The Central West was fortunate to have Gabe Brown speaking at the Stipa Conference last week at Eurimbla.
It was a full house at the Eurimbla Hall on Friday. Eurimbla is located north-east of Cumnock for those who haven’t been fortunate enough to drive out that way.
Gabe and his family run 5,000 acres of owned and leased land in Bismark, North Dakota, practising Holistic Management with a focus on improving soil health and no-till farming in his largely grazing operation.
When they took over the property from his wife’s family in 1991 they continued the traditional cropping program with synthetic fertilizers and then had to address the imminent onset of weeds in the cycle and low water penetration. It was then that he started looking into soil biology and maintains the mantra of ‘solve the problem, don’t just treat the symptom’.
The following principles are key to his production: the soil only has the minimum amount of soil disturbance possible (during sowing); always keep armour on the soils surface; use natures water cycle; use living plant root networks; maximise nutrient cycling via biological means; use cover crops; and don’t use monocultures.
Gabe spoke a lot about mimicking nature to solve problems and the important role that stands of native vegetation can play in developing a sense of what the quality of the soil would have been originally and even testing using this soil on a small patch to gain an appreciation of the difference that the microorganisms make in that section of planting.
Following on from that, the mycorrhizal fungi from these natural areas develop a symbiotic relationship with plants and increase tolerance in adverse weather conditions.
Gabe believes that monocultures are a detriment to soil health and may plant up to ten species to establish layered pasture. He also recognised the importance of flowering plants to increase bee activity and pollination.
The Carbon/Nitrogen nutrient ratio is of importance when selecting species for planting, for optimal growth and development of plants. Diversity below the ground level is just as important as above. The follow-on impact of all of these combine to reduce soil temperature and increase regeneration.
We were encouraged to look at yield verses profit and to recognise the important difference between the two. Someone might have the best looking crop in a given year, but what have they spent to have it looking that way and is it sustainable long term?
At the workshop we were also fortunate to have Col Seis who has been pasture cropping for many years and Graeme Hand, the CEO of Stipa Native Grasses Association. Both of these men have a wealth of experience that was fed through the talk.
A couple of other snippets….due to unforeseen circumstances, we have had to postpone the seed collection workshop scheduled for Tuesday, 17 November. I will keep you updates on the new date.
The workshop workshop to discuss the end of the Solar Bonus Scheme run by the Department of Industry and the Office of Environment and Heritage with the support of Parkes Shire Council and Central West Lachlan Landcare is being held in the Coventry Room at Parkes Shire Council on Monday, 14 November between 5.30pm – 7.30pm and includes light refreshments. If you would like to book your seat, I have uploaded the link to our facebook page and via this article on our website. Don’t have internet access? Just give me a ring and I’ll book you in.
As usual, links to items in this article are available on facebook or on our website at http://www.centralwestlachlanlandcare.org
Until next week, happy Landcaring!