Integrating sustainable soil health practices into a commercial vegetable farming operation (VG12115)
What was it all about?
Conventional cultivation methods including pre-plant ripping and rotary hoeing can be expensive and damaging to soils. Over time they result in a decline in organic matter levels, poorer physical structure and reduced microbial activity that can allow a build-up of soil-borne diseases, ultimately reducing yields.
This project looked at ‘softer’ soil management practices including reduced tillage, growing cover crops, mulching and controlled traffic, and the effects of these methods on vegetable yield. The trials were run at Mulyan Farms in Cowra NSW with vegetable growers Ed and James Fagan.
The trials provided commercial validation that these better soil management practices can be integrated into large-scale vegetable production.
All cover crops that were trialled produced a more profitable spinach crop compared to a traditional fallowed system.
Increases in profitably of 36 and 48 per cent were obtained following the legume cover crops of Morgan field peas or Balansa clover, respectively.
The project successfully demonstrated that combining cover cropping with controlled traffic and reduced tillage, sustainably improved soil condition which can maintain or improve yields, and reduces input costs.
The project team helped Ed and James to document their soil management practices, and trial new ones, and then communicate the learnings to other growers in a series of field days, fact sheets, videos, Facebook pages and websites.
- Watch Ed Fagan talking about the benefits of reduced till vegetable production in this video
- Watch Ed and James Fagan explaining how they developed a reduced tillage vegetable farming operation in this video
- Access the project-produced fact sheets below:
- Visit the levy-funded SoilWealth website to access a suite of other soil resources here
This project has been funded by Hort Innovation
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