Burdekin growers get down and dirty to learn about soil health

Twenty-two growers visited four Burdekin farms on Friday 17 July 2015 at NQ Dry Tropics’ Managing Your Soil Field Tour.

“The field tour was delivered by NQ Dry Tropics through the Queensland Government-funded Sustainable Soils for the Burdekin project, the Australian Government Reef Programme and the NQ Dry Tropics Sugarcane Innovation Program,” said Anthony Curro, NQ Dry Tropics Project Officer.

“These projects offer support and training around best management practices for soil health and water quality outcomes, reducing the impacts of farming on the Great Barrier Reef while improving productivity and profitability,” he said.


Soil expert Dr Pat Hulme was on hand to teach the growers about soil types and provide practical advice on managing soil, water and salinity. Anthony said that prior to the event, 1.5m x 4m soil pits had been prepared at strategic locations, using a backhoe.

“The tour focused on four major Burdekin soil types and the pits allowed farmers to see the different layers in the soil profiles that were relevant to their farm. The pits, dug across the crop rows to give a contrast of hill versus furrow, allowed everyone to see the impacts of traffic and tillage on the soil, with the compaction clearly visible,“ he said.

The group investigated saline and sodic soils on Joe Tama’s Iyah farm, before moving on to Joe Linton’s Home Hill farm, where he has sandy loam soils under a controlled traffic system.

Attendees then visited Chris Lyne at Ayr Farming, which also has sandy loam soils, before concluding at Wayne Dal Santo’s Claire farm in the BRIA, where they worked with clay/duplex soils.

Dr Hulme highlighted that each soil type has various strengths and weaknesses that need to be managed differently. He covered all facets of the soil properties at each site including texture; colour; slaking; dispersion; pores; pH; salinity; and sodicity.

“The land owner needs to address all of these factors when evaluating irrigation and tillage systems”, Dr Hulme said.

“Based on scientific assessment of soil and water, I help develop management systems that allow the resource to be used by current and next generation farmers,” he said.

Chris Lyne,said that he’d learned a lot from the event. “It was a great day with Pat, getting our hands dirty. My soil doesn’t fix itself so I have to do it. I need to concentrate on preventing compaction,” he said.

Local grower Charlie Cacciola said, “I found the day extremely relevant to my operations. I really enjoyed the  discussions among fellow growers and Pat on how to get the soil in good condition while still being able to irrigate efficiently,”

A key issue that cane growers and Dr Hulme discussed was management options for reducing and remediating compaction.