentation at Earth Solutions Expo in Northam on 29th March, their interest - and no doubt their amazement that we had a speaker of such calibre – ensured a great response. People attended from as far away as Geraldton and Esperance and many places in between.
Peter is a knowledgeable presenter; who communicates with his audience in a crowd pleasing ‘down to earth’ manner. He drew a capacity audience at the Expo, which reflected the interest there is in ways to return the land to a healthier state.
(We had to smile as quite a lot of people made them selves comfortable in the speakers’ venue, and listened to the previous speaker to ensure a seat for Peter’s talk!)
After his presentation Peter was in still demand, and his popularity was further confirmed by the sale of his two books and the DVDs produced by the national body a couple of years ago.
Ian James, President, Avon Catchment Natural Sequence Association Inc, and his wife Jodi, set up a display informing the public of the Avon group - and signed up 12 new memberships on the day!
The Committee of the Earth Solutions Expo would like to thank Peter for making the effort to come to WA and present at the Expo; and to thank Belle Moore for her role in coordinating Peter’s trip. Thanks also go to Helen Parker and her partner Doug Albrecht, for providing accommodation for Peter whilst he was in Northam.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Post by Ian James » Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:51 am

well I am happy to report that since my last post we have been very busy seeding our crop.

On Sunday evening at around 6:30 PM I steered my tractor away from the centre of my last paddock down the corner to the edge where my Ute and my dogs waited patiently for me.


We have been lucky with the rains.

A heavy sudden shower on April 18 allowed me to sow around 150 Ha of canola.

Following this an extended dry spell stretched out to May 18.... 4 long weeks, a false break.

Some of my canola germinated and grew well but the majority failed to germinate until the May 18 rain. That which did germinate began to suffer severe moisture stress and soon after the second rain began to run a flower stem up as the remaining canola began to germinate about.

This second rain of 30 mm over three days was an excellent if belated drop and without delay we sowed the remaining area of canola and some lupins.

May was warm, very warm in fact and following hot on the heels of the warmest April since records began in WA was not only the warmest May on record but until the rain of the 18th was also the driest to boot.

In these conditions the ground dried with remarkable speed and ditching my plans to sow my oat crop prior to sowing my wheat crop and with growing alarm at the rapidly receding moisture I began to sow wheat on my soils of higher clay content in an effort to penetrate the hardening surface and achieve germination while I still could.

As it turned out, it was the right thing to do because to date, we have not received any further germinating rains and after sowing the "heavy" country to wheat we went back to plan "A" and sowed the oats on the lighter soils before resuming wheat and finishing up on wheat just on Sunday.

The heavy country has all germinated very well and the canola is all up but very, very thirsty to be sure.

For now the oats are not germinating and nor is the later sown wheat.....like me, they wait for rain.

The forecast is for rain on Thursday and it looks good. Hopefully not like last week when 20 mm was predicted for Thursday but only 2 mm received.

Deflating, but hope exists.

I think this time we will get it though, it looks better.... sort of...

So what about NSF?

Well I have made some changes to my normal practices which I will now explain.

Fungi are definitely the microbe of the moment as expressed by Shirley in a recent post.

Over the last year I have, through my research become more and more aware of the vital processes that fungi plays in creating soil fertility.

So much so that this year I have reduced my usual crop chemical fertiliser application more than 40%.

As fertiliser prices have become very restrictive this reduction have freed up a massive amount of capital.

Of this capital I have invested 10% into biological farming practices and inputs designed specifically to increase my Soil Organic matter (SOM) and Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) content along with other important elements such as calcium, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen through the promotion of microbe activity and more specifically through fungal activity.

SOM (Soil Organic Matter) is often reported in soil analysis reports as the percentage of SOC (Soil Organic Carbon) present in the soil sample.

CSIRO have identified four biologically significant types of SOC, the most important form of which is Humus.

Humus plays a significant role in the sequestration of atmospheric Carbon into a stable form within the soil and also in all other key soil functions, in particular the provision of nutrients for utilisation by plant and microbes.

I have learnt that by the application of chemical fertilisers as practiced by the very large majority of farmers, not only in Australia we are creating in the soil an environment which is heavily biased towards the stimulation of rapid growth of bacterial populations within the soil to the detriment of the ambient fungi population.

The result of this imbalance is that instead of the job of decomposition of crop residues and other SOM being shared at the desired health ratio of 50/50 between both fungi and bactii it becomes more like 90/10 in favour of bactii.

So what? You may well ask...

The what is that bactii, when decomposing SOM allow the release of 500% more N into the atmosphere than do fungi.

I must apologise here for my very insufficient understanding and ability to accurately describe the processes in action but suffice to say the goal is to strongly promote the fixing of Carbon into the soil in a stable form in an effort to reverse the loss of SOC (Soil Organic Carbon) which has been accelerated by conventional farming techniques over the last 50 years that has resulted in the loss of 60% of SOC in the top 10cm of soil.
(Dalal et al, 2001)
From 2.75% in 1925 to 1.56 in 1993 as shown at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute in South Australia in a permanent rotation trial. (Grace et al, 1995)

A 40% saving on fertilisers, 90% of this into my bank accounts, 10% into biologic farming inputs.

Of this some used to purchase a seed dressing applied to all my grain seeds.

This is a fungal inoculant and fungi promotional food source as well as microbe stimulating enzymes utilised to kick-start out of dormancy remnant microbial populations already present in my soils.

Some to purchase soluble humate (humic acid) which is a strong stimulant of soil fungi growth which I mixed with my now reduced fertiliser. .

I am also spraying a solution of fungal inoculants and fungi food and stimulants on all my crop residues post harvest to aid in rapid biodegradation of plant materials and residues.

On top of this I am mixing with any necessary herbicide crop treatments a solution of fulvic acid which is aimed at assisting the fungi population, which is unfortunately severely decimated following any herbicide/pesticide treatment, to rebound rapidly to pre-application levels so that the beneficial effects of a healthy fungi population is quickly resumed.

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Post by duane » Tue Jun 16, 2009 8:39 am


I am interested to hear if you may have engaged Dr.Maarten Stapper and LawrieCO?
Sounds very much like what they are doing for croppers like yourself.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Post by Ian James » Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:35 am

Absolutely, yes.

I am trialling many different interesting approaches to improving the sustainability of my farming methods.

As Peter points out in his book, the richness of diversity in any system is the most important precursor towards its success.

From this I take it that the success is achieved through the laws of probability. To be precise the answer is most likely to be either an amalgamation of the many or possibly the ascension of one above the many.

Whatever that means......?

The fact is, instead of taking a guess at which of the many conflicting opinions of the experts is the correct method that suits my unique situation, I am making an effort to study the facts and reason behind each method, I am searching for consensus, I am trialling their products and their theories, I am searching for faults, questioning their reason and learning as I go.

As far as I see it, the results will speak for themselves.

I am happy to share my experiences with anyone who can be bothered to follow along as I go.

I have a feeling that Dr Stapper and Adrian Lawrie
are making excellent progress into the wind.

Time will tell.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Soil Carbon

Post by Ian James » Wed Jun 17, 2009 10:04 am

Over the years I have had many visits from men in company jackets espousing to me the qualities of the products they were selling.

With a superior air they made me feel like an ignorant as they produced pie charts and bar graphs and numbers with lists of parts per million and described to me how many kilograms and units of each element contained in their products I was expected to buy and spread over my land.

I was never comfortable with the explanations I heard and the answers given to my questions never seemed to quite hit the mark.

If ever I found a contradiction in the theories and tried to dig a little deeper for an answer which might clear the contradiction or shed light on my scant understanding I often received a broad general reply and a laugh leaving me mute for fear of being the butt of further jokes.

I leant by rote the old saying of the farmers such as "You'll never go broke putting on too much fertiliser" and "The first sign of going broke is when you cut back on fertiliser to save money"

Later I learnt that many farmers were making a fortune in the rise and rise of Wes farmers share prices which they had received as reward for earlier fertiliser purchases.

Not quite farming.

Since reading "Back from the brink" and hearing Peter's story I have begun to question more and more the reasoning behind the methods which have been handed down by the land managers of the past.

Modern farmers have made huge changes to farming practices over the last three decades since I first drove a tractor around a paddock as a boy.

Things are bigger, for sure, the land is tilled less by far but essentially, things are exactly the same, on closer examination nothing has really changed, nothing that is, where it really matters.

I don't promote change for changes sake. I do promote change where catastrophe and damage is the result of current practice.

We all see the situation on the land; no one argues that the land is not in terrible shape. The condition in which we now find the soils and landscapes of modern agricultural Australia is a direct result of the land management practices that have been and are still being carried out by the farmers of Australia.

Change is necessary.

Not just planting trees, not just stopping clearing. We have made those management changes and are acting on them. I am talking about real changes in agricultural management practices. Changes that can affect what we do with our soils and the results of our interaction with the soils which can halt the continuing degradation in progress and steer the rudder toward restoration and improvement.

There are now in circulation within the farming community ideas and theories that have been put into practice and tested with very positive results that are showing restoration and improvement in the soils farmed through the implementation of these changes of management practices

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Post by Ian James » Wed Jun 17, 2009 10:06 pm

Although we all agree that our soils are degraded, it is not this degradation of the soils which are at the forefront of the average broadacre farmer's mind.

Instead it is the more urgent matter of earning a buck to pay the bills, feed the family, send the kids to exorborantly priced schools and to keep the bank manager off the old back.

The biggest threat by far to the bank balance is the lack of rain.

I am sure just about every farmer in the land is by now 100% convinced that climate change is a fact, how could they not be?

No other demographic group has their lives so inexticably entwined with the vagaricies of the weather and climate. No other group is more aware of every drop of precipitation that fails to fall.

It is important for people to be aware that the main result expected from climate change is of more extreme weather events.

Cold periods will be colder. Dry periods drier. Hot periods hotter, light rain lighter and heavy rain heavier. I first heard about global warming in 1990 during our seeding program while sitting on the tractor I listened to scientists explaining how a greenhouse effect was occuring which according to computer modeling would cause the South Western Agricultural areas of Western Australia to become drier.

At that time our family farm was situated at the extreme edge of what was considered to be the viable broadacre farming rainfall area. Large areas of this district had only been cleared 25 years or so earlier although there were pioneer blocks all around that had been cleared by hand years before.

We had been through a terrible drought in the late 70's lasting about 4 years but since then we had only the odd bad year and a one beauty in particular but mostly reasonable to good yielding years but if there was one thing that I did understand by 1990 it was that if things were going to get drier, the life of struggling farmers was going to get imposibly harder.

It's a huge credit to the ingenuity of Australian farmers that they have been so quick to learn and change their management practices to adapt to the drying climate so that they have not only mangaged to survive but to increase their yields and proffit margins to keep pace with ever increasing input costs while untill recently their produce prices remained stagnant or like wool crashed completly.

It's a huge credit to the ingenuity of Australian farmers that they have been so quick to learn and change their management practices to adapt to the drying climate so that they have not only managed to survive but to increase their yields and profit margins to keep pace with ever increasing input costs while until recently their produce prices remained stagnant or like wool crashed completely.

The truth is that the farmers of Australia are incredibly adaptable and clever, they have to be, this environment is too tough for any that are not to last long. It is folly to think for a minute that our farmers are backward and insular and unwilling to change.

. The opposite is glaringly obvious.

So how did those farmers that were the first to discover the benefits of minimum till farming convince all the other farmers that they were onto something special?

Clearly it was though demonstrating their success.
In fact it was a no brainer.
It doesn't take a mathematician to calculate that the cost of a single application of chemical followed by the seeding operation is cheaper than subjecting a paddock to being disc ploughed (Fallowed) during the fallow year without crop then prior to seeding in the cropping year a tyne cultivation (Scarify) to promote germination of weed seeds and once the weed germination has taken place another ploughing to kill the weeds (Turn back) and then of course the seeding.

Not only was it cheaper but the benefits to the soil were clearly obvious. As farmers began to try the new methods they realised that it was possible to crop year in year out as long as they rotated through different plant types so that pest types growing in one crop were no threat in the following. At first farmers found it necessary to burn the crop residues so that they could plant a second crop the following year without blocking the seeding machines, soon though machines were built that could negotiate the residues and burning became unnecessary.
Last edited by Ian James on Thu Jun 18, 2009 4:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Post by Ian James » Thu Jun 18, 2009 4:49 pm

The point I am working towards is that since chemical has been included in broadacre farming management practices the follow on effect has been a massive reduction in tillage and as a result of this the degradation of agricultural soils has been massively reduced.

Still this system is not completely viable and not completely sustainable and although the rate of soil degradation has seen a massive reduction, degradation of agricultural soils without a shred of doubt continues at an alarming rate.

Now with the realisation that it may be possible to farm successfully without those chemical herbicide and fertiliser inputs it becomes clear that agriculture in broadacre farming systems is quite possibly in the beginning phases of another revolutionary cycle of innovation and adaptation with biology and carbon fixation at the very heart.

On my farm I am working towards finding a profitable system where zero chemical herbicide applications are required and also zero chemical fertiliser applications.

I believe it is possible because I have seen components of the system I envisage working successfully in isolation of each other by innovative farmers here and there and that by taking an idea from here and a method from there and combining them to suit the unique situation which I have here on my farm I can see that there exists a huge opportunity to not only create a far more sustainable farming system but a far more reliable profit margin through reduced input costs to boot.

Not for one second do I expect to turn around tomorrow and cancel my normal order of fertiliser and chemical. What I do hope to do though is to gradually implement carbon fixing methods into my practices while at the same time preserving achieved weed control through crop choices and physical weed seed set control measures such as spring mowing of hay crops and stock bombing of newly mowed crops to control weed regrowth during seed set.

I have already found that by growing an oat hay crop on a dirty paddock and using very sound chemical management practices I can clean a paddock so well that in the second year I can repeat the procedure minus chemicals for a high yielding chemical free high profit hay crop.

By preserving the weed free status of that paddock in the third year with either another hay crop or a legume I then set it up for a high value wheat crop minus chemical, following on from this if the weed status is allowing then possibly a canola crop could be considered.

Every effort is made to limit the possibility of weed seed infestation of the paddock once it has become clean enough to consider a chemical free crop.

Some losses due to higher than normal weed population in crop are off set by savings made from lower input costs and also by greater crop vigour due to reduced in crop chemical damage and greater soil biology health.

Soil biology health and the role that carbon plays in the plant nutrient cycle is an incredibly under appreciated and neglected facet of the current unsustainable modern farming systems.

I hope to soon explain how I believe this particular facet may enable me to gradually reduce my fertiliser inputs to the holy grail of zero.

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