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Two-day soil management workshop

Thursday 13th April

A two-day soil management workshop taking place in Cromwell at the end of June will be the biggest event of its type in the South Island in recent times.

Co-organiser Cherryle Prew of the SoilFoodWeb Institute said it was a coup for the South Island to secure key note speaker Dr Christine Jones, an internationally renowned soils ecologist and founder of the Australian Soil Carbon Accreditation Scheme.

“Dr Jones is booked years in advance, so having her speak for a whole morning at the ”Farming Soils – Starting Today” workshop is a real honour,” she said.

“She will be talking about the big picture; how the carbon, nitrogen and water cycles are intrinsically linked.  I think farmers will respect her years of experience working with landholders to restore water balance, increase biological activity and improve productivity”.

Ms Prew said all the speakers at the two-day conference are well versed in sustainable farming, including farmers who had made the switch to innovative soil-based production.

“The aim of the workshop is to empower the farmer with enough knowledge to make the best decision to suit his own farming system. Integrity Soils will be giving a farmer-friendly, in-depth explanation of the simple on-farm score-card system for assessing soils. Landcare Research will be talking about greenhouse gas emissions and soil carbon issues.”

Ms Prew said the workshop will give participants all the information they need to start farming their own soils.

“It really is a one-off opportunity for South Island farmers to access a high level of expertise in biological farming which is not often brought together, especially in the far south.”

Co-organiser Ray Annan, from Sustainable Growing Solutions, said he had been working with different farming industries for seven years in Otago and Southland.

“I’ve seen outstanding results in my work with dairy farmers, beef and sheep farmers and vineyards. Once you get the soil working for you, everything else starts falling into place. Stock temperament and health improves, fertiliser use is enhanced, and soil structure and depth is improved. The water holding capacity of the soil is also increased, reducing water run-off and taking the pressure off rivers and streams.”

Mr Annan said anyone who relies on the soil would find the workshop relevant including dairy farmers, sheep and beef farmers, crop farmers, orchardists, vegetable growers and wine-makers.

The third leg of the organising team is Conal Wattam, the Otago Compost and Greenwaste manager for Delta. He was inspired to put time into organising the conference because of his passion for biologically active soils through composting.

“Biological farming is the way of the future,” said Mr Wattam. “By farming the biology in their soil, farmers can reduce input costs and maximise productivity.

“There’s no downside, and the earlier farmers get into it, the more of a competitive advantage they’re going to get from it.”

Mr Annan encouraged farmers who are interested in attending the workshop not to leave it too late to register.

“We haven’t even started advertising the workshop yet, and already we’re getting calls from all over the South Island. Word of mouth is spreading extremely quickly, and farmers are thirsty for knowledge about biological farming. I’d hate to see people miss out.”

The “Farming Soils – Starting Today” workshop runs 30th June – 1st July in Cromwell, and costs $180.


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