Linking and demonstrating soil health outcomes and management practices

Lead organisation & collaborators (if any):

Bass Coast Landcare Network
DSE ecoMarkets
South Gippsland Landcare Network
Westernport Catchments Landcare Network
DPI-Sustainable Landscapes
Report by Dr Timothy Cavagnaro and Ms Kimberley Damsma, Monash University

Contact:

Timothy Cavagnaro
Monash University
E: timothy.cavagnaro@monash.edu

 

Year of study: 2010-2011

Location: 40 farms and reference sites.

Project details

 

Objectives:

Assess the performance of the rapid soil health assessment tool developed by Bass Coast Landcare Network.

Hypotheses:

Soils from 40 farms and reference sites were analysed for a suite of physicochemical properties. These properties were assessed against BCLN’s soil health assessment tool to test its robustness.

Basis of Trial:

A rapid soil health assessment tool

Location Details:

1 Grantville Bass (BoM) 818.6mm/a Loam
2 Grantville Bass (BoM) 818.6mm/a Clay Loam
3 Kongwak Outtrim (BoM) 1025.3mm/a Loam
4 Kongwak Outtrim (BoM) 1025.3mm/a Loam
5 Surf Beach Rhyll (BoM) 848.6mm/a Loam
6 Surf Beach Rhyll (BoM) 848.6mm/a Loam
7 Nyora Nyora (BoM) 1008.5mm/a Loam
8 Nyora Nyora (BoM) 1008.5mm/a Loam
9 Nyora Nyora (BoM) 1008.5mm/a Clay Loam
10 Nyora Nyora (BoM) 1008.5mm/a Clay Loam
11 Jindivick Jindivick (BoM) 1152.9mm/a Loam
12 Jindivick Jindivick (BoM) 1152.9mm/a Loam
13 Labertouche Labertouche (BoM) 955.8mm/a Loam
14 Labertouche Labertouche (BoM) 955.8mm/a Loam
15 Labertouche Labertouche (BoM) 955.8mm/a Clay
16 Tynong North Pakenham (BoM) 954.4mm/a Loam
17 Tynong North Pakenham (BoM) 954.4mm/a Loam
18 French Island Rhyll (BoM) 848.6mm/a Clay Loam
19 French Island Rhyll (BoM) 848.6mm/a Clay Loam
20 French Island Rhyll (BoM) 848.6mm/a Clay Loam
21 Loch Nyora (BoM) 1008.5mm/a Clay Loam
22 Loch Nyora (BoM) 1008.5mm/a Clay Loam
23 Strzelecki Korumburra (BoM) 1207.7mm/a Clay Loam
24 Strzelecki Korumburra (BoM) 1207.7mm/a Clay Loam
25 Pakenham Upper Pakenham (BoM) 954.4mm/a Clay Loam
26 Pakenham Upper Pakenham (BoM) 954.4mm/a Clay Loam
27 Labertouche Labertouche (BoM) 955.8mm/a Clay Loam
28 Labertouche Labertouche (BoM) 955.8mm/a Clay Loam
29 Labertouche Labertouche (BoM) 955.8mm/a Clay
30 Bunyip Longwarry (BoM) 899.2mm/a Clay
31 Bunyip Longwarry (BoM) 899.2mm/a Clay Loam
32 Longwarry North Longwarry (BoM) 899.2mm/a Clay
33 Longwarry North Longwarry (BoM) 899.2mm/a Clay Loam
34 Iona Longwarry (BoM) 899.2mm/a Clay Loam
35 Iona Longwarry (BoM) 899.2mm/a Clay Loam
36 Glen Alvie Outtrim (BoM) 1025.3mm/a Clay
37 Glen Alvie Outtrim (BoM) 1025.3mm/a Clay
38 Lang Lang Nyora (BoM) 1008.5mm/a Clay
39 Lang Lang Nyora (BoM) 1008.5mm/a Clay
40 Lang Lang Nyora (BoM) 1008.5mm/a Clay

Pre-Trial Management History:

1 Grantville Beef
2 Grantville Beef
3 Kongwak Beef
4 Kongwak Beef
5 Surf Beach Beef and Sheep
6 Surf Beach Beef and Sheep
7 Nyora Dairy
8 Nyora Dairy
9 Nyora
10 Nyora
11 Jindivick Dairy
12 Jindivick Dairy
13 Labertouche Beef
14 Labertouche
15 Labertouche
16 Tynong North Beef
17 Tynong North Beef
18 French Island Beef
19 French Island
20 French Island Beef
21 Loch Dairy
22 Loch Dairy
23 Strzelecki Beef
24 Strzelecki Beef
25 Pakenham Upper Beef
26 Pakenham Upper
27 Labertouche Beef
28 Labertouche Beef
29 Labertouche
30 Bunyip Beef
31 Bunyip Beef
32 Longwarry North Dairy
33 Longwarry North Dairy
34 Iona Dairy
35 Iona Dairy
36 Glen Alvie Dairy
37 Glen Alvie Dairy
38 Lang Lang Dairy
39 Lang Lang
40 Lang Lang Dairy

Methods and Measures

Trial design/layout:

At each site a small soil pit (20cm wide x 20cm long x 40cm deep) was dug.

Soil sampling method:

At each site a 20m x 20m plot was established at the centre of the site, which was then divided into four 1-m x 10m plots. In each plot the soil properties were quantified to 10cm depth.

Six soil cores were taken at each 10m x 10m plot using a 10cm auger. Samples from each plot were mixed in the field to provide a composite sample, placed in air-tight bags and stored at 4C. Samples were tested at EAL.

Cores- split into two sub-samples. 1st sub sample was dried at 105C for 48 hours, the 2nd was wet-sieved.

Soil tests:

  • Plant available P (Colwell test)
  • CEC
  • Total C (dry combustion method)
  • Total N (dry combustion method)
  • Carbon/Nitrogen ratio
  • Labile C
  • Nitrate
  • Ammonium
  • PMN (anaerobic incubation)
  • Potassium (ammonium acetate test)

In addition, at each soil pit the following was noted:

  • Depth of organic matter (visual)
  • Leaf colour (visual)
  • Root depth and development (visual)
  • Macro-life (count)
  • Earthworm count (count)
  • Soil structure (visual)
  • Aggregate stability (in field test)
  • Soil compaction (in field measurement)
  • Soil biology measurement (quantitative testing)

 

Treatment Results:

Carbon was measured across all sites. A summary is shown below (taken from the technical report)

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 1.06.41 AM

 

Soil health score and soil properties were in a higher range for those sites which were less intensively managed sites.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 1.02.45 AM

The assessment tool itself was found to be an effective tool for measuring chemical, biological and physical soil properties. However it should be used with due consideration of the limitations of the method. The sampling effort and sampling time need to also be carefully considered.

How have the results been reported?

Technical report.

How can a copy of any relevant reports be obtains?

Bass coast Landcare.

Level of review of results:

Internal peer review

Best available science assessment:

Objectives

Conceptual model

Study design

Soil analysis

Production & financial

Method reporting

Data analysis

Results reporting

Publication

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Next steps

Measuring soil health is challenging, but should be of high priority to landholders. A rapid soil health assessment tool is a useful and commendable practice.

A series of recommendations of soil health parameter measurement methods are supplied in the report. These relate to timing, considering alternative methods for measuring and measuring pH.