Photos show the demand for WA lime

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian
A metre-high lime sand dune was levelled in just a week of mining for the region's farms.
Camera IconA metre-high lime sand dune was levelled in just a week of mining for the region's farms. Credit: Countryman

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures speak volumes about WA's liming success story.

The two photos, taken only a week apart at a lime pit south of Geraldton, show the magnitude of lime being moved from the coast into WA's agricultural zones.

This story is being replicated at numerous lime pits from Perth northwards to Geraldton.

Midwest Sand Supplies owner Doug Wilson said more than 100,000 tonnes of lime had been moved last year from his business alone, and he believed this year would see a similar amount trucked out to agricultural areas.

A former farmer from Eneabba, Mr Wilson said he knew the benefits of liming to WA's acidic soils.

But he said liming had only "taken off" in the past five years.

"We've been doing this for a very long time, 22 years, and we thought it would take off a lot earlier," he said.

"Previously, people had thought that if they were short of money they would drop the lime off the budget, but that attitude seems to have changed."

Department of Agriculture and Food senior research officer Chris Gazey said 1.3 million tonnes of lime was spread across the agricultural area last year and early indications were this number would increase this year.

But he said while it was a positive sign growers understood the importance of lime, there was still a long way to go.

"We are only halfway there, we've got a lot of catching up to do," he said. "The estimated amount of lime that needs to be used is 2.5 million tonnes a year for the next 10 years."

Mr Gazey said liming was important to counteract the impact of farming practices, particularly inefficient use of nitrogen fertilisers.

"I think there is a good understanding and awareness that farmers have acidified their soils, particularly in the sub-surface, but I don't think they necessarily know how much lime they have to use - it's probably more than they estimate," he said.

Mr Gazey said the department had promoted the benefits of liming for more than 20 years and had recently begun a five-year program, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, that would continue to promote the use of lime to manage acidic soils.

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