Eight innovative farmers have been selected as Wheatbelt Champions in a push to highlight the importance of soil health in the region. The farmers were chosen because of their desire to try new or different farming practices. Natural resource management group Wheatbelt NRM helped organise the selection process. The group’s project manager for sustainable agriculture Dr David Grasby said it was part of a bigger program designed to promote sustainable farming practices. “The Soil Conservation Incentive program has been running since 2009 and will finish in 2013,” David Grasby said. “In that time about $4 million dollars will be spent trying to improve the health of soils in the WA Wheatbelt.” Funding for the Soil Conservation Incentive Program has come from the Australian government’s Caring for our Country. “The funding has taken the form of grants for farmers to trial techniques to improve the health of their soils,” David Grasby said. “This has included adding lime to acidic soils, adding clay to non-wetting soils, planting trees for agroforestry and perennial pastures to stabilise sandy soils.” The eight farmers chosen as Wheatbelt Champions, announced at the Dowerin Field Days, will now headline a state soils health conference to be held in the region in March 2013. “What we now want these farmers to do is spread the knowledge they have with their peers,” David Grasby said. Trevor and Renee Syme from Bolgart were selected for their investment into claying on non-wetting soils and fencing off remnant bush land. Gavin Hagboom from Dowerin has been involved in agroforestry and used organic humates to improve the structure of his white, sandy soils. Tom and Donna Henning from Wongan Hills have focused on tree cropping and have planted more than 150,000 trees in the last 10 years. Ray Fulwood and Wendy Porter from Southern Brook were selected for their innovative farming practices including perennial pastures and fodder crops. Nick Kelly from Newdegate has introduced farming systems promoting soil health including growing summer crops (millet) to keep a live root system in the ground. Mario and Lucia Varone from Hyden were engaged in a range of self sufficiency practices including selling live yabbies to exporters, growing fruit, vegetables and olives and poultry. Maitland Davey from Wongan Hills has been using fodder trials of saltbush, legumes and grasses on semi-saline soils. Andrew Pike from Brookton was selected for tackling wind erosion and non-wetting soils through claying, lime spreading and tree planting. Media contact: David Grasby, Wheatbelt NRM, 9670 3100 or 0407 171 832.