Nearly 40 ESAI members and other visitors recently gathered a huge amount of invaluable knowledge at a soil health workshop at the Lakeside Soldiers Hall near Leeston.
The audience was mostly made up by ESAI members, but the workshop was also attended by representatives from other rural organisations such as DairyNZ, Carrfields, Quorum Sense, Ngai Tahu, Ravensdown and Lincoln University.
The workshop was presented by Abie Horrocks who is the Environment Research Manager with the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR).
Abie joined FAR in 2017 and her research portfolio incorporates a range of environmental interests including soil quality, integrated pest management and biosecurity.
Abie talked about what makes New Zealand soils unique, what soil quality means and why it matters. She talked about the different elements of soil quality-biological, physical and chemical and visual indicators of soil quality.
Abie really highlighted why soil health is increasingly getting more important to farmers as new technologies and cultivars are starting to reach their limit in maintaining or improving yield.
In the near future, good soil health will be essential to continue getting good yields. The increase in fuel prices and fertiliser prices is also driving a change in farming techniques and prompting more farmers to find alternatives.
Abie talked about six key principles for improving soil health
- Avoiding bare soil
- Minimising disturbance to the soil
- Integrating livestock into systems for recycling nutrients
- Increasing plant diversity
- Maximising below ground organic matter
- Increasing the biological fertility of the soils
The attendees at the workshop were clearly engaged in the subject and asked several good questions.
Many hung around after the presentation for a cup of tea and a chat, and it was terrific to see the community coming together over subjects like these, which demonstrated the appetite in learning new skills and improving farming systems. Farmers clearly want to look after their soil.
Feedback from the event showed that many of those attending already had a degree of understanding about the subject matter, but most indicated that they had learnt something new and had gained valuable knowledge.
With the new fresh water farm plans being implemented throughout the country from early next year, workshops like these give farmers the opportunity to gain knowledge and confidence and build resilience to the ongoing environmental regulations that farmers are facing.
The farming community are well aware that stricter rules and regulations are on the way, which will mean more paperwork and record keeping.
Some farmers and landowners are already beginning to feel overwhelmed and anxious; this could lead to increased resistance to the changes.
Supporting those who need support getting through the changes will lift the capability of the Ellesmere farming community and demonstrate the commitment of ESAI and its members to improved farming practices
A new scheme developed by the Tinaku Project and funded by MPI called ‘Farmers supporting Farmers’ will identify areas and topics that people are struggling with and determine the best way of providing targeted assistance.
It will help members and other farmers to develop a plan to adapt and implement any changes required. This service is offered free of charge for all ESAI members.
If you would like help with understanding new regulations or you know of someone else who needs assistance or you would like to become an ESAI member get in touch with Jo Fearn email@example.com 0210304783 to discuss further.