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 residual 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


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
  • Soil tests showed increase across all available nutrients, cation exchange, pH, cal/mag ratio and decrease in exchangeable aluminium.
  • Deep soil cores showed a massive increase in soil carbon and reduction in bulk density.
  • 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.  The other cores were grey, dry with root mat present. 

Soil Test results May 2018


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

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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Findings and views expressed in the Gippsland Soil Trials and Demonstrations pages are those of the proponents. The scope, objectives and scientific rigour of the information varies greatly. The intention is to provide a repository of information that facilitates discussion.

16 thoughts on “SoilKee Renovator – Soil Pasture Demonstration

  1. Hi there, this looks extremely interesting and I’d love to try on my central victorian property. If my calcs are correct the cost (according to Niels comment below) is Soilkee/Ha $173.00
    Standard Winter seed mix @30kg/Ha $ 41.70
    (Winter seed mix: Peas, oats, barley, rye corn) = @$215/Ha. How much extra if with lime? How frequently is the suggested application and at what time of year? Our average rainfall is about 550mm/year.

  2. Hi. I have been reading about Soilkee and have just watched Landline where it was featured. We are looking at regenerative agriculture and multi species pasture sewing with a view to using no chemical and increasing the health of our soil. Our plan was for no till seed sewing but the Soilkee seems to create more soil disturbance than some of the people we know who practise regen ag use. It all gets confusing. So do you contract out Soilkee and what sort of seed mix would you use or can we create our own. We are in Gippsland, Woodside North. What would the costs be approximately to renovate and sew around 50 acres? We run beef cattle and have de stocked because of th drought but want to grow better pasture for feed.

  3. hi neils olsen,
    saw you on landline this week (september 2019)… what sort of costs would we be looking at in 2019 and with our current drought conditions in east gippsland what sort of results could we expect or work for…
    How much area would you look at doing per paddock… 10 paddock around 20acres each

  4. Hey, I’m currently writing from Israel.
    In the data presented, I saw that the annual precipitation is 600mm.
    Our grazing areas are in the 200mm belt. Do you have any info of experiments/trails in such dryer areas?
    Thanks in advance, Eyal Benevet

    1. Hi Eyal, This machine has been used in our lower rainfall country which averages 400mm but has been in drought conditions for the last 18 months. Without rainfall, the results as you might expect have been limited. The key to this machines success might be attributed to burying organic residue in an aerated environment, with limited disturbance of the pasture, setting off a biological decomposition process and stimulating nutrient release and plant growth. Timing this approach with such limited rainfall would be critical, if it were to work at all. Some of our more successful demonstrations in dry country can be attributed to marrying stocking rate to carrying capacity and careful planned grazing, also known as regenerative ag, holistic grazing management and other names. Please read this case study for more info.

  5. Hi I’m wondering if this tech would be available to other producer groups throughout Vic to test under different seasonal and soil conditions/types/water profiles etc? Thanks Helen

    1. Hi Helen, I encourage you to get in contact with Neils Olsen from SoilKee. I have seen the machine operate under various conditions, soil types etc and think the more testing it gets under different conditions the better. It certainly shows promise. I know they have taken it to South Australia and NSW.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. This looks so impressive. Love to give it a go in Central Victoria. How might I go about it?

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

Comments are closed.