Working together to deliver multiple benefit messages to growers through a whole systems approach to soil management

Commencement Date: March 2014

Completion Date: June 2017

Project Case Study: Soil acidity management strategies throughout Western Australia

Funding: GRDC funded. Liebe lead organisation,  in collaboration with West Midlands Group, MIG, Southern Dirt and Aglime.

Project Articles:

PROJECT BACKGROUND

Farmers in the Liebe region have experienced extreme climate volatility over the last 15 years including 3 severe droughts and a number of below average rainfall years. As a response to this farmers are looking to improve their farming system through increasing water and nutrient use efficiencies and developing flexible farming systems. Managing soil acidity in this volatile environment is a key component in improving the system.

As part of Liebe Group’s previous GRDC funded projects, surveys of 60 growers in the Liebe area were conducted. These surveys asked questions around liming including ‘do you lime?’ and ‘how many years ago did you start liming?’ In 2006, 94% farmers surveyed limed, with that number increasing to 100% in 2012. The average number of years since liming was first used is 16 years.

However, when asked what major issues are impacting their farming system, soil acidity is still one of the highest ranked issues. With the uptake of liming 100% but the issue continuing, there is research required to find out what is the best method to overcome soil acidity and barriers to full adoption.

The project team, in consultation with the Rural Cropping Solutions Network, local growers, key researchers and NRM agencies will determine an appropriate development and extension plan to improve soil pH. This may include field trials to provide validation of the economic model against different lime products and rates and will also utilise existing research trials where possible. By utilising existing research trials, the project adds value to previous investments in this field by ensuring continuity of data and extension messages.

To aid in the extension of liming messages, the Liebe Group’s Lime Economic Calculator will be used. The Lime Economic Calculator was a grower driven initiative developed after they had seen trials reporting improvements from liming but had trouble quantifying the return on investment. As a result of long term below average seasons, lime has often been the first input taken off the budget, further compounding both financial and environment problems in the longer term.

Environmental benefits will occur through increasing the soil pH, leading to improved soil health. The improved soil health will result in greater economic benefits compounding the improvements as growers are able to further invest in their soil health. A lack of adoption will result in soil pH continuing to decline.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES:

The project will give growers the knowledge and awareness of tools and information available to manage soil acidity producing the following outcomes:

  • Growers in Western Australia with the capacity to understand and better manage the economic and environmental impacts of acidic soils.
  • Growers to be better equipped through development of new tools and information to make effective adoption decisions to manage soil acidity.
  • Growers maintaining viable farming businesses through optimum management of their systems.
  • Success of the project will be measured by the number of growers and agribusiness reached from the outputs which include case studies, trial reports, articles and workshops.

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