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Environmentally sound farming and responsible waste resource management

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The level of public awareness pertaining to our environment has never been higher then the present time. Everyone is witnessing the negative impact society is having on the Earth with global warming and the flow on effect to human health. It is only through a heightened awareness of practices that positive change can occur, helping to reverse the damage already done. 

YLAD Living Soils are committed to educating farmers and town dwellers on the positive impact they can have on improving soil carbon levels and fertility, growing more nutritious food and managing waste residues.

It is now becoming known that the organic carbon levels in Australian soils have dropped from 8% to around 2% in the last 200 years with current farming practices. Still today 12.5 kg of soil is lost through wind and erosion to grow 1 kg of wheat, equating to 250 grams of soil lost per slice of bread.

In Australia, there is approximately 60 years of top soil remaining if full responsibility is not taken for increasing soil organic carbon levels by using responsible practices such as rotational grazing, retaining stubbles and increasing soil organisms to glue the soil particles together to reduce wind erosion.

For every tonne of carbon lost from soil 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide gas is added to the atmosphere. Organic carbon, particularly humus is central to successful soil health, underpinning the future of agriculture in Australia and illustrating to governments that agricultural soils have an enormous role to play in reducing green house gas emissions worldwide.

This lack of carbon can be addressed by using humified compost and other activated biological products to raise carbon levels to where soils are able to support soil life, recycle nutrients, and sustain healthy plant growth.

Humus is a material full of active carbon that dramatically improves the physical, chemical & microbiological aspects of the soil.

Active carbon is a carbon that has been digested and transformed by soil microbes that culminates into humus which is the best active carbon available for plant production.

Active carbon will cause soil structure to expand soil particles, creating greater air space within the soil. This in turn allows roots to penetrate deeper into the soil, resulting in more vigorous healthy root growth. Active carbon also solubolises minerals making them more available, therefore producing greater plant production. This is extremely beneficial in normal conditions but is exponentially more critical in severe drought conditions, as we are currently experiencing.

Active carbon also holds up to 4 times its weight in water, increasing the water holding capacity of the soil. This dramatically improves the plants’ ability to access available water in drought conditions.

These aggregates hold air in the pore spaces, and when one tills the soil mechanically it loosens the soil, however, when the vineyard is irrigated or becomes too wet, the soil will return to a cement-like, tight structure.

By using humified compost, the humus properties will keep soil particles apart, creating necessary soil structure for optimum growth, making high quality humified compost the glue that holds pieces together.

There is no doubt that active carbon will help plants produce the same amount of yield with three to five times less water. This phenomenon can be scientifically proven by monitoring the plant sap and plant cell quality.

In agriculture we are combining nutrients and water from the soil with carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen from the air to grow a product for sale.

The success to which this is done is determined by the health, or efficiency, of the soil system to deliver these required elements to the plant for optimal production.

So what is the primary key driver that dictates the health and efficiency of a soil system? The answer is soil biology. Why? Because soil is the digestive system of the plant. As managers we traditionally try to double guess what, when and how much nutrition the plant requires. Consider that nature has had a precise biological nutrient delivery system worked out long before we came along, one that allows for the expression of the full genetic potential of a plant. If that system is understood and promoted working with nature, experience shows that production and quality go up and costs go down.

The science of soil microbial management has now advanced to a stage that soil organisms can be manipulated and promoted confidently and economically to produce a desired response.

There are 3 proven and easy to adopt strategies to achieve a super productive, biologically active ‘living soil’. They are:

  1. Include an application of good quality ‘humified’ compost in your program. This is the carbon that fuels the system, nutrients that are plant available and beneficial microbes that bring the whole system together.
  2. Inoculate (through Fertigation or liquid inject systems) key microbe species (such as free living nitrogen fixing bacteria & phosphorus releasing fungi) as well as broad spectrum inoculums such as extracted compost teas that supply all the species for a structured microbial soil ecosystem. (These inoculums are now readily available, economical and of high quality).
  3. Buffer and chelate all knock down herbicides and salt fertilizers with fulvic acid powder (a high carbon natural chelating agent) in the spray or fertigation mix. This will increase chemical biodegradation of herbicides and buffer the high salt index of salt fertilizers. This in turn protects the soil microbes from chemical toxicity and salt burn.
As perennial crop managers in high production agriculture, the aim has been to constantly refine the knowledge and application of key nutrients to the soil and plant in order to manipulate, modify and improve production and quality. Soluable salt forms of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, potassium and others are added at key times to second guess what time, what quantities and what element the plant requires to maximize yield and quality. It is often wondered how things ever grew ‘naturally’ without this intervention.

However, it is precisely these fundamental ‘natural’, biological processes plants use to take up required nutrition from the soil that have been largely overlooked. Ironically it is through a greater understanding and support of these processes that the greatest production gains can be made whilst reducing input costs. Lets take a closer look at how plants by nature access and control uptake of nutrition from the soil to maximize their growth and reproductive capability.

In a biologically healthy soil system microbes perform key digestive functions for the plant that enable controlled, timely and optimal nutrient uptake. The microbes in return receive carbohydrate rich root exudates from the plant. In fact, the plant so desires these relationships with soil microbes that it donates one third of its total daily photosynthetic sugar production to these organisms, delivered to soil microbes as carbon exudates through the roots. If the plant values the soil biology so highly, managers should also take notice of this microscopic workforce, and take the opportunity to capitalize on them.

In a healthy soil it exists as a structured, interconnected, self supporting microbial community composed of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, amoeba, beneficial nematodes, ciliates, flagellates, algae, macropods, earthworms and others. As with all other ecosystems on the planet, to be truly productive and healthy the system requires all the relevant species diversity to allow the system to be in balance and to be functional, with all the different species performing there specific, yet interconnected functions. The whole relies on the individual and the individual relies on the whole.

The value of compost goes beyond improving soil structure and providing nutrients. Beneficial microbes provided by humified compost help the crop to defend itself against diseases by attaching themselves to the plant's roots, crowding out pathogenic microbes.

Compost tea or Bio TX 500, sprayed directly on crop leaves, has also been found to prevent certain fungal diseases such as mildew, and suppress specific disease-causing organisms.

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