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    Christine Jones Christine Jones Presentation Transcript

    • Soil building through microbial processes Dr Christine Jones
    • Sir Paul Edmund Strzelecki Soil samples collected 1839 -1843 41 samples  10 highest ranking soils had OM levels from 11% to 37.75% (average 20%)  10 lowest ranking soils had OM levels from 2.2% to 5.0% (average 3.72%)
    • The organic carbon content of most Australian topsoils is now 50-80% less than the original level – mostly as a result of the loss of the soil itself
    • Agriculture is about FOOD But there is something fundamentally wrong
    • Mineral depletion in vegetables 1940 - 1991  Copper reduced by 76%  Calcium reduced by 46%  Iron reduced by 27%  Magnesium reduced by 24%  Potassium reduced by 16% Source: UK Ministry of Agriculture
    • Mineral depletion in meat 1940 - 1991  Iron reduced by 54%  Copper reduced by 24%  Calcium reduced by 41%  Magnesium reduced by 10%  Potassium reduced by 16%  Phosphorus reduced by 28% Source: UK Ministry of Agriculture
    • Australian fruit and vegetables 1948 1991  Potatoes Calcium 27 mg 3 mg 89%  Broccoli Magnesium 160 mg 29 mg 82%  Carrots Vit. A 25,000 IU 91 IU 99.6%  Apples Vit. C 25 mg 5 mg 80% It is possible to buy an orange today that contains ZERO vitamin C.
    • It’s not only the quality of the product that has gone downhill Farmers are no longer making a profit either
    • Agricultural Debt Levels (AUS) AUD $M $60 60000 50000 $40 40000 30000 $20 20000 10000 Source: RBA, Westpac Economics 0 Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 ‘94 ‘97 ‘00 ‘03 ‘06 ‘09
    • Agricultural Debt Levels (NZ) $50 50,000 45,000 40,000 35,000 50 30,000 Millions NZD $25 25,000 20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 $0 0 1990 2000 Dec Oct Aug Jun Apr Feb Dec Oct Aug Jun Apr Feb Dec Oct Aug Jun Apr Feb Dec Oct Aug Jun Apr Feb 2010 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
    • Agricultural Debt and Weighted Average Interest Rates AUD - Millions % p.a $60 60000 LHS 12% 12.00 RHS 50000 10.00 $40 40000 8% 8.00 30000 6.00 $20 20000 4% 4.00 10000 2.00 0 0.00 ‘94 ‘97 ‘00 ‘03 ‘06 ‘09 Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- Mar- 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
    • SOIL CARBON is the key driver for the nutritional status of plants – and therefore the mineral density in animals and people SOIL CARBON is the key driver for soil moisture holding capacity (frequently the most limiting factor for production) Soil carbon is the key driver for farm profit
    • How does carbon get into soil???
    • Liquid carbon pathway  Photosynthesis  Resynthesis  Exudation  Humification
    • Allocation of photosynthate Shoots 30 - 50% Roots 30 - 50% Microbes 0 - 40%
    • There would be sufficient length of mycorrhizal hyphae in the top 10cm of just four square metres of healthy grassland soil to stretch all the way around the equator (Leake et al, 2004)
    • Soil nutrient levels (0-30cm) from between and within Gatton Panic crowns, Binnu, WA, May 2009 ________________________________________________________ Between Within Change Organic carbon (%) 0.24 1.04 433% Phosphorus (Colwell ppm) 21 71 338% Potassium (Colwell ppm) 44 150 341% Sulphur (ppm) 2.7 7.9 293% pH (CaCl) 5.8 7.1 1.3 units _______________________________________________ Source: Tim Wiley, WA Department of Agriculture and Food (increased soil C = sequestration of 123tCO2/ha)
    • The carbon and nutrients MYTH  It has been widely promoted by CSIRO Division on Plant Industries that to increase levels of soil carbon requires the application of nutrients to soil and increased fertiliser costs  This is contrary to what is observed in practice
    • The carbon and nutrients TRUTH  Increased C  increased pH, CEC  Increased C  increased availability of P, Ca, K, S  Increased C  increased availability of Cu, Zn, Fe, Mo, B  Increased C  reduced availability of Na, Al
    • Microbes vs fertilisers Very few nutrient deficiencies are absolute – most are functional (due to poor soil structure and/or lack of microbial diversity) Agrochemicals and synthetic fertilisers significantly alter microbial populations and the functional dynamics of soil
    • How do we get more microbes??
    •  1. Stop killing the microbes that are trying to live in your soils (use biology friendly fertilisers in place of high analysis N, P)  2. Improve plant root systems through species selection (perennial rather than annual) and above-ground management
    • Biomass - Increasing Soil OM & OC F Wt - Roots vs Shoots MAP MAP + Triad Mineral Fert 31.95 30.53 31.05 31.81 29.88 30.24 30 27.23 21.02 F Wt Roots g Fwt 20 F Wt Shoots (g) 10 8.44 5.88 4.58 3.05 0 No + Microbes No + Microbes No + Microbes +/- WMF Ag blend Microbes Microbes Microbes microbe seed dressing Triadimefon % Biomass Root 17.7 22.0 10.1 13.4 40.8 49.4 Root Surface Area 302 392 127 184 978 4021 Root/Shoot Ratio 0.184 0.282 0.112 0.151 0.689 0.976
    • Soil has always been Australia’s biggest export Even today, soil loss is greater than agricultural production  For example, average wheat yield 1.2 t/ha  Average soil loss on wheat farms 15 t/ha
    • How can we turn that around and rebuild healthy, porous, carbon-rich topsoil?
    • February 2010
    • Sowing Yarrin Oats May 2010
    • Pasture Crop into litter
    • Emerging Crop
    • 10th September 2010
    • 10th October 2010
    • February 2010
    • 10th September 2010
    • The difference in land management techniques Adjoining paddocks March 2010 Planned grazed and Continuously grazed Pasture Cropped and fertilised annually
    • Soil CARBON Winona 90.1tC/ha Neighbour 43.4tC/ha Difference of 46.7 tC/ha = 171 t CO2/ha sequestered
    • Soil CARBON Since 2008, the sequestration rate has been 37 tCO2/ha/yr
    • Soil CARBON 0 – 4” 150% 4 – 8” 243% 8 – 12” 317% 12 – 16” 413% 16 – 20” 157%
    • Soil Nutrients Avail Total Ca 234% 270% Mg 110% 152% Zn 250% 195% Cu 185% 215% B 150% 161% Si 116% 113% N 103% 151% P 102% 155% K 198% 150% S 92% 159% Fe 87% 130% Na 45% 88% Al 28% 140%
    • Soil Integrity Index Accreditation system for soils based on  Microbial diversity  Soil water holding capacity  Soil carbon content Simple code on food labels, eg star system (one, two or three stars)
    • Food quality labelling The urban population could have a major impact on soil health through food choices, if guided by labelling based on the ecological integrity of the production system
    • What kind of carbon????
    • Relationship betw een total organic carbon and labile C in pasture cropped and conventionally cropped soils 7 6 R2 = 0.96 5 Labile carbon (mg/g) R2 = 1.00 4 3 R2 = 0.98 2 R2 = 0.99 1 0 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 Total organic C (%) C1 pasture cropped C3 pasture cropped C1 conventional cropped C3 conventional cropping
    • Decomposition pathway ends in CO2 ………………………………… Sequestration pathway produces HUMUS
    • CSIRO report p.42 "A potentially troubling, but also somewhat intriguing, issue is that there is no readily apparent explanation for some of the very large SOC gains being anecdotally reported."
    •  From Dlugokencky et al (2009). Yearly variations in methane from 1983 to 2009. Measurements in parts per billion.