Graham’s keynote presentation, Managing N and C to maximise farm performance, truly resonated with the audience. Many of the farmers in attendance are already in transition towards sustainable farming while others are not quite there yet.
Nitrogen is the growth element. Plants need it, no doubt about that. In the first half of a plant’s growth cycle, it takes in about 80% of the total nitrogen it needs for the entire cycle.
The ultimate goal is a healthy soil, with a fully functioning soil food web. One of the important steps in achieving this is ensuring the correct diet for the microbes which make up the full food web.
The unique and constant interaction between plant roots, bacteria and fungi creates a fantastic symbiosis. Farmers are able to facilitate or limit this interaction through the practices they implement.
I would hope that by now most farmers have heard that building soil carbon has huge advantages. Both from a productivity and an environmental perspective. How do you go about building soil carbon?
The soil food web represents the diversity of life that lives in the soil. Earthworm counts can be used as an indicator of the diversity of life that is present in the soil.
Carbon is one of the indicators that can be used to test for soil health. Soils with higher soil carbon are usually indicative of healthy soil. Those with low carbon indicate the opposite. Watch this simple demonstration showing how to test for carbon in soil.
Soil carbon helps with moisture retention and can get you through dry periods. Farm management practices should be wired towards sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere!
Did you know that dairy cows can be carbon neutral? Yes, I am talking about greenhouse gas emissions neutral. I know it seems crazy.
These two very simple visual assessments can give farmers an idea of how good the structure of the soil is on their farms. They are also a good demonstration of the benefits of soil carbon and how carbon contributes to well aggregated soil.