Mid West farmers adopt US soil technique

Bob GarnantCountryman
Northampton farmer Greg Teakle and his son Stuart are trialling regenerative methods to improve soil productivity.
Camera IconNorthampton farmer Greg Teakle and his son Stuart are trialling regenerative methods to improve soil productivity. Credit: Bob Garnant / Countryman

A Mid West farming family is confident about applying a pioneering American farmer’s soil regenerative techniques to improve soil health at their grain-sheep property.

Greg and Jane Teakle, who run a mixed cropping and sheep farm with their sons Stuart and Russell at Northampton, are bullish about renowned North Dakota farmer Gabe Brown’s holistic farming approach.

Mr Brown, author of Dirt To Soil, rose to prominence after releasing his novel in 2018 detailing his journey into regenerative agriculture.

Although Northampton’s soil bears little resemblance to North Dakota’s, Mr Teakle said the US-founded regenerative farming techniques were proving worthwhile.

“We have been following the regenerative agriculture conversations for a while now,” Mr Teakle said.

“While visiting friends in the US, we called in to visit Gabe a couple of years ago.

“I found it interesting that we were already practising six of his soil-farming principles.”

Mr Teakle said these included no-till, maintaining armoured ground cover as soil protection, plant diversity, healthy long living soil roots, a livestock component, including insects, and context (appropriate plant species).

“As far as building soil carbon content, we are tracking sideways, it’s a work in progress,” he said.

“From where we were before (traditional farming) the only real difference has been the addition of plant diversity which has improved our farm’s soil biology with noticeable dreadlocks-root systems.”

While it was only “early days”, Mr Teakle said cropping yields had produced mixed results, with minimal variation so far.

“We are set on increasing diversity and have trialled multi-species crops which continues this season,” he said.

“This part of the world is a long way from having anything remotely in common with North Dakota, however, Gabe’s farming pillars or principles do have serious merit.”

A far-cry from the Mid West of WA in North Dakota, Mr Brown is using his holistic management to mimic nature and improve soil health alongside wife Shelly and their son Paul.

“Improving soil health is a priority and no-till farming has been part of our system since 1993,” Mr Brown said.

“We strive to solve problems in a natural and sustainable way.”

At the Brown family’s ranch, a diverse cropping strategy includes cover and companion crops.

“We have now eliminated the use of synthetic fertilisers, fungicides and pesticides,” Mr Brown said. “We do not use GMOs or glyphosate.”

Mr Brown said the ranch’s ever-evolving grazing strategy allowed the health of the soil and greatly improved mineral and water cycles.

“The results have been increased production, profit and higher-quality of life for us,” he said.

“We are moving towards sustainability, not only us, but future generations as well.”

Mr Brown said he was planning a visit to WA, after previously travelling to the east coast.

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