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Getting serious about soil

The picturesque Endeavour Valley was the scene for some serious soil scrutiny last week as the new Smart Farm Soil Solutions Project got underway at four demonstration sites. 

The two-year Project, being overseen by Cape York Natural Resource Management, will teach farmers soil testing techniques; demonstrate applied land management practices to improve efficiency, production and soil health; and encourage farmers to contribute soil data to relevant national databases.

“It’s all about soil health and getting involved in soil testing,” Cape York NRM Sustainable Industries Officer Natalie James said. “It is a really exciting development for producers here.” 

While the Endeavour Valley is a productive horticultural and grazing region for small farm enterprises, it is geographically isolated and often misses out on such trials compared to other agricultural regions, she explained. 

“So this will be the first smart farms grant in the Endeavour Valley and a big step up in providing dedicated on-ground extension in the soil health area.” 

The Project is part of a national initiative helping farmers deliver more sustainable, productive and profitable food, fibre and forestry business, while protecting Australia’s biodiversity and improving the condition of natural resources.

As well as being a hub for testing and learning, the demonstration sites will also build on the Endeavour Productivity Network (EPN) which Cape York NRM helped establish over the past two years to connect farmers in the region and share knowledge. 

The trials are being led by consultant agronomist Dr David Hall, working with Nat, who have begun meeting with the farmers, advised on set-up requirements and taken some initial soil samples. 

Methods such as fertigation (where fertilizer is applied through irrigation) will be applied to improve costs and productivity; and field days and workshops will train producers in methods of measuring, collecting and interpreting soil samples, as well as examining soil diseases and fruit quality. 

“At the end of the Project we want to develop a best practice guide for improving soil health and productivity in Endeavour Valley, build knowledge and understand the challenges we face with soils in the region,” Nat said.

This project is supported by the National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants - an Australian Government Initiative.

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