David Hardwick addresses Bowen horticulturists about the importance of maintaining soil health

David Hardwick presented a Soil Health workshop at the Gudjuda Market Garden in Home Hill. Pictured are (from left): Ben Devon, David Hardwick, Andrew Cole, James Gaston, Tracey Solomon, NQ Dry Tropics Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator Peter Arthofer, and Lindsay Allen Growcom.

Workshop to address soil health in sugar cane crops

FRESH from conducting soil health workshops across the region with a range of primary producers from graziers to market gardeners, agroecologist David Hardwick will share his knowledge with Burdekin cane growers at the end of the month.

Nuffield Scholar Simon Mattsson

He will be joined by Nuffield Scholar and Mackay grower Simon Mattsson at a two-day workshop in Ayr on April 29-30.

The workshop will be hosted by NQ Dry Tropics Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator Peter Arthofer and funded through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

In the past few weeks, David Hardwick has conducted soil health workshops in Bowen, (focusing on horticulture), Home Hill (market gardening), Riverview Station (horticulture) and Lancewood Station (grazing).

The workshop in Ayr is focused on diversity cropping, and will include a session on soil assessment, giving farmers an appreciation of soil health factors that affect crop productivity.

This workshop is an opportunity for farmers to learn about the practices that were shared at a recent Regenerative Cane Farming Forum in Ingham – an event that attracted more than 100 Queensland growers.  

Mr Mattsson has experimented on his Marian farm with intercropping – planting up to a dozen other crops, including sunflowers and sugarcane in the same season within a metre of each other.

Mr Mattsson said crop diversity by planting alternate crops in fallow years was not enough for cane growers to ensure the ongoing productivity of their soil, Mr Mattsson said.

Declining yield in sugar cane crops could be addressed by rebuilding soil health.

Crop diversity needed to be concurrent to have a significant impact on soil health.

He said diversity crops like sunflowers brought increased biology to the soil.

Along with minimum tillage, maintaining organic soil cover and retaining living roots in the soil was consistent with the principles of regenerative agriculture and a way to reverse declining soil health.

Paul Fraser learns how to conduct an assessment of the soil texture at the Gudjuda market garden

David Hardwick explains how to measure the infiltration rate in soils.

David Hardwick (left) with Andrew Cole and Ben Devon

Lancewood Station grazier Luke St. George with NQ Dry Tropics Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator Peter Arthofer and agroecologist David Hardwick