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

Madeline Buckley and Ross Batten – Buffalo, South Gippsland, Victoria

457 hectares of grey loam soils – 600mm annual rainfall

  • shelter belts divide some paddocks
  • pasture species consists of rye grass, white clover and some strawberry clover
  • bent grass is a problem in some paddocks as it creates a dense root mat and reduces dry matter production
  • the mat protects paddocks from pugging over in winter but is a priority for renovation.
  • any approach should deliver the greatest return for the least outlay
  • good results have been achieved before with lime and an s-tine cultivator.

Madeline and Ross

  • move stock based on weather conditions, pasture growth rates and dry matter utilisation
  • graze pastures at the 2-3 leaf stage when possible
  • break cows into smaller mobs for calving, with rotations slowed during this period.
SoilKee demostrataion

Experimental design

Batten SoilKee layout


Crude Protein and Digestibility graph
Metabolisable energy and Neutral Detergent Fibre graph
Predicted liveweight gain
Final Summary of results

Summary of results to date: February 2017

  • there has been a response from the SoilKee renovator in comparison to control and spike aerator
  • sowing seed did not have a great response. Germination was sufficient but seedlings showed nutrient deficiency and most did not persist
  • lime has lifted pH but not shown any difference in pasture yield
  • a rise in P across the paddock may have been due to application of 3:1 in 2015. There was a higher rise in available P on both SoilKee plots
  • visual response from SoilKee after limited rain in early 2016 and an extremely dry spring and autumn
  • species improved in the SoilKee strips and pasture quality was better
  • response has persisted through the following year.
Batten and Buckley house paddock, March 2015
Batten and Buckley soil sod

House paddock before treatment, March 2015

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

Small strip not treated 5 kms away

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

Pasture species assessment square

Pasture species assessment square

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.


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.


Evaluation undertaken by Lisa Warn Consulting

Next Steps

Further testing of the SoilKee, spike aerator and over sowing is planned in 2016/17. Sites will be monitored until 2018. Interim results and final report will be released on the Gippsland Soil Trials and Demonstrations webpage, through further field days and Landcare communciations channels.

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.

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
    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?