Brothers Ed and James Fagan run their 1,400-hectare farm on the banks of the Lachlan River near Cowra, NSW.
The Fagans have been involved with the Soil Wealth project since 2014. They have embraced considerable change, with benefits as well as some difficulties along the way.
Mulgowie Farming Company is an Australian owned and operated vegetable grower and packer.
In collaboration with Soil Wealth ICP, Mulgowie trialled strip-tillage combined with their existing cover cropping practices at their Maffra farm, 220km east of Melbourne.
Their primary goal was to use strip-tillage to improve soil health characteristics like water infiltration and water holding capacity, to improve crop health and yield, reduce costs and ultimately improve profitability.
The Three Ryans in Manjimup, Western Australia, first became involved with the Soil Wealth ICP project in 2019 with the goal of improving their soil health by trying cover cropping combined with strip-tillage.
Fast forward three years and, despite some hurdles along the way, the Ryans have adopted the use of cover crops and strip-till more permanently in their operations.
A demonstration site trial was held at Thorndon Park Produce on the Adelaide Plains, South Australia to showcase how the use of compost in commercial vegetable production can improve soil health, reduce the effect of saline irrigation water and decrease the use of inputs.
The compost treatments were found to improve soil health and marketable yield, while better managing salinity issues and reducing inputs such as water, fertiliser and labour costs. Thorndon Park Produce has since expanded its use of compost, trialling pelletised
compost and biological products.
The demonstration site trial identified salinity as a key issue facing vegetable growers in the Adelaide Plains region and facilitated resources to help growers manage the issue, as well as connections for industry members supporting the trial.
Site-specific crop management (SSCM) aims to use data from a range of crop production parameters – measured using new sensing technologies – to determine their impacts on crop yield and spatial variability within fields.
A study, titled 'Understanding spatial variability in potato cropping to improve yield and production efficiency' by The University of Sydney and Simplot Australia Pty Ltd, (Hort Innovation, 2015) evaluated the potential for site-specific crop management to be used within the Tasmanian potato industry. While the study focused on potatoes, the findings are also relevant for other vegetable crops.
This article summaries the findings from that study.
From 2018-2022, the Soil Wealth ICP team has partnered with Schreurs & Sons and Stuart Grigg Ag-Hort Consulting to explore the application of precision agriculture in celery, leek and baby leaf production systems. This case study describes the key findings and lessons learnt at the demonstration site over the last five years.
Since 2011, Soil Wealth ICP demonstration site growers Andrew and Zurri Braham have used an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to control Western Flower Thrips and other key pests in their glasshouse capsicum crops in Virginia, South Australia. Despite challenges along the way, Andrew and Zurri have persevered with their IPM program and now consistently achieve control of pests using this method.
This case study examines the role of phosphorus availability and uptake in a potato crop throughout the growing season. It shares the results of a trial in north-west Tasmania of a new liquid phosphorus fertiliser applied to processing potatoes in P-fixing soils.
From 2018-2021, a demonstration site trial at Harvest Farms in Richmond, Tasmania explored the impact of organic soil amendments on baby leaf crop quality and yield.
Potential benefits were observed from the compost in relation to nutrients (e.g. phosphorus and potassium availability), soil carbon levels and soil moisture holding capacity. However, results should be viewed with care given the trial was not fully replicated.
Our demonstration site in Richmond, southern Tasmania, is hosted by Harvest Farms. In 2018, a trial was established to examine the costs and benefits of quality compost as an organic soil amendment on spinach babyleaf crop yield and quality.
Find out the soil pathogen DNA results from 2020 (year 3 of the trial) in this update. Keep an eye out for a full report on the trial results which will be released shortly.
The vegetable industry has a growing interest in soil health and beneficial soil microbes, including mycorrhizal fungi. While there is a need for practices that help to boost the beneficial fungi in Australian vegetable crops, getting the benefits under commercial field conditions is not easy.
This case study examines why and how vegetable growers can boost beneficial mycorrhizal fungi in their crops. It also shares the results from a trial which looked at the potential of cover crops, together with commercial mycorrhizal inoculants and reduced soil tillage, to increase the beneficial fungi in vegetable crops.
Grower Kim Ngov has sown another cover crop trial on his intense vegetable farm near the southwest outskirts of Sydney (Wedderburn NSW). This time Kim is focused on using cover crops to build soil health, control weeds and eliminate single-use plastic mulch.
Problem weeds such as oxalis and nutgrass could be a thing of the past for vegetable growers following an Australian-first trial of microwave weed control technology at our Koo Wee Rup demonstration site in Victoria. Read this case study to find out more.
Potato cultivars can have quite different water requirements, and knowing how to best manage water for a particular variety can have large yield benefits for growers.
This case study by the Soil Wealth ICP team used the IrriSAT™ and Wildeye™ tools to monitor crop water use of two different potato chipping varieties, Crop 77 and Snowden, at Cowra, NSW. Snowden is a shallow rooted variety and Crop 77 has a larger root system and is able to exploit larger soil volumes.
Being part of a grower group has many benefits. It helps to be on the forefront of new developments in vegetable production and talk to other growers to share successes, challenges and support each other with new ideas.
A group of young growers have joined the Warren Improvement Group in Western Australia to provide a fresh focus on improving vegetable production in the Manjimup region. This case study explains more.
Victoria’s Werribee South vegetable growing region predominately produces brassicas and leafy greens. A relatively high salt concentration in irrigation water, combined with low annual rainfall and naturally sodic soils, presents a range of production challenges for vegetable growers.
A trial at our demonstration site was developed to improve crop resilience and investigate the impact of compost, gypsum and soluble calcium on salinity, sodicity effects on crops and overall soil health in the region. Find out more in this case study.
As part of the Soil Wealth ICP project, a trial has been established at our Harvest Farms demonstration site in Richmond, southern Tasmania, to examine the costs and benefits of organic soil amendments on babyleaf crop yield and quality.
This article shares the latest updates from the trial in 2020.
Cover crops, typically grown during the wet season in the north of the Northern Territory (NT), are an essential part of best practice management where poor soil structure can be further eroded by heavy rainfall.
A demonstration site trial on cover crops for cucurbit growers was developed in 2020 at the Katherine Research Station. This article outlines more information about what was involved in the trial, the initial results and potential next steps.
Read how snow pea grower Kim Ngov found a solution for his weed management challenges using ryegrass as an inter-row cover crop.
The Portelli family has been growing vegetables in the north-western Sydney suburb of Maroota, NSW, for two generations. The farm is situated on a sandy loam that is characterised by low organic matter and low cation-exchange capacity.
The incorporation of recycled organic compost into the Portellis’ cropping schedule yielded a significant improvement in crop performance.
With assistance from the Soil Wealth project team, the Three Ryans, located at Manjimup, WA, decided to try the cover crop + strip till combo to see what benefits there are for their vegetable farm. So, an on-farm strip till demonstration plot was established in a broccoli crop. This has seen cost savings and soil benefits, compared to their conventionally grown broccoli crop.
This case study reflects the results of a large-scale, soil amendment demonstration trial conducted by Center West Export in the Gingin area, about 150 km north of Perth, Western Australia.
A new series of ‘Sustainable Success Stories’ from the South Australian vegetable industry showcase how local leaders are engaging with industry-led programs to overcome farm challenges and improve their sustainability. Take a look at the five case studies below.
Headquartered in Melbourne’s Werribee South region, Fresh Select is one of the largest lettuce and brassica growers in Australia. As a leader in innovation, sustainable farming techniques and responsible practices, the company is also one of the first to trial precision agriculture technologies in vegetables.
This case study explains how the irrigation tool, IrriSAT, combined with soil moisture monitoring, provided important information to the grower about crop water requirements and actual soil moisture levels. This enabled him to manage his crop irrigation to maximise yield and quality.
This NSW case study has shown that IrriSAT satellite images, used to monitor irrigation, can also help potato growers identify soil and irrigation problems across the pivot. Fixing the problems identified in this case study would have increased yield and revenue by between $7,600 and $10,800 under this half pivot.
Over the past two years, Victorian vegetable growing operation Schreurs & Sons and the Soil Wealth ICP team have partnered to explore the application of precision agriculture in celery, leek and baby leaf production systems. The demonstration site is located at Adam Schreurs’ Cora Lynn farm, about 80km south-east of Melbourne, Victoria.
Combining cover crops with strip-till is proving a winner for vegetable soils and crops. In the Cowra Case Study Part I, we detailed cucumber crop benefits. In Part II we dig a bit deeper to look at the soil health benefits from cover crop + roller crimper + strip-till which underpinned the outstanding yield result.
IWM on a Bathurst pumpkin farm: Advantages & drawbacks of ground cover use, tillage and residual herbicides
Grey pumpkins (var. Sampson) were planted the week of 4 November 2019, following strip tillage of terminated ryecorn and conventional tillage (rotary hoe) of terminated oats and vetch cover crop areas respectively. Clomazone herbicide was applied post- sowing pre-emergent (PSPE) at a rate of 0.4 kg a.i./ha and incorporated immediately with 25 mm irrigation water. A small control area was left untreated (no herbicide), both for the strip tilled ryecorn and conventionally tilled oats and vetch cover crop areas. A month post-sowing, most of the conventionally tilled area was inter-row cultivated.
Read this case study to find out more about the trial design, results and key take homes.
The aim of the trial was to demonstrate the effectiveness of mixed species cover crops in cropping rotations, and to find out if using them improves conditions and profitability for potatoes.
Read this case study to find out more about the trial design, results and next steps.
The Soils in Action project was run by AUSVEG SA from early to mid 2019 on the Northern Adelaide Plains. The objective was to establish two demonstration trial sites to showcase compost use in commercial vegetable production to improve soil health and reduce the use of inputs e.g. of fertilisers and irrigation water.
Read this case study to find out more about the trial results and the benefits the two growers realised in a field and greenhouse system.
Cover crops + roller crimper + strip-tillage have proven a winning combination for a partnership between
Mulyan Farms’ Ed Fagan and AHR’s Marc Hinderager from the Soil Wealth ICP project.
Intensive chilli production systems are susceptible to soilborne diseases, such as Sclerotium rolfsii, especially during the summer months.
This summary reports the results from a 2017 field trial that aimed to examine if reducing plant density can reduce soilborne disease incidence and/or improve marketable yields in chilli crops. Spacing can have a substantial effect on relative disease pressure, yield and gross margin.
Schreurs & Sons and the Soil Wealth ICP team have partnered to explore the application of precision agriculture in celery, leek and baby leaf production systems. The demonstration site is located at Adam’s Cora Lynn farm, about 80km south-east of Melbourne.
We're aiming to improve nutrition, irrigation and drainage management, and insect pest and beneficial monitoring as a basis for soil and crop health. To achieve this, we’ve used technology like EM38 mapping, gridded soil sampling, variable rate fertiliser spreading, remote monitoring insect pest and beneficial identification traps with cameras, as well as drones.
Read this case study to find out more about the exciting developments and results over the past 12-months.
Demonstration site report prepared for VG15010 A Multi-faceted approach to soilborne disease management by Francis Tedesco, Center West Exports, Justin Wolfgang, C-Wise, Doris Blaesing, RMCG
A large-scale compost trial was conducted with Center West Export (CWE) and C-Wise in the Gingin area of Western Australia (WA).
This report presents the methodology, key findings and recommendations from the trial, including an in-depth desktop review of the main Pythium species affecting carrots in Australia identified as P. sulcatum (in most cases) and P. violae (in some cases).
Short report by Len Tesoriero and Donna Lucas
A preliminary field trial was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of chemical and biological control treatments for damping off pathogens in spinach. We demonstrated that three fungicide treatments significantly reduced the area of diseased plants within beds, however, they did not significantly increase overall spinach yield compared to untreated controls. This is most likely due to other variables affecting plant growth in the trial area.
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.
The Schreurs family have been farming on the Koo Wee Rup swamps in Gippsland, Victoria since 1963. After noticing a decline in soil condition, resulting in waterlogging and an increase in weed and disease pressure, the Schreurs partnered with the Soil Wealth and ICP team to trial a range of different cover crops to improve the overall quality and productivity of the farm from 2014 to 2017. Schreurs & Sons farm run by Adam, Ben and Chris produces a variety of different products including celery, leeks and baby leaf spinach.
This case study provides an overview and lessons learnt from trialling different cover crops at the demonstration site in Cora Lynn, Victoria.
Growers, Scott and Kent Samwell, have always been using cover crops to rest the soil between brassica plantings and prevent erosion on the hilly land. They mainly planted rye grass and oats, and have been trying new types over the past 4-5 years, including rye grass mixed with legumes. They continue to be interested in investigating further options. This includes rye grass, faba beans, vetch and triticale, and potentially lucerne and rye corn.
This case study presents insights and lessons from trialling different cover crops and IPM at the Eastbrook Vegetable Farms demonstration site in Mt Barker in South Australia.
Reduced tillage can produce similar or better yields than more aggressive conventional tillage. It opens the door to improving soil health.
This case study outlines the pros and cons of reducing the intensity of cultivation in vegetable production systems. It is based on lessons learnt from three demonstration sites conducted as part of the Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection (ICP) projects (2014 – 2016).
This case study outlines the economic considerations when using compost in vegetable production systems. It is based on lessons learned from several Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection (ICP) demonstration sites, during the period 2014 to 2016.
The costs of compost are largely driven by the type and quality of the compost; freight costs depends on distance; and spreading/incorporation costs depend on application rates, type of compost, machinery required, travelling time and the scale of the work.
The benefits will depend on the individual farm as well as the objectives for using compost, for example increase organic matter or prevent be collapse. The main benefits of using compost are increased organic matter, adding nutrients to the soil, increased water holding capacity of the soil, and disease suppression. It is important to consider other practices that may need to change in conjunction with compost application, such as tillage, irrigation and crop protection requirements.
This case study outlines the economic considerations when using cover crops in vegetable production systems. It is based on lessons learned from several Soil Wealth – ICP demonstration sites, during the period 2014 to 2016.
One of the most important considerations is being clear about the purpose of using cover crops in the farm system system as it influences the way you may judge costs and benefits and the timing of these.
The overall benefits will depend on each situation. However, to figure out what works for you on your farm and a specific purpose, talk to others who have used cover crops for a similar purpose / situation; trial cover crops or include a test strip if possible.
This case study provides a unique long-term grower perspective on using compost on a commercial vegetable farm.
Have you ever wondered what the potential benefits to soil and plant health are from using compost? Thinking about using compost? Need to know the questions to ask a supplier of compost?
Learn more from Sam Calameri of Baldivis Farms in Western Australia who started trialling compost on-farm more than 10 years ago.