Dr Christine Jones PhD and Colin Seis

"We can't solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used to create them" Albert Einstein

I called the local agronomist who took soil samples and announced that "The Bluff" was stripped of almost all nutrients, the worst being sulphur and potash. Organic matter was only 1.7. He suggested that the repeated use of this paddock to grow fodder had over the years depleted the  nutrient level. He thought that the recent heavy rains had probably leached the remaining sulphur and potash. He prescribed a very expensive cocktail of various replacement fertilizers but was unable to assure me that if I went down that path, this strategy would be "curative"

I took to google and found a woman who talked about "regenerative land management practices that simultaneously improve soil function, agricultural production, biodiversity, food quality and carbon sequestration outcomes."

This turned out to be Dr Christine Jones PhD, a soil scientist associated with The New England University NSW. www.amazingcarbon.com/PDF/JONES-shortCV.pdf She was most generous with her time and knowledge. She told me there was a permanent solution, but to achieve it I would have to change my thinking. She pointed out that as long as I thought of myself as a cattle and sheep farmer, all my decisions would be focussed on producing fat stock for the market. She suggested that sometimes, although unintentional, these decisions might not be environmentally sound and could lead to land degredation (left unsaid: as had happened in "The Bluff") If however, I started to think of myself as a "regenerative farmer" my focus would always be to improve the soil function. This in turn would improve biological succession (more grasses and fewer weeds) and lead to healthy biodiverse pastures that , as a byproduct, will turn off healhy, fat animals. All of this done by embracing natures  free gifts, namely sunlight, water, air and soil microbes.

BOY, WAS I EXCITED?  I couldn't wait to talk to everybody. All these experienced farmers were very polite but I could see it in their eyes, they thought I was nuts!! All their answers were prefaced....."Well maybe, but in my experience........."

Amongst the many documents Christine sent me, was an article she had written quoting a farmer called Colin Seis. "Carbon that Counts" talks about two brothers who inherited their father's farm. Effectively they are separated by a fence. Colin, the younger brother, changed his farming practices to those Dr Jones is now advocating and over the next 15 years grew his top soil by more than 50 cm. He has doubled his carrying capacity, his soil tests have improved by more than 100% in every measured modality and his input costs are essentially nil. By contrast, his brother who continues to farm using fertilizers and herbacides, has only 10cm of top soil, has half the number of animals and spends $50,000 each year on fertilizer.www.ofa.org.au/papers/JONES-Carbon-that-counts-20Mar11.pdf


On 15/12/2011, Dr Jones wrote:

Hello Paddy

Its very important to have green plants covering the soil surface for as much of the year as possible. Plants and their associated microbes build soil. Another downside to leaving land fallow is that its likely to become overgrown with weeds.

I'd suggest you 'cocktail' crop the paddock this summer (ie now) with a direct-drilled mixture of millet, cowpeas and sunflowers and anything else you'd like to throw in - the more different plants the better!! If your neighbours don't already think you're mad this will definitely convince them.

If S and K are deficient it would be worth applying potassium sulphate (sulphate of potash) when you sow the crop mixture. Potassium sulphate is better than potassium chloride (muriate of potash) as the latter can be a bit harsh on soils. The sulphate of potash will contain both S and K. I'd also throw in a little sulphate of ammonia - not too much - say 5kg/ha.

In addition, I'd strongly advise including a microbe friendly product, like kelp meal, which contains trace elements. Suggest you talk to Sonja Dicker about that.

If it was me I wouldn't spend the money sowing a perennial pasture next year. If you graze your 'cocktail crop' correctly this summer - and continue grazing the paddock correctly next year - the perennials will re-colonise all by themselves. If you wanted some advice with the grazing management, you could perhaps contact Colin Seis  ask him to visit your property   Colin consults to people all over Australia and is very experienced in the techniques 

Some useful stuff to read: www.managingwholes.com/grazing-soils.htm 

Latest comments

28.04 | 17:47

Wow, I lived on the Haye's farmstead for a couple of years, crazy to hear of this fire coming through. Hope I can visit again one day.

15.08 | 01:17

This is all brilliantly documented Paddy - am so totally inspired by how you have transformed Dunblane.

31.07 | 06:36

Hi Peter, exciting indeed. Suggest you contact a Rory O'Leary at BVSC. He is the economic development officer. Big focus on Eden Another farmersnet@fscla.org.au

31.07 | 02:48

Sounds exciting! I'd like to discuss how this might fit in with some other opportunities for the Port of Eden.