The purpose of this guide is to help growers and agronomists interpret conventional ‘chemical’ soil tests and identify soil chemical constraints for commercial vegetable production in Australia.
This resource can be used to guide site specific decisions on nutrition management. It does NOT provide prescriptive information on how much of a certain nutrient or fertiliser to apply to various vegetable crops. A recipe approach is not recommended because results in crop performance would be unreliable.
A soil test, combined with a visual soil assessment, and knowledge about paddock history and production plans, provides a sound basis for a nutrition program. A conventional soil test can provide some information about biological and physical soil properties. While a complete soil condition assessment covers physical, biological and chemical soil properties of the topsoil and subsoil.
Join Dr Kelvin Montagu (AHR) and Dr Shane Powell (University of Tasmania) for a webinar on the impacts of cover crops on soil biology where we consider the questions:
• How diverse are biological communities in vegetable soils?
• Do we see differences between sites (Tasmania to Queensland)?
• Do cover crops impact on the microbial communities?
• How do soil properties and management impact on the microbial community?
• What impact do biofumigants have on the soil microbial community?
Most good crop management practices begin with the soil. Enhancing natural populations of beneficial soil organisms can aid in the growth and establishment of crops, as well as improve soil health and sustainability.
Sodicity is different to salinity, but it can still have a negative impact on soil structure and crop growth.
This fact sheet explains what sodicity is and how it differs to salinity; how to identify sodicity in soils and its impact on soil and crops, as well as management options.
Earthworms are known to be an indicator of healthy soil function, with the ability to improve soil structure and fertility as well as promote root and plant growth.
Soil sampling and testing is usually done prior to planting a crop; specific in-crop testing can be useful e.g. testing for available nitrate and ammonium.
A soil test report is only as good as the care taken in sampling. Tools and equipment should be cleaned prior to collecting each sample. Completing labels and writing on bags or containers before going out to the field can save some time and confusion.
Read this fact sheet for guidance on how to take soil samples correctly and obtain reliable information on the nutrient status of your soil.
A factsheet describing the benefits of recycled organics and how they can be used on vegetable farms.
A case study of a yield improvement after applying recycled organics on a Sydeny spinach farm.
Recycled organics (compost) is a commercially viable source of composted organic matter that does not contain animal manures, and is now being used successfully on vegetable farms in NSW.
Rob Niccol from Australian Native Landscapes and Dr Kelvin Montagu from AHR discuss the value proposition of recycled organics and explain how the compost can be successfully integrated into vegetable farming in Australia.
This project is supported by the NSW Environment Protection Authority as part of Waste Less, Recycle More, funded from the waste levy.
Dr Kelvin Montagu demonstrates the erosion control benefits of strip-tillage in vegetable production.
Labile carbon is the carbon most readily available as a carbon and energy source to microorganisms.
Read this fact sheet to find out more about labile carbon and its use as a 'leading indicator' of soil health, as well as undertaking your own labile carbon field test to see for yourself.
The Soils Network of Knowledge (SNoK) faciliatated a webinar on replicated small plot field experiments with Steve Morris from NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Watch this webianr to find out more about the complexities of field research design and the logical case for undertaking field research in a structured manner.
This guide summarises useful information developed by the Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection (ICP) Phase 1 projects from 2014-2017, and where to find it. These resources are relevant to all major vegetable growing regions in Australia. The resources developed includes fact sheets (51), case studies (12), videos and apps (36), e-newsletters (32 editions), as well as demonstration site information. The main topics covered by these resources include crop management, pest and disease management, and soil, nutrition and compost.
All the resources in this guide can be found on this project website.
Six years ago, Rob Hinrichsen and his team at Kalfresh decided to focus on four key practices – controlled traffic, cover crops, soil biology and compost – to improve the soil health across their farms. The main drivers were to improve crop yield and quality, as well as the sustainability of the business.
Rob’s emphasis on softer tillage, boosting organic matter with compost and cover crops has helped the soil recover and support a healthy population of beneficial soil organisms. Rob supplements the naturally occurring biology by using specific beneficial organisms to improve the robustness of his farming system.
This case study provides insights into some of the main changes involving controlled traffic, cover crops and compost at the Kalfresh demonstration site in Queensland.
Learn more about soil biological, chemical and physical fertility, as well as access the Soils are Alive tool - the complete soil health reference for farmers, consultants and researchers.
This presentation provides a great overview of the role of phosphorus in soil biology by Dr Cassandra Schefe, from Monash University and Schefe Consulting.
Members of the Soil Wealth and ICP team were recently interviewed for the Potatoes Australia magazine. The key message? Many of the soil health and plant protection practices relevant to vegetables, also apply to potatoes.
Click through to read the article.
The Vegetable SOILpak manual was developed by NSW Department of Primary Industries to provide soil information relevant to irrigated vegetable production in New South Wales. The manual aims to provide decision support for landholders and advisers, helping to maintain or improve productivity over both the short and long term.
Read this excellent summary of some common tools for managing soil health in cropping/mixed enterprises in Tasmania. Generally, the more tools you can use, the better!
This poster was prepared by Adrian James, NRM North, with contributions by Bill Cotching, Doris Blaesing, Greg Gibson and John McPhee.
The farm walk on cover crops by Kelvin Montagu was streamed by Good Fruit and Vegetables and can be viewied here.
Hear from Rob Hinrichsen of Kalfresh in QLD about using controlled traffic in commercial vegetable production systems.
This video captures Rob's experiences with the technology achieving 'growing zones' and 'driving zones', the benefits of reduced tillage down from 11-12 passes to 2-3 passes, the costs of transitioning the cultivation system, as well as how the business piloted the technology before making the big change.
The Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection projects provide R&D extension services, products and communication on improved soil management and plant health to the Australian vegetable industry.
From 2014 to 2017, RMCG and AHR have delivered the projects for Horticulture Innovation Australia. Phase 1 of the projects have now been completed. So, what’s been achieved?
Soil health refers to the fitness of the soil to achieve its potential, within natural or managed limitations, and be productive under
the intended land use. Healthy soils have physical, chemical and biological properties that sustain biological functioning, maintain environmental quality and promote plant, animal and human health.
This practical fact sheet outlines the importance of healthy soil, its characteristics and how to get there, as well as the main soil health issues and potential solutions.
The Soils in Schools program started in 2015, the UN declared International Year of Soils. It is an initiative of Soil Science Australia.
This programs vision is to communicate and educate school children on the relevance of soils in everyday life and to encourage a wider interest in our soil resources.
Maintaining or increasing soil carbon makes good sense – for the environment and for soil productivity. While climate scientists talk about soil carbon, you will know it better as soil organic matter. And the productivity benefits of soil organic matter are legendary:
• Providing a slow release supply of nutrients
• Improving cation exchange capacity and nutrient- holding ability
• Buffering against soil acidity
• Improving soil structure and aggregate stability
• Improving soil water holding capacity
• Reducing erosion risk.
This fact sheet summaries the opportunities and management options for mitigating or sequestering soil carbon in vegetable soils.
A healthy topsoil is a great asset to have, as this layer of soil contains the highest concentration of organic matter, micro-organisms, nutrients and biological activity. Lost topsoil can’t be replaced in a human’s lifespan. Therefore erosion, probably the biggest culprit in the loss of topsoil, should be effectively managed.
This fact sheet provides essential information on managing soil erosion, including reducing the impact of wind and water. The easy to read publication also guides decision-making on managing your irrigation system, controlling run-off water, covering exposed soil areas, improving soil structure and increasing cohesion between soil particles.
Vegetable pathologist, Dr Len Tesoriero and AHRs Dr Kelvin Montagu, recently presented a highly successful webinar on how to manage the soil borne disease Pythium in vegetable crops.
The webinar was recorded, and is now available as a YouTube video. You can click on the link below to watch the full Webinar. You can also download the presentation and follow the link to an ICP factsheet on how to manage soil borne disease in vegetable crops.
The Soil Wealth and ICP project team set up a “cover crop” trial there as a real farm demonstration to help growers adopt sustainable practices, and, importantly, improve their bottom line. The trial, near Cowra, in the Central West region of NSW.
All the cover crops resulted in higher yields than the fallow control. The highest yields in this trial were obtained with clover (+48%) and field peas (+36%), but ryegrass alone and compost were also effective in increasing yields compared to bare fallow.
Hear from Tasmanian lettuce grower Colin Houston about the exciting demonstrations being run on his new farm aimed at improving profitability and sustainability.
Vegetable growers and advisors discuss how attending a master class has changed the way they manage soilborne diseases and influenced their business.
Part 2 of 5 of a Green Crops and Biofumigation seminar presented by Dale Gies from High Performance Seeds Inc, Washington, USA. Seminar hosted by Serve-Ag Tasmania, February 2015 and broadcast by Soil Wealth.
A summary of the importance of soil, soil science and good soil management from a Victorian perspective.
Missed the Bulmer Farm Walk on 21 May 2015? Catch up on reduced tillage options in vegetables in this video from Jeanette Servers of Good Fruit & Vegetable.
Part 1 of 5 of a Green Crops and Biofumigation seminar presented by Dale Gies from High Performance Seeds Inc, Washington, USA. Seminar hosted by Serve-Ag Tasmania, February 2015 and broadcast by Soil Wealth.
This book is a practical guide to ecological soil management that provides background information as well as details of soil-improving practices. It is meant to give the reader an appreciation of the importance of soil health and to suggest ecologically sound practices that help to develop and maintain healthy soils.
This book by Gary Zimmer, a farmer in the United States, provides support for farmers who would like to reduce chemical inputs and use natural processes within their farming systems.
This publication from ATTRA (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) in the United States provides information on improving disease suppression within soil.
This guide provides a context for soil health by looking at soil ecosystems and how they function, providing simple descriptions of soil organisms likely to be found, guiding understanding of what may be good or bad populations of organisms, and outlining a range of management practices likely to impact both positively and negatively on soil ecosystem function.
Biofumigation is the use of specialised cover crops, which are grown, mulched and incorporated into the soil prior to cropping. High biomass, especially roots, can provide the traditional benefits of green manure crops, and if done right, naturally occurring compounds from the biofumigant plants can suppress soil-borne pests, diseases and weeds.
Sole reliance on fumigants like Metham Sodium often changes soil conditions and reduces inherent disease suppressive soil properties, reinforcing continued reliance on fumigation to deal with soilborne diseases, pests and weeds.
This website contains a series of documents to guide you through the successful prodution of lettuce.
This website contains a series of documents to guide you through the successful prodution of Brassica crops.
A reduced till system on this Cowra vegetable farm delivered soil, cost and crop benefits.
NSW farmers, Ed and James Fagan explain how they developed a reduced tillage vegetable farming operation in Cowra, NSW.
Want to get an good overview of soil biology, then this video is a good place to start.