Recently we were given the opportunity to host the National Soil Advocate, Hon. Dr Penny Wensley AC, on a field trip in the Wheatbelt, along with scientists, students and farmers.
The day took us to Masonville Farm in East Brookton where Pingelly farmers, Kane and Paula Page lease the family owned property. For Kane, leasing the property provided him with a great opportunity to trial some different farming systems as the property presents new challenges from those he experiences on his home farm in Pingelly. Four years ago the property was selected as demonstration farm for the National Landcare funded Optimising Fodder Options in Mixed Farming Systems and this provided Kane access to expert pasture and fodder advice.
Under the auspice of the project, Kane planted mixed saltbush species into salt scalded lands as well as kikuyu and chicory in marginal cropping paddocks. The plantings have progressed successfully and in just a few short years improvement is visible in the inter-row groundcover between the saltbush plantings, with bare salt scald being replaced by green cover.
On Kane and Paula’s leased property in East Brookton discussing the mixed fodder plantings.
“Being able to show the National Soil Advocate Kane’s achievements, 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 (and sometimes failures) as farmers strive to improve the productivity and resilience of their soils.” Says Wheatbelt NRM CEO Karl O’Callaghan.
Moving on since the initial opportunity, Kane is now trialling a range of new management strategies including strategic deep ripping and multispecies cropping in areas where he hopes these management techniques will return marginal country into arable cropping. He plans to use companion plantings, such as planting peas into wheat, to help fix nitrogen.
In 2020 Kane’s efforts earned him the “Wheatbelt Soil Health Champion Award” and his work at Masonville is soon to feature in a national case study presentation for the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Paula Page spoiled the visitors with a fabulous outdoor lunch.
Hon. Dr Penny Wensley AC discussing the trials and progress.