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|Date added||16 July, 2018|
|Category||Case Studies, Sustainable Agriculture|
|Tags||2018 Case Studies, apricots, biological soil testing, nematodes, orchard, stone fruit|
Balingup orchardist David Giumelli is concerned with tree deaths in his apricot orchard. Believing the root cause of these deaths is poor soil health, he is looking for a long-term solution that promotes soil biology and reduces his dependence on chemicals. He has made several changes to his management approach to prevent disease and better accommodate soil biology, including changing the time of pruning, reducing chemicals and applying less fertilisers more often for an overall reduction.
In his drive to improve soil health, David wanted to trial soil products that could add biology to the soil or stimulate existing biology.
The aim of the trial was to assess whether selected soil products were able to improve tree health. During the course of the trial, Dr Graham Stirling was engaged to find out more about the biological status of soils in David’s orchard. His aims were to:
- Assess and the biological status of soils in the apricot orchard, and
- Compare the biological status of soils in tree rows and inter-rows.
Working with the South West Catchments Council, David developed a method of scoring tree health to assess the effect of soil products on 80 trees.
Monitoring suggests that tree health in all treatments, including the control, improved during the trial. However, there was no apparent difference between the control and treatments, suggesting no effect from individual treatments. The trial was unable to detect what caused the improvement in tree health in the control. David has changed several practices since 2015 and these are discussed.
Results from Dr Stirling suggest that soil health in David’s orchard is poor. This conclusion was made by comparing orchard soils to soils under reasonably well managed permanent pasture with the same soil type and climate. Several indicators were used to characterise soil health.
Soil health in inter-rows appears better than in tree-rows. It is recommended that trials should be established to see whether soil health in the tree rows can be improved by under-tree mulching or allowing pasture species to grow under the trees.
The project has convinced the grower of the importance of using multiple tactics to improve soil health. David is now interested in building soil carbon in tree rows by making compost on farm from orchard waste and spreading it beneath trees. He will also look at mulching inter-rows and throwing the mow beneath trees, and possibly creating a more species-diverse inter-row. For him, the story has just begun.