Wheatbelt NRM helps boost soil health

Quairading farmers Bill and Rich Walker believe claying their light, sandy soils on their mixed cropping farm has been well worth the investment.
The brothers are the latest recipients of a Wheatbelt NRM grant, designed to help improve one of their most precious resources – the soil.
The grant is part of the Soil Conservation Incentives Program funded through the Australian government’s Caring for our Country program.
“We have been clay spreading on and off for the past 12 years across our light, sandy and non-wetting gravel soils,” Bill Walker said.
“We’ve already done about 300 hectares with solid results, and if you do it
correctly, you can see improvements in yield of up to 50 per cent.”
Bill and Rich Walker crop wheat, barley, lupins and canola.
They employed contractors to dig a clay pit on the farm and then spread the clay to try and improve the top 25 centimetres of soil.
“The clay is spread out at about 250 tonnes to the hectare and smoothed out with a carry grader and then worked in at least twice with an offset disc,” Bill Walker said.
“With the help of the grant, we’re also trialing two methods of incorporating the clay, techniques known as spading and delving demonstration.
“That really is the issue in this trial, can spading and to a lesser degree delving be incorporated with traditional clay spreading using an offset disc technique.”
Bill Walker said while clay spreading wasn’t a cheap option at about $800 a hectare including the farmer input, the investment had been worthwhile, not just with crop yields.
“We have been able to improve our soils, soil structure and organic matter, cut wind erosion, we have better weed control and better pasture production,” he said.
As part of the Wheatbelt NRM grant, Bill and Rich Walker will trial two systems of clay spreading across 15 hectares.
The trial will then be used as a demonstration site for other farmers looking at options to improve the health of their soils.
Grants are now available of between $5000 and $50,000 through the latest round of the Soil Conservation Incentives Program.
Applicants must demonstrate farm management practices that protect the soil from wind and water erosion, soil acidity and a decline in soil carbon.
For more information contact Wheatbelt NRM on 9690 2250.