Pasture soil constraints exposed

If only growing beef pasture was as simple as sowing ryegrass and clover, adding fertiliser and waiting for rain.

Success is not so simple when you consider that the soil has the power to repel water, restrict root growth, refuse to hold nutrients and render nitrogen-fixing legumes impotent.

Soil constraints are the focus of a new project to be delivered by SWCC in 2019, under the Australian Government’s Smart Farms Small Grants program.

With beef pastures in the high rainfall zone of South West WA impeded by several soil constraints, the project will focus on constraints that cannot be monitored with standard soil tests. These include micronutrient deficiency that is best monitored with tissue tests, ineffective legume nodulation required to fix nitrogen, soil compaction, water repellency and subsoil acidity.

The project plans to characterise the extent of these constraints across 50 paddocks on 25 farms throughout the Coastal Plain and into the Darling Range and provide demonstrations on at least two farms to show how legume nodulation can be improved and how soil compaction in pastures can be addressed.

The information should help farmers to assess the risk that certain constraints may be affecting productivity on their farm and the potential value of monitoring practices such as tissue testing, nodule scoring, subsoil tests, water repellency tests or soil penetration assessment.

An event is being planned for 28 February 2019 to discuss biologically supplied nitrogen and its role in farm sustainability. This will include a discussion about legume varieties suitable for the South West, options for inoculating pasture legumes with effective strains of rhizobia, and factors that can impede nodulation.

For further information about the project or how to be involved, contact Peter Clifton on 9724 2469 or peter.clifton@swccnrm.org.au

To register for the event, go to https://swccnrm.org.au/event/fixing-legumes-and-nitrogen-in-high-rainfall-pastures/

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