Project Delivery: Warren Catchments Council
Contact: Peter Clifton (SWCC- Bunbury). Ph 9724 2469. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: SWCC Sustainable Agriculture
Start Date: June 2014 End Date: Dec 2017
Site ID: SF17
Size Are Ha: 7
The projects aim is to demonstrate if a range of biological management practices improve soil condition and thus improved sustainable production.
Initially appropriate minerals will be applied to correct soil chemical imbalance – mitigating the effects of deficiencies as well as excesses that inhibit microbiological colonization of the soil. Livestock will control graze 7 hectares of vineyard and orchard for multiple purposes. Baby doll sheep (organic) are tasked with biological mowing of grasses and weeds between vines and inter-rows, cycling their nutrients and stimulating root growth, triggering microbial activity. Free range poultry will run with the sheep in predator-deterrent electric fenced cells, feeding on weevils, grasshoppers, parasites as well as carrying out surface disturbance of sheep manure, incorporating the organic matter – increase soil water and nutrient holding capacity, assist in managing soil acidification and improve buffering capacity. Chicken manure is an ongoing source of nitrogen and phosphorus. Chickens will be housed in a mobile “chicken caravan”. Hence the sheep and chickens serve as an integrated pest and disease management tool. Stock will be offered mineral supplements, including organic apple cider vinegar which is reputed to have numerous health benefits for animals as well as nutrient cycling benefits to soil micro-organisms.
Water will be delivered to mobile troughs and the caravan from a mainline polypipe with couplings at predetermined intervals to accommodate frequent grazing rotations and avoid creating compacted, eroded areas as occur around permanent troughs.
By using measurements of standardized soil testing, physical observations of soil (OM, CEC, bulk density, texture, compaction, infiltration) and biological (food web and earthworm count) it its predicted that there will be an improvement in soil health, condition and structure. These tests will be conducted as a benchmark and in May 2017. Informal assessments of erosion (water), soil structure, root volume, microbiological activity (calico test), earthworm count will done every 3 months. Both tissue testing of seasonal crops and sugar levels of grapes and sugar and starch levels of apple will tested at strategic times to see if there are changes in production levels.
Media release – 18 September 2015
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