Lime applications compared for profitability

Lime applications compared for profitability

Cropping
LONG-TERM TRIAL: PIRSA sustainable agriculture consultant Claire Dennerley in the Struan trial earlier this season. Photo: MELISSA FRASER

LONG-TERM TRIAL: PIRSA sustainable agriculture consultant Claire Dennerley in the Struan trial earlier this season. Photo: MELISSA FRASER

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IMPROVED soil pH levels, reduced input waste and increased resilience will all be targeted as part of a series of trials conducted in the Upper South East.

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IMPROVED soil pH levels, reduced input waste and increased resilience will all be targeted as part of a series of trials conducted in the Upper South East.

The project is funded through the National Landcare Smart Farming Partnerships, with MacKillop Farm Management Group coordinating the trials at Sherwood and Kybybolite.

The trial will look at the optimum lime application in surface rates and the effectiveness of these in neutralising soil down the profile, as well as how effective this surface application is, compared to incorporating lime in ground and prilled products.

MFMG chief executive officer Meg Bell said sandy soils, such as those found in the Upper SE, had a tendency towards acidity.

"What is constraining production, more so than surface acidity, is sub-surface acidity," she said.

"The top 10 centimetres may have a pH of 5.5, but if you sample further down, it can be a hostile environment for roots. It does effect production substantially in these areas."

The first part of the trial will compare lime application rates, aiming to shift soil pH by 0.6, 1 and 1.4 units through application of 0.7 tonnes a hectare, 'farmer practice' of about 1.9t/ha, and 3t/ha, respectively.

The second part will then compare the effectiveness of incorporating the lime through the soil profile by comparing surface application and cultivated, using a ground lime and a prilled product.

This has been done with three passes of the cultivator after first spreading the lime.

The lime was cultivated to 15cm at the Kybybolite and Sherwood sites.

This application occurred in May and will be tracked across the next three years until June 2022, to monitor the shift in pH and how far it moves into the soil.

This season, the Kybybolite trial site has been sown to Trojan wheat and Sherwood to TT canola.

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Ms Bell said the trial would ensure lime applications could get the timing, rate and location right to have the most benefits.

"We want to improve the precision of where lime is applied and develop more cost-effective ways to rectify subsoil acidity," she said.

Similar trials are being conducted in south east Vic and the Vic Gippsland, in Tas and on Kangaroo Island.

Ms Bell said there was also a further component to this Landcare project, which would help build resilience and give farmers the capacity to make better decisions across many on-farm facets.

She said they would be looking to combine soil water profile details, climate data, commodity prices and other information, with the goal to collating this information in a usable format, such as a phone app.

"We really need accurate data to know when to sow crops," she said.

"Local guys might be able to use information, such as soil moisture, to decide if to take the crop to harvest or cut it early for hay."

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