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September 2021

Improve soil with a regenerative ag grant
Increasing resilience to drought
Ellen Zibell’s regen ag day
Drought Hub workshop
Grants for Cummins Wanilla Basin drainage
Mixed species provides value
Covering Eastern Eyre bare soils
Seasonal summary
Looking for ideas on managing soil?
More information
September regenerative ag updates

Welcome to the latest edition of Farmers Connect from the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board and facilitators of our Regenerative Agriculture Program, Agriculture Innovation and Research EP (AIR EP).

This newsletter provides a summary of local sustainble agriculture issues and work happening under the Regenerative Agriculture Program which is supported by the Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

AIR EP is busy preparing for a number of upcoming spring events. In between the quarterly Farmers Connect newsletters, keep in touch with the latest events, agricultural information and opportunities via the free AIR EP e-newsletter. Go to the AIR EP website and scroll to the bottom of the page, to subscribe.

And keep an eye out for WoTL events at Poochera, Rudall, Cummins and Cleve. WoTL was successful in this year's Grassroots Grants Program and will host soils workshop or crop walks for women in those areas thanks to two grants.

In this edition of Farmers Connect we highlight our grants program which is still open for applications. If you'd like to try out a new way of improving your soil, have a look and get in touch with us. We also give an overview of some recent events and ongoing projects. 

Improve soil with a regenerative ag grant

Are you interested in trying summer crops, mixed winter crops, improving establishment on dry saline land (magnesia patches) or any other activities to reduce wind erosion risk or increase soil carbon on your place? If so, it would be worth talking to Josh Telfer, our Sustainable Ag Officer, about accessing a small grant to help. Josh can help you with the application process.

Now is also the time to start planning your soil amelioration activities for next year - we have grants for that too if that's something you are interesting in trying on your place.

More information...

Applications now close 5pm on Monday, 11 September 2021.

Increasing resilience to drought

A group of agriculture experts came together at Lock in August to talk about a new Soils for Life project that could bring opportunities for Eyre Peninsula. The aim of the Paddock Labs project is to increase landscape and farmer resilience to drought in cropping, livestock and mixed systems through a farmer-led exploration of innovative practices to improve soil function and plant access to soil water.

Facilitated by David Davenport of Davenport Soil Consulting, the meeting involved Brianna Guidera (PIRSA), Josh Telfer (AIR EP), Kate Taylor (Soils for Life) and Dr Hanabeth Luke from Southern Cross University via Zoom, and eight landholders who have had experience in multi-species/soil modification approaches aiming to improve soil health.

The group discussed different experiences, and thoughts from what they had done, and what they had seen work across the region. There was a good discussion about the role of soil cover in erosion control, nutrient cycling, and also water infiltration; and how these interacted with a multi-species approach. Dr Hanabeth Luke gave some background information on some of the drivers for change, and well as other results from a recent Eyre Peninsula farmer survey.

The group had a discussion about what sort of things they would like to be measuring to assess the ‘health’ of both their soils and also agricultural and farming systems and practices as well. This then lead into a discussion about the opportunities arising from the Paddock Labs project and how this project might be able to get data to start answering/investigating some of these, using already established practices and sites across Eyre Peninsula.

Participants then engaged in a discussion on a potential project which could be designed in the area to showcase practices of interest.

Some of the topics discussed included:

  • Mixed species vs monoculture
  • Utilising solar energy through ground cover
  • Biologically fixed N vs applied synthetic N
  • The use of summer crops as cover
  • Using alternative seed treatments
  • Time of sowing summer crops
  • Using worm castings and vermi-juice as a fertiliser
  • Green manuring
  • Organic matter incorporation
  • Winter and summer crop blends

Based on the feedback from the meeting, activities will be designed for Eyre Peninsula and delivered over the next 12 months. For more information contact David Davenport, on 0477 270 106 or via email at davenportsoil@outlook.com.

Regen ag speakers included Mary-Anne Mickan from Korinya Farm Gate and Nic Kentish from Resource Consulting Services.

Ellen Zibell’s regen ag day

Ellen Zibell was the recipient of the South Australian Ag Bureau 2019 Sustainable Agricultural Scholarship. With the support of Buckleboo Farm Improvement Group (BFIG), Ellen hosted a sustainable ag day “Resilient Ag for the Future” in August on their family farm at Buckleboo, with around 60 people attending.

It was great to see the involvement from the Kimba Area School ag students. Guest speakers included Nakala Maddock (NutriSoil), Nic Kentish (Resource Consulting Services) and Mary-Anne Mickan (Korinya Farm Gate). All speakers gave insight into their regenerative agriculture journeys and the pathways they have taken.

The Sustainable Agricultural Scholarship is sponsored by the Department for Environment and Water and aims to provide farmers in South Australia with the opportunity to improve personal and professional skills that will benefit the industry, the individual in their own business or employment and the sustainability of natural resources that underpin primary production.

Applications for the current scholarship are open until 15 September. 

Ellen also recently completed a regenerative agriculture video for us, under a separate grants program. In the video, Ellen sits down with Cleve farmer Ben Randford to talk about five principles of regenerative agriculture and Ben’s journey into regenerative ag over the past 10 years.

Drought Hub workshop

A SA Drought Hub workshop was held in Wudinna in late August as part of a regional roadshow. The Wudinna workshop saw approximately 20 farmers and pastoralists, council elected members and staff, Regional Development Australia representatives, government staff and the AIR EP farming system group, come together to hear about the SA Drought Hub aims and purpose & contribute to ideas for the future.

Minnipa farmer Matthew Cook provided an excellent overview of how his farming family has experienced and managed through droughts in the past, describing what worked well and what are the gaps that would assist in preparing for drought in the future.

Attendees also participated in two brainstorming sessions focusing on community drought resilience and on-farm research, extension and technology to build drought resilience.

Participants reviewed and prioritised ideas for further development as the Hub evolves. A summary of the event will be circulated once the roadshow is completed.

For more information on how to get involved, contact SA Drought Hub Director Chris Preston via email sadroughthub@adelaide.edu.au or visit the Future Drought Fund website.

Works from a round 1 grant showing an existing shallow drain redone using a grader, commonly called a ‘grader drain’.

Grants for Cummins Wanilla Basin drainage

A second round of grants has opened for infrastructure drainage works within the Cummins Wanilla Basin. Landholders within the basin area can apply for a grant of between $2000 and $30,000 for works that upgrade or maintain existing drainage, with works to be completed by June 2022.

Cummins Wanilla Basin Streamcare Group chairman Trevor Carter encourages the 20-plus landholders within the basin to take up this opportunity to improve their land.

“The land is looking pretty wet at the moment and is really showing us where the problems are the worst. I really encourage all impacted landholders in the basin to take a look at this and put forward an application to help safeguard their agriculture land from salinity and water-logging,” Mr Carter says.

A total of $250,000 in funding was secured earlier in the year by the Cummins Wanilla Basin Streamcare Group for these priority infrastructure works with the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board administering the funding from the South Australian Government’s Regional Growth Fund.

Applications close September 24. Apply now.

Mixed species provides value

Check our new Regenerative Agriculture Program mixed species demonstration case study on Damien Elson's farm in the Cleve district. Through the demonstration, Damien has learnt that a mixed species pasture grows better feed than a single species pasture, and improves feed value and dry matter quantity dramatically.

Damien's demonstration crop is part of our regenerative agriculture grants program. Applications for the current round are open until September 11. Find out more or apply.

A sand blow out site on the left and then the site after remediation.

Covering Eastern Eyre bare soils

The Eastern Eyre Soil Management Program is showing some good results. Funded by the EP Landscape Board, the short term, opportunistic project aims to increase soil cover of bare soils of Eastern EP over the 2020/21 summer, either by providing support to sow cover, undertake soil amelioration activities, or monitor existing cover crops to determine suitable species and understand the impact on the following winter crop.

Here is a brief update of activities from the project, as reported by David Davenport from Davenport Soil Consulting.

A number of activities have been undertaken through this project, positively impacting more than 1,000ha. 

Activities included:

  1. Monitoring the impact of summer cover crops on soil moisture and mineral nitrogen
    Soil samples were taken at three periods commencing in late January through to germination in late June. Samples were analysed to compare soil moisture levels under summer covers and adjacent areas under stubble. Samples were collected from four sites. On all sites lower levels of soil moisture were observed under summer cover crops compared to the stubble comparison in the first two sample periods, as you would expect. The mineral nitrogen results were mixed – some cover crops had more mineral N than the nil treatments, while others were the opposite.
  2. Ameliorating previously eroded areas through engineering techniques
    Soil engineering techniques employed have included levelling, ripping with inclusion plates and clay delving. Apart from some isolated areas that were later resown, all of these techniques have resulted in improved soil cover. On the worst sites landholders have double sown sites to improve plant numbers. Also ripping with inclusion plates did not appear to have a detrimental effect with plant numbers at germination on one site showing little difference between ripped treatments compared to unripped treatments. Further monitoring will be conducted to increase understanding of the impacts of different treatments on production.
  3. Improving pasture growth to increase soil cover
    Grants and technical support have been provided to several landholders to trial mixed species pasture systems. Landholders contacted to date are reporting excellent results, with one landholder reporting double the stocking rate with faster recovery on his mixed species pastures compared to the volunteer pasture systems that are the normal pasture in his rotation. Pasture cages have been established and vegetative growth and cover will continue to be monitored.
  4. Cover species on drift areas
    Cereal rye has been used by several landholders to maximise cover. Levels will be measured in late August.

Site visits through late August and early September will be undertaken to collect more data and finalise devolved grant funding. At least one site will receive additional soil analysis to identify changes in soil function under different systems. This will be funded under the Paddock Labs project being delivered by Soils For Life. This data will add understanding of the value of maintaining and increasing soil cover.

Field days are expected to be held at sites during September/October.

Seasonal summary

This seasonal summary is for the Eyre Peninsula region from July.

Climatic conditions / events:

  • Rainfalls for the month were above average around Wirrulla on western EP, and on central, lower and eastern Eyre Peninsula. The remainder of the region observed falls around the average.
  • Daily maximum temperatures were above average in the Kimba to Buckleboo area, and average in the remainder.
  • Daily minimum temperatures were above average on lower and eastern EP and around Streaky Bay to Ceduna, and very much above average north of Elliston to Cleve.

Land Management:

  • Soil profiles in most districts have some stored soil moisture. Waterlogging has been observed in many paddocks south of Cummins but are mostly isolated patches.
  • Most growers finished seeding by the end of June.
  • Mild and damp conditions in early July resulted in rapid germination and growth of crops and pastures.
  • Crop maturity is highly variable from paddocks sown on early rains to those where sowing was delayed by a dry start.
  • Crops in most districts look healthy, with good yield potential and adequate surface cover for erosion protection.
  • A large amount of nitrogen was applied to maintain crop yield potential in anticipation of good spring rainfall.
  • Livestock are generally in excellent condition.
  • Pastures contain good amounts of biomass and most growers have been able to stop or reduce supplementary feeding.

Source: Department for Environment and Water: Erosion Risk on Agricultural Land – July 2021

Looking for ideas on managing soil?

Our Soil Management web page is a one-stop-shop for information about soils, their constraints, production potential, maps, fact sheets, management options and much more.

We also have a range of clips on our YouTube channel including two made this year by the Buckleboo Farm Improvement Group about soil sampling and EP soil types, made possible by one of our previous grants programs.

More information

Want to see what the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board is up to before the next edition of Farmers Connect? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see our latest news.

For sustainable agriculture resources, visit our website. Topics include property planning, soil management, cropping & pastures, and grazing. 

The Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board came into effect on 1 July 2020, replacing the former Eyre Peninsula Natural Resources Management Board.


This Regenerative Agriculture Project is supported by the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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