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Farmers get hands-on with soil testing

You’d never put oil in your car without checking your dipstick, and the same is true with applying fertiliser on farms. Knowing what’s in your soil before you start applying nutrients is vital. Recently, an enthusiastic group of Geographe farmers learnt the ropes on how take their own farm soil samples as a part of the Geographe Soil Testing Program, a project developed to help give landowners a better understanding of the soil nutrients available on their properties.

With beef and dairy grazing contributing the largest source of nutrients entering local waterways, working with farmers to improve nutrient management is critical to the health of Geographe Bay.

GeoCatch has been soil testing in the catchment since 2009 and this year’s program has a record 60 farmers undertaking soil testing on their farms, with many of these nominating to take their own samples on over 5400 hectares of grazing land. Participants got hands-on, trying out the soil testing equipment, determining the best sampling transects for their property and learning the best practice in getting the samples ready for lab analysis.

GeoCatch project officer Jenelle says that the Geographe Soil Testing Program supports farmers to learn more about what is happening with the existing nutrients already available in their soils and identifying any deficiencies that might impact pasture growth. Farmers are also becoming more aware of the financial and environmental cost of fertilisers if they aren’t applied accurately.

“Soil testing is an evidence-based approach to make better fertiliser decisions, and the critical first step in managing nutrients on farm”, says Jenelle.

“It provides farmers with the information they need to confidently adapt their fertiliser application to target what is required, resulting in improved productivity and higher profit margin for the farmer, as well as reduced nutrient loss to waterways”.

The program has been developed and facilitated by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER), and GeoCatch.

This is a part of the State Government’s Healthy Estuaries WA and Revitalising Geographe Waterways programs, and Soil Wise. Soil Wise is funded by the National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants Initiative – an Australian Government program.

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