Scientific research is showing soil biology can play a bigger role in producing healthy crops.

Scientific research is showing soil biology can play a bigger role in producing healthy crops.

It is interesting that science has been aware, for decades, of natural processes for producing healthy plants.
Yet little of the huge amount of scientific research that has been done on the subject, has impacted on agriculture – in terms of establishing healthy crops and pastures.
There has been little commercial enthusiasm for what we might call Mother Nature’s inherent mechanisms that can produce healthy crops and pastures, build soil carbon and mitigate fungal diseases and insect damage.
One example of these natural processes relates to plant inoculants protecting roots against diseases.
In the right soil environment, beneficial soil micro biota flourish naturally, providing all the benefits that are claimed by popular commercial inoculants.
The right soil environment can be described as soil with organic matter, structure, balanced soil pH, moisture and oxygen.
So, what about the studies that have found that the plant’s internal defences (such as insect and disease resistance) are significantly affected by the nutrition of the plant?
That domain has largely been left to commercial interests, plying synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides, all of which, ostensibly, have been made to keep plants healthy.
Ausplow consultant and former CSIRO scientist and microbiologist Dr Margaret Roper recently revealed research from laboratory experiments that have shown how naturally occurring soil microorganisms suppress crown rot in wheat.

While Dr Roper is keen to remind farmers that field trials are now needed to substantiate the research, Ausplow managing director John Ryan believes we are now moving into a science-led era that can also substantiate Ausplow’s BioFurrow™ hypothesis.
“If you look at what scientific research has revealed it presents a range of questions to me that has helped me in the design evolution of the DBS, leading to our hypothesis on the BioFurrow™,” John said.
The BioFurrow™ crop furrow concept is based on creation by the DBS system of a moist, aerated and nutrient-rich environment where microorganisms flourish and plants thrive.
According to John, the history of agriculture has proven the pitfalls of over-cultivating, low soil pH, loss of topsoil and, particularly in Western Australia’s wheatbelt, salinity.
“Farmers throughout the world have led the way in overcoming these challenges, to some extent, through minimum cultivation and soil renovation,” he said.
“But what science is now showing us through decades of work by researchers such as Dr Roper, is a bigger picture.
“Science is breaking through myopic views that our ‘conventional’ methods of crop and pasture establishment will stand the test of time.
“But nowhere have we evidence of such a fact.
“We do have evidence of ‘sugar hits’ through deep tillage, rotary hoeing, spading and mouldboard ploughing but I’ve never heard anybody talk about the longer-term residual benefits past five or six years.
“What I do know is that soil microbes have been around since before the start of agriculture.
“These soil microbes (or soil biota) physically contribute to soil structure and help build organic matter (by sequestering carbon), leading to healthy plants.
“Scientists have long despaired that our ‘conventional’ agricultural methods and inputs are killing these microbes.
“Hence the microbes don’t get much chance to show their wares.
“But when they do, they conclusively prove what scientists have been saying for decades and what recently, New South Wales farmer and DBS owner Greg Chappell, has revealed to us in his Ausfacts stories.
“Briefly, since 2008, Greg has been re-building his soil by increasing organic carbon content through things like mulching weeds, manuring and using a liquid potassium mix based on plant analysis.
“Crops and pastures really took off when he started using the DBS in 2017.
“When he started, paddock measurements were below one for organic carbon and now it’s around 3.5.
“With soil pH, measurements have gone from between 4.4 and 5.7 to between 5.9 and 7.1.
“He says he’s retaining organic carbon and this is increasing the water-holding capacity of the soil; he attributes these benefits to the positive contribution from soil microbes.
“His parting message in his story in the October 2018 edition of Ausfacts was:
‘Let’s give biology a go.’
“I can only encourage DBS owners to critically evaluate what they want to achieve with crop and pasture establishment and at least trial a bit of biology.
“Even if it’s only one run to establish, for example, a BioFurrow™ trial as a control, at least you’re on the road to meaningful comparisons.
“The DBS is only one tool, but I believe biology is the toolbox.
“Why not discover what other tools you can find in the toolbox?”

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Publish Date: 
Friday, February 11, 2022