Pingelly workshop to find soil life

Farmer acknowledgement of the importance of soil life appeared to be gaining traction in the Wheatbelt.
A series of workshops have been held around the region to help landholders learn how to examine the soil fauna and mycorrhizal fungi living in their soils.
Professor Lyn Abbott from the UWA Institute of Agriculture collaborated with Wheatbelt NRM and the South West Catchments Council to present the workshops.
Professor Abbott said farmers were becoming more conscious of what impact their farming practices were having on the health of their soils.
“The increasing pressure of poor seasons has made farmers look at alternative ways to improve productivity,” Professor Abbott said.
“Soil fauna are crucial to cycling nutrients from organic matter in soil, and in sustainable farming systems, we want soil biological processes to complement management practices as much as possible.”
Professor Abbott said life in the soil was diverse with many different kinds of organisms including bacteria, fungi, nematodes as well as mites, springtails, ants, insects and earthworms.
She said an on-farm tool kit had been developed with Wheatbelt NRM to help landholders assess the fauna and mycorrhizal fungi in their own soils.
“The tool kit includes methods on how to extract soil fauna and mycorrhizal fungi, and it can be used to monitor the impact agricultural practices and seasonal effects on soil communities,” Professor Abbott said.
Wheatbelt NRM’s Dr Guy Boggs said a manual was now available to farmers to help them make their own equipment to help measure the soil life.
The key thing for us is that farmers have access to easy to use tools so they don’t have to rely on the experts to monitor soil life on their own farm.
“We now have more than 30 farmers from around the Wheatbelt who have contributed soil samples so that we can look at the impact their farming practices are having on soil biology,” Dr Guy Boggs.
“These samples have been sent to CSBP to be tested for standard soil analysis including nutrient, pH and salinity.
“The samples have also been sent to UWA to be tested for the amount of soil fauna and mycorrhizal fungi.
“This will help us to understand what impact farming practices are having on soil life.”
The results were expected in August, with the project funded under the Australian government’s Caring for our Country program.