Be your own soil doctor

Cover of the book: "Managing Sodic, Acidic and Saline Soils"

Scientists in two states have developed new tools that will help farmers diagnose and treat such soil health problems as acidification and depletion of soil nutrients.

The Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) and Agriculture WA have developed a lime and nutrient calculator which growers can use to estimate the total amount of lime equivalents and soil nutrients that are lost from a paddock following different cropping and pasture practices. It takes account of both removal in the product and losses from leaching.

The calculator provides information on the removal of lime equivalents, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum and boron for 13 agricultural crops and products.

The calculator is easy to use. The farmer 'inputs' information on what he has grown, the yield, rainfall and soil type. The calculator then gives the total amount of lime equivalents or nutrient removed per hectare. The result can help farmers decide the quantity of lime or nutrient they need to apply to maintain sustainable production.

Researchers expect to produce a final version of the calculator by mid-year in both printed and computer software versions. (For more information, please contact Dr James Fisher (CLIMA) on 08 9368 3356, fax 08 9367 2625.)

Sodic, acidic and saline soils

The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Soil and Land Management now offers a kit which allows farmers to diagnose a topsoil or subsoil for sodicity, acidity or salinity problems, and a field recording booklet.

The 'SAS' kit, Managing Sodic, Acidic and Saline Soils, consists of a full-colour illustrated manual and a separate do-it-yourself sodicity meter with instruction sheet. The meter allows rapid and cheap testing for sodicity. The manual outlines remedial practices tailored to the specific soil problems.

The field recording booklet, jointly developed with the Kapunda Land Management Group in South Australia, outlines plant and soil indicators for cereal cropping and pasture areas and contains worked examples using the indicators. It also flags critical values indicating a need for change in farm management, and provides a recording chart to monitor trends over time. The booklet can be used in conjunction with the kit.

Contact: Dr James Fisher (CLIMA)

08 9368 3356

Dr Mark Seeliger (CRCSLM) 08 8303 8670

The SAS kit is available from the CRC at a cost of $10; the recording booklet costs $5. Address: PMB2, Glen Osmond SA 5064, ph: 08 8303 8670. Both items are also available from state departments of Agriculture.

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