News

PIRSA helping farmers map path to better soil health

Wednesday 20 April 2016

New soil pH mapping technology is arming SA farmers with the right information to improve soil health and increase crop and pasture productivity.


Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) will tomorrow (Thursday, April 21) launch its new Veris soil pH on-the-go mapping machine and mapping service with a field demonstration from 10am-11.30am at Hilltown.

More than two million hectares of agricultural land in South Australia is susceptible to soil acidification and in many areas the problem is increasing - as well as the costs to treat it.

Over the past four years PIRSA Rural Solutions SA has been collaborating with other agencies, agricultural bureau groups and farmers introducing and trialling the new technology.

In 2015, in response to growing interest and demand in soil pH precision mapping, PIRSA purchased a Veris soil pH on-the-go mapping machine from the United States and it is now being offered to farmers across the state as a Rural Solutions SA service on a cost-recovery basis.

Rural Solutions SA Executive Director Daniel Casement said the Veris mapper was a great example of how agricultural innovation was supporting the state's economic priority of premium food and wine produced in our clean environment and exported to the world.

"What's particularly exciting about this new technology is at the same time it's helping improving soil health, it will also save farmers money and earn them money with increased production and profitability," Mr Casement said.

"PIRSA's purpose is to assist primary industries and regions to grow, innovate and maximise their economic growth potential - and this technology and service is doing exactly that."

Rural Solutions SA Senior Consultant, Sustainable Agriculture, Andrew Harding said as part of the trial work, more than 15,000 hectares of land had already been mapped across SA.

"Many of the soils prone to soil acidification have a pH less than 5.0 (CaCl2) in the 0-10 cm layer and soil acidity in the sub-surface layer is also becoming a significant problem - but unfortunately soil pH can vary greatly across paddocks," Mr Harding said.

"Lime is the most effective and economical method for the treatment and prevention of acid soils. Previously, the amount of lime required for a paddock has generally been based on a single soil test and the lime applied as a uniform rate across the whole paddock.

"However, in recent years the cost of lime and associated freight has significantly increased, so there's been a growing awareness and need to find another way to manage this problem.

"Our trials have already shown that with more targeted lime applications there are potential costs savings of more than 30 per cent for farmers. From just one case study a farmer saved $4,728 in a 113 hectare paddock, which amounted to a 50% cost savings in lime, as well as associated freight and spreading costs."

PIRSA was the first to purchase its own new pH mapping machine in South Australia, and it is one of three now currently available in the State.

The Veris can take 10 readings per hectare, automatically collecting soil samples, measuring the pH of each soil sample and recordings its geographic position. From this data, pH maps are produced showing pH zones and liming recommendations can be calculated for each zone. As a result farmers can accurately apply lime at the required rates, where it is most needed - rather than applying lime across the whole paddock.

Rural Solutions SA is PIRSA's key delivery agent for major programs and projects across South Australia, and provides consultancy services to private and public sector organisations locally, nationally and internationally.

For more information and to enquire about using the soil mapping technology contact Andrew Harding, Senior Consultant: Sustainable Agriculture, PIRSA Rural Solutions SA on Phone: (08) 8842 6231 or mobile 0417 886 835 or e-mail Andrew.harding@sa.gov.au.

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Media Contacts

Kate Husband - Communications Manager, Primary Industries
Email: Kate.Husband@sa.gov.au
Phone: 0423 296 579

Celia Brissenden - Communications Manager, Regional Development
Email: celia.brissenden@sa.gov.au


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