AORA SA teamed up with renowned organics farming expert, Tim Marshall to present Understanding Biological Inputs, a one-day workshop aimed at de-mystifying organic inputs and certification and providing up-to-date information on how to evaluate and effectively use a range of biological composts, fertilizers and pesticides to get the best outcomes in farming.
Conventional, biological and organic growers were encouraged to attend from all sectors but as luck would have it, the broad acre farmers were busy making hay! So the growers attending were mainly from the viticulture sector, we also had a few growers from grazing and horticulture.
Tim presented foundational knowledge on biological input farming as well as application methods that farmers could take back and start applying in their farming practice and that the Organics Recycling industry attendees could use in advising farmers and in developing products.
Tim spoke of a holistic approach to understanding soil ecosystems and building soil health focusing the audience right down to how plants and micro-organisms interact beneath the soils to create synergistic exchanges at the root level and consequently healthy soil structure.
He described how pests and various plants interact above the soil surface. Many who attended commended Tim’s presentation which was fascinating, yet his teachings were down to earth and intuitive. Growers also gained practical knowledge and tips on organic certification requirements.
Tim generously provided a Biological Inputs Manual to each attendee for their personal use as an invaluable resource summarising the many points that he made in the workshop. The resources copied onto USB by Tim and provided by AORA SA to each attendee, are an invaluable source of ongoing reference material with over 150 files of information highly relevant to growers grouped under headings based on the key attributes of soil health presented in the workshop. Together, the manual and USB provide invaluable detail and reference which attendees can use to delve deeper into the many facts that Tim presented to equip them with a full understanding of how biological inputs work in synergy, the resulting benefits and how they can be applied.
AORA SA also had Nigel Blieschke from Torbreck host a field visit and speak to the carbon levels in the weakest and strongest parts of his vineyard, his attempt to smooth out soil structure and vigour with variable compost application and how this has seen an improvement in grape quality and ultimately a significant increase in the average value of bottled wine for the business. (we also took the chance to reinforce the recent AMLR Case study featuring Torbreck’s experience).
Nigel’s experience using compost and other biological inputs demonstrated to the farmers present that understanding and improving soil structure, biology and nutrient balance using biological inputs returns wide reaching sustainable farming benefits. These include increased drought resistance and reduced resources for irrigation (water and energy) as well as improved resilience to frost and disease.
Nigel reinforced that this all fitted in with the wider ecosystem approach that Tim presented over the course of the day.
AORA SA also facilitated a visit by Tim Marshall to one of our newest Associate Industry Member Leartek, a chance to gain broad advice on the organic certification process for inputs used in organic farming and for Tim to gain insight into Leartek’s biochar processing operation and products.
Of the 30 attendees, just over half (17) responded to our request to undertake a survey. In summary the survey results demonstrate that attendees gained a better awareness and understanding of soil biology in farming systems and felt better equipped to assess and improve farm soil health using biological inputs. AORA now seeks to engage other growers from the broad-acre cropping, grazing and horticulture sectors of the Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges as well as other regions of Australia, in future events presenting a similar workshop featuring Tim Marshall and tailored to meet the needs of each sector and region.
FACT FROM RESOURCES PROVIDED BY TIM
160,000 litres of extra water is retained and 88,000kg of extra carbon dioxide is sequestered in each hectare of soil for every 1% increase in soil organic matter.
Source Improving Capacity of Organic Producers to Manage Climate Change, Organic Federation of Australia April, 2010
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
Following the event we asked attendees “What is the most compelling message you will take from this workshop and apply as a change to your farm practice and/or tell others?” The responses offer food for thought and will inspire others to also attend workshops and field visit opportunities presented by AORA with Tim Marshall:
“We need to take more care of soil health”.
“Invest in soil health and bio-diversity to get longer term gains in productivity and sustainability”
“In this time of drought healthy soil, and therefore increasing organic matter, is vital to conserving and holding water.”
“Starting the movement locally in a retail sense by showing what a difference biological inputs can have in improving the health of a properties overall system. It all starts in the soil & shows in the livestock if done properly & thoughtfully. It’s teaching people the process & how to implement”
“Organic farming is not as hard as people think and doesn’t mean lower yields”
“That high N (Nitrogen) status of plants attracts insects”
“Chemical fertiliser use reduces soil and plant health”
“foliar applications of compost tea”
“The fascinating relationships and synergies occurring in soils beneath the surface, exchanges between soil fungi and plants.”
Please see the AORA Compost for Soils website for further useful resources.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries have developed a useful Soil Health Card.
Please contact the Australian Organics Recycling Association with any questions or to Book an Understanding Biological Inputs workshop tailored to your needs please contact AORA:
M: 0434 625 472 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
This event was supported by the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges NRM Board through funding from the NRM levy. AORA SA is also pleased to deliver this workshop with in-kind hosting support from the Barossa Grape and Wine Association; and with sponsorship from Jeffries, and Peats Soil and Garden Supplies.