BENEFITS FROM A SOIL MANAGEMENT PLAN
ASM works with Land Managers to develop more profitable and sustainable soil management practices.
ASM has the vision, commitment and the latest scientific methods.
The first step is to develop a Soil Management Plan to add more organic matter to your soil and to keep it there.
The cheapest and easiest way to add organic matter to soil is to keep soil covered with healthy growing plants such as grass, turf, pastures, crops, flowers, shrubs and trees.
Benefits from more soil organic matter
In areas of Australia where the native vegetation has not been cleared the level of soil organic matter can be quite high. After the land is cleared there is usually a drop off in soil organic matter.
Traditional agricultural practices, for example, result in a net loss of organic matter from soils. Soil organic matter, measured as carbon in commercial soil tests, is usually less than 2 % by weight. Good quality soils need at least 2% carbon by weight.
The implementation of a Soil Management Plan will typically double Soil Organic Carbon levels to deliver the following benefits:
Improved soil structure with less compaction
Increased capacity to store soil moisture
Better infiltration and drainage of water
Deeper root systems so plants are less susceptible to dry weather conditions
Increased penetration of air to plant roots and beneficial soil organisms
Improved decomposition of plant and animal residues
Increased cycling of mineral nutrients and better availability to plant roots, meaning regular application of fertilizers is not essential
HOW WE DO IT
Products to reduce chemical costs
Traditional Land Managers use chemical products such as fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides and wetting agents. Most are expensive and many are toxic to people, plants and animals to some degree.
Your ASM Soil Management Plan will take you through a transition from chemicals to smarter management practices and safer products. And in most cases the products are cheaper and safer. Over time, you will see an improvement in soil quality and productivity with the increase in Soil Organic Matter and less money spent on chemicals.
Biological Nitrogen from Legume Inoculants
Chemical nitrogen fertilizers are expensive, wasteful because most of the nitrogen is lost before it reaches plant roots, and damaging to our environment. Chemical fertilizers provide a large dose of nutrients all at once, more than plants can use at the time fertilizers are applied. The excess nutrients are washed through the soil into groundwater, bound up as insoluble compounds that plants cannot use or lost as nitrous oxide (greenhouse) gas into the air.
It is much less expensive to grow legumes (clovers, peas, beans, etc) to supply slow release biological nitrogen. Farmers have been doing this routinely in Australia with great success since the 1950s.
The strategy is to add the right type of nitrogen-fixing bacteria to the seed or soil when you plant legumes. Each type of legume has a requirement for its own type of bacteria sold commercially as Legume Inoculants. The bacteria form nodules on legume roots. Inside the nodules they take free nitrogen from the air and convert it directly into soluble nitrogen to be taken up by the roots. When legumes residues decompose they release their nitrogen into the soil pool for access by other plants.
All ASM Legume Inoculants are produced using strains of nitrogen-fixing bacteria that have been tested and selected by the Australian Legume Inoculant Research Unit (ALIRU) as the most productive bacterial strain for each legume group. ALIRU is located within the NSW Department of Primary Industry.
Certified Organic Fertilizers
Cheap nitrogen can be sourced straight from the air using Legume Inoculants. Other plant nutrients such as phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron and trace elements can be supplied through good quality organic fertilizers.
The ASM Soil Management Plan will substitute chemical products with certified organics products. All ASM products meet Australian Standard AS4454 (2012) for composts, soil conditioners and mulches.
WHO WE HELP
We are currently working with commercial and family farms that are involved in wheat, canola, lucerne, grazing, wine and almond operations. In addition, we are assisting a number of farms to benefit from the Federal Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund where they will be paid for the carbon captured in their soils. All of these operations are benefiting from our ability to increase the soil organic matter on their farms.
Golf & Sports Clubs
Golf Courses and Sports Ovals benefit enormously from improving their soil organic matter. This means that they are more environmentally friendly, they save costs from reduced demand for water, they are more socially responsible by contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases, there is less nutrient run-off into local waterways and financially they are better off.
State & Local Governments
ASM is working with the ACT & NSW governments, the Snowy Monaro Regional Council and a number of regional organisations to improve and maximise the benefits of soil organic matter. This includes improvements to farm productivity, weed management and environmental benefits.
ASM believes that all schools should have soil health, carbon sequestration and environmental co-benefits, included in the curriculum for young Australians. This will enable them to appreciate better the role that soils play within our world and in cleaning up the atmosphere. We work with schools to develop interesting and innovative projects.
Not just Pen Pushers!!
Dr GREG BENDER
Dr Bender is one of Australia’s most experienced and knowledgeable scientists in the field of soil biology and organic matter. He is passionate about smarter land management, meaning the integration of sophisticated natural systems with modern farming practices to build better soils, landscapes and businesses.
From 2001 to 2006 Greg was National Coordinator for the $10M Soil Biology Initiative funded by the Grains Research & Development Corporation. The Initiative was Australia’s first national coordinated research effort to understand soil biology and organic matter (carbon) for the benefit of farmers and other land managers.
Greg’s career began as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Australian National University specializing in beneficial interactions between plants and soil microbes. Since then he has gone on to develop and commercialize many new forms of microbial fertilizers and pesticides. In addition, Greg has over 30 years experience as a business manager, research manager, consultant and scientist in the rural sector. He has a strong family background in farming.
For ASM clients, Greg brings a unique advantage in being able to combine business acumen with scientific expertise in a way that people can easily put into practice. He understands science and technology and their application in land management enterprises.
Mr NORMAN MARSHALL
Mr Norman Marshall is a results-focused director with a reputation for building businesses to support worthwhile causes at a national level. From 2007 to 2010 he was CEO for Parkinson’s Australia, the peak body representing the needs and interest of people living with Parkinson’s disease. Norman championed Parkinson’s Australia to all levels of government seeking improved funding for services, research and awareness.
Previously he was the founder, CEO (1996-2001) and then Executive Chairman (2001-06) for Australian Drug Management and Education Pty Ltd. ADM&E was the leading provider of drug-free workplace programs in Australia with clients including the Australian Federal Police, Qantas, Patrick Corporation, ABB Pty Ltd, Pacific National Rail and BHP.
Norman is used to working with Governments.
Norman has practical skills and experience in building carbon levels in soil. His horse property in Australia’s high country is a sanctuary for rescue horses and is also a bio-diversity reserve. It is one of the best examples of improved healthy soils and therefore healthy animals.
What is Soil Organic Matter (SOM)?
Plants use CO2, water and sunlight energy to make organic matter. Plants (and animals as part of the food chain) eventually die and return to the soil where they are decomposed by small organisms to form soil organic matter. There is a continuous turnover of SOM in soil. It is a complex mixture of organic matter at different stages of decomposition.
What are Soil Organic Matter pools?
It is convenient to divide Soil Organic Matter into different pools dependent on their ease of decomposition. These are the labile pool, slow pool and inert pool. The labile pool is all the freshly added plant and animal residues as well as small soil organisms. These are easily decomposed into nutrients for plant roots. The slow pool is already well decomposed and called humus. The inert pool is old and resistant to further breakdown. The important point to note is that soils differ not only in total Soil Organic Matter but in the size of each pool. A large labile pool is preferred because it means the soil can provide nutrients for plant growth.
Why is Soil Organic Matter important?
Soil Organic Matter is essential for soil quality and is the basis of sustainable agriculture. A high quality soil has a good structure (soil crumbs or aggregates), supports more plant growth, stores moisture, has plenty of air pockets, and does not erode easily. Soil Organic Matter is a major natural store of carbon for the Earth. There is twice the carbon stored in Soil Organic Matter than in air or plants and animals.
What is the difference between Soil Organic Matter and carbon?
Soil Organic Matter is, on average, made up of 58 per cent carbon. Soil organic carbon in soil test results can be converted to Soil Organic Matter by multiplying your Soil Organic Carbon result by 1.72.
How can I convert percentage Soil Organic Carbon in my soil test results to tonnes of carbon per hectare?
Tonnes carbon per hectare = Soil Organic Carbon % x Soil bulk density (Mg/m ) x Sampling depth (cm). One Mg = 1000 kg = 1 tonne. For example, 1% Soil Organic Carbon in a soil with a bulk density of 1.4 Mg/m sampled to a depth of 30 cm contains 42 tonnes of carbon per hectare.
How much carbon can be stored in soils?
Some soils can store more carbon than others. Soil Organic Carbon ranges from about 10 per cent in alpine soils to less than 0.5 per cent in desert soils. Some soils in Australia have fallen down below 1 per cent after decades of agriculture. Soil Organic Carbon in farmland, parks and sports fields is usually lower than adjacent areas still with natural vegetation. The challenge is to change soil management practices to increase Soil Organic Carbon and Soil Organic Matter. Some Land Managers are already doing this. Australian soils offer a big opportunity to capture and store extra carbon.
What management practices increase Soil Organic Carbon?
Keep soil covered with live healthy plants. Healthy plants capture more carbon
Avoid soil cultivation, plowing or using a rotary hoe
Do not burn off dead plant material. The carbon is removed as CO2 and the soil is left bare
Do not cut grass too short or overgraze. Plants under stress capture less CO2
Protect soil from erosion by wind or water. Lost soil is lost carbon
Direct addition of carbon in the form of composts, manures and other recycled organics
Any practice that improves plant growth because more growth means more CO2 captured. Avoid chemical fertilizers and pesticides if possible because large quantities of CO2 are generated in their manufacture