This season’s trial sites across the State saw productivity increases of up to 100 per cent. If the trials could be replicated across South Australia’s low fertility soils it could potentially add $800 million to the State’s economy.
The New Horizons program is an evolution in soil science, launched in 2013. Farmers in the State’s South and East will be able to meet the research team at the South East Field Days at Lucindale on 20-21 March and the Karoonda Farm Fair on 27-28 March to discuss the program and its benefits.
Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell said he was excited by the initial trial results.
“The results show increases between 50 and 100% in yield have been achieved in soil modification field trials at sites on the Eyre Peninsula, the Mallee and Upper South East,” Mr Bignell said.
“There have been a range of significant improvements in Australian dryland agriculture since the 1860s which have increased yields, including the application of superphosphate, the development of artificial fertilisers, increases in machinery size and the development of new plant cultivars. All of these have been focused on getting the most out of our existing soil.
“New Horizons is the next revolution in agriculture with the focus now on modifying the soil profile to achieve the maximum yield based on rainfall.”
Mr Bignell said the best yield results were achieved by deep incorporation of clay, fertilisers and organic matter, however almost any soil modification still resulted in some degree of yield increase.
“While yield results were consistent across all sites there was some variability due to prevailing soil characteristics at each site which requires further investigation.
“For instance in these initial trials the mixing of organic material with and without clay increased yield by more than 300% in the Mallee and by 100% in Eyre Peninsula.
“In the South East, however, where mineral nutrients and/or organic matter were mixed to 40cm of the soil, yield increased by up to 130%.”
Mr Bignell said a focused survey of landholders conducted as part of the New Horizons program indicated South Australian farmers advised they needed assurance and reliability of results before taking on these new practices.
“They want confidence in the techniques and a guarantee of improved yields before they will make the investment in soil modification needed to achieve this increase in productivity.
“The project is now looking to build on these initial results. Once we can answer all the questions, all landholders with low fertility soils will need to adopt this new innovation to ensure the $800m in increased return across the State becomes a reality.”