SoilKee Renovator – Soil Pasture Demonstration

Years of study 2015 – 2018

Project participants

  • South Gippsland Landcare Network
  • Madeline Buckley and Ross Batten
  • Neils and Marja Olsen

Project details

The SoilKee renovator (developed in Gippsland) aerates soil with minimal pasture disturbance. It buries organic matter, top-dresses the pasture with soil and drills seed into the rows. The aim of this demonstration is to study and discuss the actions of the SoilKee.

Location and site details

Buffalo, South Gippsland, Victoria

  • 457 hectares of grey loam soils
  • 600mm annual rainfall
  • rye grass, white clover and some strawberry clover
  • bent grass and root mat is a problem in some paddocks which reduces production

Madeline Buckley and Ross Batten

  • move stock based on weather conditions, growth rates and utilisation
  • provide shelter belts on most paddocks
  • graze pastures at the 2-3 leaf stage when possible
  • break cows into smaller mobs for calving, with rotations slowed during this period
  • periodically use lime and an s-tine cultivator to break up root mat
SoilKee demostrataion

Experimental design

Map showing areas where SoilKee has been demonstrated

Measurements

Estimated DMY kg/ha and % Perennial Rye and Clover graph updated June 2018
Soilkee graph Crude Protein and Digestibility
Metabolisable Energy and Neutral Detergent Fibre graph
Predicted liveweight gain

Summary of results to date: May 2018

  • SoilKee strips showed improved species, response to rainfall, pasture quality preferential grazing and dry matter yield
  • clover was bigger, worm castings evident and soil was spongier underfoot
  • initial response from sowing seed was poor, but worked well on 3rd and 4th run
  • pastures regressed slightly in areas that were not treated in 2017, but were still better than control.
Batten and Buckley house paddock, March 2015
Batten and Buckley soil sod

March 2015 – House paddock before treatment

Soil sod under white clover patch compared with bent
grass root mat

October 2015 after SoilKee run
SoilKee and pasture recovery 4 weeks later

October 2015 – after SoilKee run
Topdressing the pasture with soil aims to cycle nutrient,
kick start tillering, decomposition of dead pasture
and thatch

November 2015 – SoilKee and pasture recovery
(limited pea germination)

After summer rain January 2016
Examing the strip without seed March 2016

January 2016 – SoilKee response after 20mm of rain.
Spring, summer, and autumn were extremely dry

March 2016 – kneeling in the spike aerated strip on the
border of the SoilKee strip without seed. Control and
aerator had very little growth. SoilKee section plants
were greener, bigger and looked healthier, more rye
grass evident

Standing in the SoilKee strip
2 paces away in control area

November 29, 2016Standing in the SoilKee strip

November 29, 2016Standing 2 paces away from the
SoilKee strip

Working on SoilKee demonstration paddock

April 2017 – 3 strips at 90° to original treatments.
Foreground and background without seed,
middle strip with seed

Young stock grazing SoilKee demostration

June 2017 – Young stock, preferentially grazing SoilKee site.
Ross observed that the animals had eaten the SoilKee area
very evenly, down to the ground but had picked at the rest

SoilKee July 2017 Control patch

July 2017 – Control

Soilkee sample July 2017

July 2017 – SoilKee

July 2017 Soilkee plus seed

July 2017 – SoilKee plus seed

July 2017 Aerated plot

July 2017 – Aerated

Small strip not treated 5 kms away

Small strip of pasture not treated with SoilKee,
site 5kms away in Waratah

May 2018 - Soil cores L-R Aerated, Control, Soilkee SoilKee cores were dark, moist, humic with worm activity. The root mat had broken down. pH 5.5 The other cores were grey, dry with root mat present. pH 4.5

May 2018 Soil cores L-R Aerated, Control, SoilKee
SoilKee cores were dark, moist, humic with worm activity.
The root mat had broken down. pH 5.5 The other cores were grey, dry with root mat present. pH 4.5

Soil Test results May 2018

Methods

Measurements taken by Jenny O’Sullivan (Consultant – Linking food, agriculture and people)

Dry Matter Yield

Measured with Pro-graze pasture height stick, 20 times in each plot and verified with visual assessment.

Pasture species %

Species % taken with one metre square, with assessment inside that, 4 assessments in each area.

Pasture quality

Ten gloved handfuls cut with scissors to grazing height on each plot, bulked and sent to AgriFood Technology for accredited feed test. 1 bag for each treatment.

GrazFeed

Evaluation undertaken by Lisa Warn Consulting

The Healthy Soils Sustainable Farms project is supported by the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

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Agriculture Victoria logo
WGCMA colour logo
South Gippsland Landcare Network logo

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8 thoughts on “SoilKee Renovator – Soil Pasture Demonstration

  1. Hi Patrick,
    Soilkee/Ha $173.00
    Standard Winter seed mix @30kg/Ha $ 41.70
    (Winter seed mix: Peas, oats, barley, rye corn
    @$1.39/kg)
    Additional seeds can be added along with this mix Aeration being part of the Soilkee action.

  2. Hi Patrick, The Olsen P is interesting. You are spot on with your assessment. We are working very hard with farmers in this region to use the science in relation to Olsen P levels and spend money more wisely if levels are above 25. Even 14 to 18 is sufficient in a beef grazing operation depending on stocking rate. It is also interesting that the Olsen P levels jumped dramatically in the SoilKee plots. It is a claim of the manufacturer that P levels will increase if the machine is used. This is obviously something to watch. I will ask Neils to answer your first 2 questions.

  3. Hello Tony,
    I am wondering if you have some financial data on cost per ha for using the soilkee renovator alone, soilkee renovator plus seed and for aeration.

    I recently purchased Tetila for around $5 per kg, but how many kgs did you sow per hectare?

    I am wondering why the Olsen P values are so high for the demonstration paddock? Maybe they are not considered high by dairy farm standards but I note the Phosphorus for Dairy Farms project run by Cameron Gouley suggests a maximum Olsen P of 25mg/kg.

  4. Hi Mal, we stopped rating the rigour of our case studies and now put them into categories. This is not peer reviewed and is considered a demonstration rather than a “trial’. Having said that we have done the best we can to ensure the measurements and results published are backed by some defensible data. We have not done cost benefit, but the Grazfeed results of weight gain give some indication. The machine costs $180/ ha to contract.

  5. Great looking results, it will be interesting to discuss with the group. Has the trial been put on the CMA site, and at what trial rigger scale? Have you done anything on cost/benefit?

  6. Thanks Ron, it depends upon what criteria you base it on. Cost benefit, DMY, soil test results etc. I don’t believe there is enough data to make that assessment. The SoilKee plus lime has a better pH, that might show longer term positive results. The SoilKee had an impact on quality and quantity of feed but we did not determine any difference between lime and no lime with that measure. We do not have enough data to determine cost benefit.

  7. Tony,

    It appears that the Siolkee + lime had the best overall response, do you agree and, if so, do you have a rationale for that?