Wheatbelt Integrity Group (WIG) Regenerative Farming Field Day

Close to 50 people converged for a beautiful October day in Newdegate for the 2021 Wheatbelt Integrity Group (WIG) Regenerative Farming Field Day, exploring the theme of Plant Diversity for Profitable Regenerative Farming Systems.

The day kicked off at the Newdegate CRC with an interactive session with the ever-popular Dr Christine Jones, an internationally renowned groundcover and soils ecologist, joining the event from her home in New South Wales.

Christine delved into the science of plant communities, and how maintaining diverse plantings throughout the year can fulfil many of the biological functions that are often simulated with expensive inputs.

“Healthy topsoil can only form in the presence of the microbes associated with living plants,” she said.

“We need them over summer as well as winter, as we now know that it is the microbiome around the plant roots that determines the health of the plants.”

Christine went on to explain the connection between soil microbial diversity and soil structure, nutrient cycling, pest and disease resistance, crop and pasture productivity, and with broader linkages to food security, landscape function and carbon sequestration.

After lunch, the group headed out to Nick Kelly’s property, Holland Track Farm, to contextualise Christine’s knowledge in a real-world setting.

Nick demonstrated how he and his family have created a farming system which is sequestering carbon, reducing erosion, enhancing soil health and increasing moisture retention, all without chemical use.

We visited a paddock with diverse mixed species cover crops, the family’s chicken production set up, and their holistic cattle grazing operation.

Each setting provided great opportunities to learn how the Kelly family introduced new practices and principles over time, which is a fantastic example of profitably transitioning into a regenerative agriculture system.

It was exciting to see this kind of system in play, especially the number of enterprises possible in a relatively small area.

It is hoped that multi-enterprise farming like this may have social benefits as well, creating more opportunities for labour throughout the year, with the potential to bring people into the community, ultimately regenerating our regional areas and towns.