Northern Territory Soil symposium in Katherine
Territory Natural Resource Management (TNRM) held the final leg of its NT Soil Symposiums at Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre in Katherine on 5 March 2020, with more than 35 people attending. Previously held in Alice Springs and Darwin and coordinated by Jacob Betros of TNRM, the Northern Territory (NT) Soil Symposiums focused on the importance of healthy soil in agricultural and natural ecosystems.
The presenters covered topics including soil carbon, biology, fertility, soil erosion and climate change, along with current initiatives and activities being undertaken nationwide and in the Northern Territory to improve soil health and condition. The symposium speakers included award-winning presenters and with local speakers.
Rob Hinrichsen (AUSVEG Grower of the Year 2016) talked about his journey in adopting a number of industry-leading initiatives, including a sophisticated composting program, controlled traffic farming, use of biologicals, integrated pest management and cover cropping. Colin Seis (2014 Bob Hawke Landcare Award Winner) talked about his pasture cropping technique that has been adopted both across Australia and internationally. The technique contributes to building topsoil and reducing soil erosion, and provides great potential for restoring grasslands, increasing soil carbon levels, improving soil health and growing nutrient-dense, healthy food.
Two local pastoral farmers, Moira Lanzarin from Mataranka and Karen McGrath from Katherine, were graduates of TNRM’s 2019 Digging Deeper program and shared the learnings and insights they gained from the training. They described how soil health is key to maintaining ground cover to increase soil organic matter, increasing soil nutrients and water-holding capacity, and the role of cattle in nutrient cycling in pastures. Digging Deeper is an educational program covering soil function, soil testing, and benchmarking and monitoring the physical and chemical properties of soil. The program enables participants to understand the mix of soil inputs and amendments available to enhance crop production.
- Simon Goodhand talked about the National Soils Strategy.
- Sue Bestow (Office of the National Soils Advocate) talked about the Soils for Life program, initiated by retired Major General Michael Jeffrey.
- Angela Hammond (Meat and Lamb Australia) encouraged the audience to get involved in their Profitable Grazing Systems program.
- Anika Molesworth (far western New South Wales) helped organise Farmers for Climate Action to connect growers to researchers through her platform, Climate Wise Agriculture, to help build resilience into farming communities.
- Jason Hill and Patrick Burly (Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)) discussed accessing soil information for sustainable land use planning in the Katherine area.
Highlights of the symposium were the opportunity for the audience to view the NT’s major soil types and a demonstration of DENR’s hydraulic soil sampling drill to collect soil samples.
KRS Research Horticulturist
Image left: Attendees viewing the NT’s major soil types. Image right: Patric Burly demonstrating DENR’s hydraulic soil sampling drill