Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Soil health
9 HEALTHY SOILS GROUND COVER SOIL KNOWLEDGE The 10 habits of healthy soil farmers 1 Maintain organic matter and ground cover nRetain organic matter and maximise ground cover. nIncorporate rotations and farming systems to support plant diversity. nMaintain and enhance native and riparian vegetation extent and condition. nManage grazing (stocking rates; grazing interval) to maintain ground cover. nOptimise cropping frequency, perennial and pasture rotations, for multiple benefits. nMinimise soil disturbance. 2 Balance (targeted) application of inputs to maintain soil fertility nApply nutrient budgeting and nutrient replacement with targeted inputs of macro and micro-nutrients. nUse appropriate ameliorants addressing the soil condition (for example, gypsum, compost). nTime application of inputs to reduce risk of losses and off-site impacts. nManage rotations to assist in maintaining soil fertility. 3 Maintain healthy plant growth nIntegrate disease and pest management and use a mix of control methods. nOptimise agronomic management. nMeasure and manage for increased water-use efficiency. 4 Manage for soil structural stability nSmart tillage -- that is, fit for system/purpose/ intent and timed to match soil condition. nMinimise area of soil affected by traffic through use of controlled low-impact traffic systems. nImplement minimum or zero-till farming systems (including pasture cropping) for carbon sequestration, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, optimal water infiltration, reduced soil erosion, energy efficiency, and to enhance soil biology. nPrevent soil structural loss. nImplement appropriate grazing management systems to maintain soil condition. 5 Monitor and evaluate soil constraints nIdentify specific soil constraints (for example, acidity, compaction). nMonitor for extent and severity (strategic soil testing, observation). nDetermine potential costs versus benefits of amelioration. nManage and monitor for change (continuous improvement). 6 Understand soil limitations -- fit for purpose nUnderstand soil type and limitations related to potential land uses. nMatch enterprise to land use capability. 7 Learn for continuous improvement nSeek diverse and reputable sources of information. nUse on-farm testing (what/how are you sampling, replicated test strips, sampling strategy, analyses) and observation. nAdopt, adapt and innovate. 8 Value the balance between production, and ecological and environmental services nAcknowledge key interactions between physical, chemical and biological soil properties. nInvestigate farming strategies that minimise environmental footprints (that is, reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions). nRecognise the value of biodiversity and manage it within the landscape. 9 Invest in profitable strategies to enhance soil health nRecognise the value of your soil health resource. nGradational change can result in improved soil condition. 10 Manage for climatic variability nManage for changing rainfall patterns and climatic extremes. nUse increased resilience of soils and land use systems to buffer climate variability. Bevin Oster appreciates that the principles of healthy soil management are the same irrespective of soil type. On his farm near Penshurst, Victoria, the dark volcanic basaltic soils differ substantially from the calcareous sands of his family's home farm on Yorke Peninsula, South Australia.
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