Many Australian farmers are seeking alternatives to traditional farm management practices, as part of a trend towards farming that combines productivity and sustainability.
Biological farming is one alternative that is generating considerable interest. This approach includes a move away from a reliance on pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. Biological farming presents a viable method of producing high quality, nutritious produce with reduced dependence on inorganic fertilisers, pesticides or gene modification.
The soil foodweb plays an important role in converting previously-applied calcium and phosphate that has been locked up as tri-calcium phosphate back into plant-usable forms.
In most farmed and grazed soils, the size and diversity of the soil foodweb is unable to provide self-sustaining fertility and plant nutrition at the levels of production farmers aim for. This decreases the amount of organic matter converted to humus and microbial activity over time, and reduces the soil’s capacity to hold water. For example, it is estimated that a one percent increase in humus can allow soil to hold an extra 80,000 litres of water per hectare.
What is biological farming?
Biological farming is based on scientific principles and common sense. At its core is the principle that microbes are the basis of all agricultural production systems. Many farmers are already familiar with the importance of microbes in ruminant nutrition. Another example is the role of Rhizobiumbacteria in encouraging nitrogen fixation in legumes.
Identifying a lack of microbial activity
The presence of insects, disease and weeds indicates a lack of microbial activity. Using conventional management practices. pesticides are used to remove pests and herbicides are used to remove weeds. This approach deals with the symptoms. Biological farming addresses the cause of these problems, rather than the symptoms.
Nutrition for plants and animals
Maximising the nutrition available for plants also maximises the nutrition available for livestock. This starts with ensuring thriving and sustainable microbial activity in the soil itself.
Applying microbial nutrients such as fermented liquid cultures to bare earth or foliage helps to establish a thriving and sustainable microbial population in the soil.
If the system is balanced, the soil foodweb will also help to maintain a satisfactory soil pH. By improving soil microbial mass and diversity, producers can improve the natural fertility of their soils. In turn, this increases the amount of plant-available and therefore livestock-available nutrients.
Biological farming presents a major challenge to conventional thinking. Attracted by the benefits, many Australian farmers have already successfully incorporated the principles of biological farming into their operations.
Would you like to talk to a BioAg biological farming expert about introducing biological practices onto your farm?