New product may resolve old problem

Rebecca TriggerCountryman

A product long used to control soil pathogens in horticulture may be a cheap way to tackle non-wetting soils in broadacre crops, a local agricultural research firm believes.

Forrestdale consultancy Bioscience has run five on-farm trials of "Bioprime" on broadacre crops this season, managing director Peter Keating said.

"This product was developed many years ago when historically root diseases were dealt with in horticulture by fumigating the soil with things like bromide," Dr Keating said.

But that caused ozone depletion, and growers were looking for alternatives, he said.

Bioprime is typically used at concentrations of 30 litres to 50 litres per hectare in horticulture, but can be used at two to three-litre concentrations on broadacre crops, he said.

Dr Keating said soil analysis of one trial site indicated Bioprime boosted a particular bacterial group called actinobacteria.

These bacteria are believed to eat the waxes in soil which cause water repellence, he said.

Kojonup farmer Mike Shields applied the product to about 500ha of oats and wheat padd- ocks on his Cheviot Hills farm. He was impressed with the yield, particularly in an oat crop planted in a "sandpit" of a paddock.

"It was one of our worst-performing paddocks," Mr Shields said. "Three years ago it was in oats, and it's never grown a lot of oats ... it's never grown a lot of wheat or canola."

"We used Bioprime after we sowed, and it's been an awesome result."

Root mass was bigger on oat plants that had Bioprime applied, he said.

"The soil's quite non-wetting, but once you get through that layer it's actually quite good soil," Mr Shields said.

He is looking at one of his best seasons, with yields averaging 50 per cent higher than previous years, partly due to good rainfall.

Bioscience launched Bioprime and their soil DNA assay at the Dowerin Machinery Field Days last August.

"We might have stumbled across a new cheap solution to an old problem," DrKeating said.

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