Farmers and experts shine spotlight on soil as tour puts EP on the map

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Resilient EP tour: Farming systems scientist Roger Lawes and agronomist Quenten Knight inspecting Bruce Heddle’s crop at Minnipa.

Resilient EP tour 3: Roger Lawes, Naomi Scholz, Jake Hull, Jeremy Whish, Rick Llewellyn, Tom Bishop, Bruce Heddle, and Andy Bates discussing challenges for EP farmers at Bruce Heddle’s Minnipa property.

Resilient EP tour 2: Jeremy Whish, Rick Llewellyn, Ross Searle, Tom Bishop and Victor Sadras talking variable soil types with Minnipa farmer Bruce Heddle.


Experts from across Australia engaged with farmers in a first of its kind fact-finding mission to discover ways to increase profitability and sustainability on the Eyre Peninsula.

Soil-related issues were common themes as researchers and advisors took part in a three-day tour from Port Lincoln to Kimba, experiencing first-hand the challenges and opportunities across the region.

Organised by AIR EP as part of the Resilient EP project, the aim of the tour was to identify opportunities to increase productivity in broadacre farming systems, with input from independent experts.

AIR EP Executive Officer Naomi Scholz said local farmers appreciated the opportunity to be engaged in discussions with experts.

“Rather than listening to the experts, our farmers were able to develop connections and pass on knowledge specific to soils and production constraints in our area,” Ms Scholz said.

“We can be quite isolated from a geographical point of view, but this tour really put EP on the map for many industry experts.

“Going forward, we will benefit from making these connections, with EP proving itself as an ideal place to do research.”

Quenten Knight from Agronomy Focus in Western Australia said it was interesting to hear the challenges for farmers across highly variable soil types and rainfall zones, and how the Resilient EP project was addressing them.

“One of the challenges is for farmers to gain better understanding of soil type variation, the physical and chemical constraints, and the appropriate soil amelioration strategies,” Mr Knight said.

“The tour certainly facilitated lots of discussion and cross pollination of ideas, while building new and lasting relationships that will continue to provide knowledge and solutions now and into the future.”

Researchers and advisors were invited on the tour based on their knowledge in particular fields, and included experts from the CSIRO, Sydney University, and South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) to name a few.

They met with local farmers at eight focus sites, and despite the challenge of windy weather, spent time discussing how farmers were addressing soil constraint issues.

This included looking into water holding capacity or ‘bucket size’ and what was available for a plant to access, considering a wide range of constraints such as water repellent sands, low soil organic carbon, high boron levels and low fertility.

While most discussion was focused on soil types and the capacity to increase yields, other themes included the need for a more profitable better adapted legume, and the lack of labour impacting on farming systems.

Ms Scholz said the next step was pulling together the information gathered from the tour, debriefing with participants, and working out how new projects will be developed on the EP.

In related work, AIR EP will be holding two Sandy Soil Masterclasses, with experts addressing topics such as soil constraints, tools and machinery to overcome soil limitations, impacts of treatments, and whole-farm profit/risk factors.

They will be held at Murlong on August 30 and Buckleboo on August 31.

To register, visit the AIR EP website

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