Soil tests to aid fertiliser plans

Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Oyster Harbour Catchment Group project officer Bruce Radys.
Camera IconOyster Harbour Catchment Group project officer Bruce Radys. Credit: Laurie Benson/Picture: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Farmers in the Great Southern are embracing the opportunity to take part in the Regional Estuaries Initiative’s soil testing program to help them make better fertiliser decisions.

Beef, dairy and sheep grazing farms with 40 or more arable hectares in the Wilson Inlet and Oyster Harbour catchments are eligible to join more than 900 farmers already involved in the program.

Expressions of interest are now open for farmers to have their entire farm tested and receive agronomic advice to understand fertiliser issues and stop excess nutrients washing into waterways.

Shaun Ossinger from the Wilson Inlet Catchment Committee said as a part of the program, grazing farmers in key areas of the south coast would have access to nutrient maps showing nutrient surplus and deficiency.

“When soils get too acidic, certain nutrients become less available to plants,” he said. “By treating soil acidity, nutrient availability can increase, leading to improved plant growth.

“Many of the farms tested in the Wilson Inlet and Oyster Harbour Catchments have the opportunity to redirect money that may have been spent on phosphorus fertiliser to address pH or other limiting nutrients.”

The program has been running for more than 10 years and from 220,000ha sampled, 65-80 per cent of paddocks had more than enough phosphorus, while 80-100 per cent were too acidic.

Kent Rochester, who farms in the Oyster Harbour Catchment, said the program had changed the way he looked at fertiliser application.

“I now apply fertiliser according to paddock requirements, eliminating applications in paddocks with excess and targeting paddocks that require nutrients,” he said.

The program is being run by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation in partnership with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and is part of the $20 million State Government’s Regional Estuaries Initiative.

For $300, participants will receive testing valued at up to $5000, as well as additional advice and support to tailor their fertiliser programs.

Expressions of interest close on July 10. To register interest, go to rei.dwer.wa. gov.au or email nutrient mapping@dpird.wa.gov.au.

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