The State Government's revolutionary soil management project, New Horizons, will enter its third year of research as planting gets underway in May at its three trial sites.
A fourth site will also be established at Primary Industries and Regions SA's Struan Research Centre, near Naracoorte, which will add a pasture focus to the exciting results in crop production already being achieved at the trial sites at Brimpton Lake on the Eyre Peninsula, Karoonda in the Murray Mallee, and Cadgee in the South East.
New Horizons is a PIRSA initiative which aims to improve low fertility soils across South Australia by better managing the top 50 cm of soil, rather than the traditional top 10 cm.
Last year the results from these sites showed grain yield increases of between 70 and 200 per cent after organic matter, fertiliser and/or clay were applied to sandy soils at depths of up to 50 cm.
The program has the potential to increase the value of broadacre crop and livestock pasture production in South Australia by $800 million a year, if there is widespread adoption of the approach by farmers across the state.
The third season of planting at the three original trial sites will see canola planted at Cadgee, barley planted at Brimpton Lake in mid-May, and lupins at Karoonda in late May.
The new Struan site will be used for grazing livestock with 1 ha treatments comparing and assessing the economic viability of using easily and locally sourced organic material.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Leon Bignell
More than 500 farmers across the state who crop on sandy soils have been surveyed so we can better understand what it takes for new practices and machinery to be adopted.
They've told us they need reliable results and confidence in techniques before they can make an investment in soil modification and take on new practices.
The New Horizons trials will continue in 2016 so we can gain greater certainty about the potential benefits and longevity of each of the treatments.
Quotes attributable to SARDI Sustainable Farming System Leader, Dr Nigel Wilhelm
It's common farming practice in the trial site regions to spell cereal crops every two or three years with a pasture crop for weed and disease management - and it's important that our trials reflect standard practice as it adds to the credibility of our results.
The Struan site will also help us validate the results we're getting. Larger paddock sizes will help us achieve better economies of scale, and we're aiming to keep overall costs to around $500/hectare, which we believe is a cost that is acceptable and still profitable for SA farmers.
Modifying the top 50 cm of the soil profile can lead to improved root growth, soil fertility and water use efficiency - better soil health. But we also need to demonstrate the economic feasibility at the farm level of these applied treatments, to help provide farmers with the confidence to make the change.