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Winners announced for South West NRM’s year-long Pasture Challenge

Olivia FordCountryman
Western Beef Association's Jeisane Accioly (Far left) and South West NRM sustainable agriculture manager Peter Clifton (far right) with the winners of the pasture challenge. Credit: South West NRM South West NRM
Camera IconWestern Beef Association's Jeisane Accioly (Far left) and South West NRM sustainable agriculture manager Peter Clifton (far right) with the winners of the pasture challenge. Credit: South West NRM South West NRM Credit: South West NRM/South West NRM

Two farming groups in WA’s South West have been championed as the best of the best in soil health after the results for a year-long pasture challenge were announced.

About 50 farmers gathered on Valentine’s Day to learn who were South West NRM’s Pasture Challenge champions, an event which saw four groups of farmers pitted against each other to see who could create the best “secret sauce” to overcome soil constraints and increase productivity on a paddock near Busselton.

The four groups in the challenge were the plant biology group (who treated compaction with plants), meat and tatties (who had no soil constraint focus), Soil pH (who applied five tonnes of lime per hectare), and the rippers (deep-ripped and applied 2.5 tonnes of lime per hectare).

The rippers and the soil pH group were announced as joint winners of the challenge because of their good yields, low cost measures, and the low level of diseases and weeds in their areas.

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Both groups also had improved their soil conditions, with the pH group improving top soil health through lifted pH levels, and the rippers improving their soil compaction.

Four groups of farmers came together last year to develop their own agricultural treatments. Credit: South West NRM Supplied
Camera IconFour groups of farmers came together last year to develop their own agricultural treatments. Credit: South West NRM Supplied Credit: Supplied/South West NRM

South West NRM sustainable agriculture manager Peter Clifton said the purpose of the challenge was to promote good practices and bring awareness to the importance of agricultural soil health.

He said underperforming soils cost Australian farmers billions of dollars in lost revenue each year, making the topic of soil research even more important.

“The Pasture Challenge was an innovative way to engage farmers around soil testing and soil test interpretation,” he said.

“We wanted to give them ownership of the project and give them first-hand experience with soil test results that are used to measure and compare the effect of their treatments, which are aimed at improving productivity and soil health.”

Mr Clifton said the Pasture Challenge had helped farmers learn how to understand their soil better, which was critical to sustainable farming.

“Effective long-term monitoring is critical to understanding soil,” he said.

“The logical first step for farmers is to understand their soils better before they take any management actions. Then isolate what soil properties they want to change, and then monitor the effect of their management.”

The challenge was part of the Soil Wise project, funded by the National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants and designed and developed in partnership with Western Beef Association.

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