July 2013

Soil Aeration

On the first Tuesday of the month Women On Farms West Gippsland ladies leave their farm duties to investigate a wide variety of agricultural activities in the local area .Early July’s meeting was at Martin Vogel and and Di Percy’s property at HeathHill where we were privileged to learn about Soil Aeration.

Martin has had many years of experimenting with improving soil PH to increase productive pastures and crops on his various properties from Denilquin and north eastern Victoria to his more recent property in west Gippsland. In 1994 he purchased a very run-down 28 hectare on the sloping hills on the edge of the Strezleckis where the ground was poorly drained boggy soil covered in large areas of tussocks, blackberries and bentweed. Now we see fresh lush pasture in the well planned paddocks to produce excellent grazing for beef cattle.

After much careful planning, Martin has fenced off boggy seepage areas to collect water in a series of small dams to drain into a shallow creek which meanders along the gullies through his property to the Lang Lang River. These wet areas are returning to a natural vegetative state with some extra plantings of various eucalypts. Irregularly shaped paddocks are the result, and they provide welcome shelter to the cattle grazing there.

Martin explained how the compacted soil was worn down by animals constantly treading over the ground. It needs to be aerated to allow the microorganisms in the soil to do their work in assisting healthy soil. The fungi and bacteria in the soil need air to survive and eat the humus in the soil, so releasing nutrients for the growing plant roots.

By using soil aeration techniques such as the Agplough and Aerator, fine lines about 18 inches apart and 6 inches deep are cut into the soil to allow nitrogen to escape and water and air enter the into the soil . Much improvement in PH levels has been the result without having to add expensive amounts of lime. The depth of the topsoil has increased and the temperature of the soil remains more constant throughout the year-Martin says the soil temperature is 10 degrees throughout the winter months and only rises up to 12 degrees in summer.

The beef cattle are moved frequently from paddock to paddock grazing down to ankle height pasture and then Martin follows through with aerating, or mulching or mowing, or harrowing. In the earlier years of preparing the soil he was aerating up to 8 times per year but gradually decreased the need to now only a few times annually. Damp soil is needed for the aerator. He is very pleased with his results and no longer bothers with looking at soil tests but instead knows he is growing good quality grass for his animals.

Women on Farms meet on the first Tuesday of the month to visit a different farming enterprise. It is open to all women with an interest in things rural not just those on working farms. For more information phone Hilary on 59 977 378 or look at the website www.womenonfarms.org