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Soil was the focus of a recent workshop held in Bencubbin, where participants focused on getting to know the health of their soil through practical training and knowledge-sharing. They were guided under the expertise of soil and water chemistry specialist, Phil Mulvey, founder of Ryzo. Phil is also the co-author of the book Groundbreaking: Soil Security and Climate Change.  

Phil explained the small water cycle and its significance in small-scale weather events; it accounts for 40-70% of the rain that falls locally. It also affects the nature of the rain – whether it be thunderstorms or soft dewy winter rain. He also spoke to the importance of soil carbon for building resilience in agricultural systems.  

A key aspect of the workshop saw landholders bring along several soil samples from their property to assess. The assessment was completed using the Ryzo Soil Property Observation Tool (SPOT) app. The tests used on the app are relative to carbon (i.e. what soil functions are suitable for increasing organic carbon in the soil).  

The soil assessment aspect of the workshop displayed the significant variation in soil properties such as pH, soil moisture and soil structure. The Ryzo SPOT app is a useful tool to track long-term changes in soil properties.  

Some key learnings from the day included: 

  • Having a farm plan is essential but the ability to adapt the plan according to seasonal conditions is equally important.  
  • When trialing a new management practice, begin in a small area and then expand if the change is successful.  
  • Application of lime reduces aluminum toxicity but locks up phosphorus making it unavailable for plant growth.  
  • Rock phosphate (P) is locked up in the soil. For plants to be able to access this phosphorus, the plant needs to feed fungi which in turn feeds bacteria. If there is synthetic, freely available phosphorus applied (fertilizer), then the plant will access this form of phosphorus as this is the path of least resistance to acquire P. The plant therefore will not go down the biological pathway of accessing rock phosphorus unless it is supported to do so.  
  • Organic carbon improves water use efficiency (WUE).  

If you want to learn more from Phil on topics such as soil, land use, and carbon, then check out his book Groundbreaking: Soil Security and Climate Change. More details on that here: https://www.groundbreakingpress.com/