Wheatbelt NRM was proud to have the opportunity to host the National Soil Advocate the Hon. Dr Penny Wensley AC on a field trip to Masonville Farm in East Brookton with Kane and Paula Page in late September.
Penny, was very impressed with Kane, former soil health champion, and his efforts to regenerate the property from the soil up. Kane took over the management of the property about four years ago and he has been tackling the soil constraints, straight up. Some of the challenges he’s addressing include salinity and non-wetting, highly compacted soils.
He told us that it can be hard taking a step back in production, especially when the neighbouring crop is looking so good, but he is confident that if he regenerates his land he will be back in the game better than ever.
Masonville has been a great opportunity for Kane as the farm presented new challenges from those he experiences on his home farm in Pingelly.
The property was selected as a demonstration farm for the National Landcare funded Optimising Fodder Options in Mixed Farming Systems project giving Kane access to expert pasture and fodder advice. Under the project Kane planted mixed saltbush species into salt scalded lands as well as kikuyu and chicory in marginal cropping paddocks. These plantings have progressed very successfully and in just a few short years improvement in soil fertility and salinity mitigation can be seen in the photographs below showing how bare salt scald that was planted with mixed saltbush species now has green cover.
Kane admits that strict management is the key to success when integrating salt shrubs into your system. He is grateful that the project area, which was non-arable previously, can now be used to support his stock for out of season feed and shelter during lambing.
Kane also took Penny to see another paddock he is working on currently. The paddock is sand over a grey clay that had become highly marginal due to being highly compacted, and non-wetting and sodic.
Firstly he stragically applied a deep rip before sowing a diverse winter species mix, with different root structures, to help increase aerate the soil, break down the compaction and improve water infiltration. The winter species mix he used, consisting of tillage raddish, clover, vetch, cereal rye, oats, black mustard and Peas. At the time of our visit he was about to roll and reseeded with a summer dominant mix of sunflower, millet, sorghum, pillar forage rape and chicory.
He is hoping that this amelioration will set him up to move into a mixed crop/forage of barley and vetch next year.
“Taking the National Soil Advocate to see what Kane is achieving, not only showcases the kind of innovation we see in the Wheatbelt but also the legacy of action that can stem from project based investment. It’s exciting to follow the journey, the successes as well as the failures as farmers strive to improve the productivity and resilience on their soils.” Says Wheatbelt NRM CEO Karl O’Callaghan
Find out more about what Kane is doing in this video here.
Pictured above: Kane's winter cover crop pre rolling and summer sowing.
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Published in Farming in Focus, December 2022