Case Study: Citrus (horticulture) in NSW

The adoption of a biological nutrition program three years ago has significantly increased the profitability of Dareton district citrus grower and packer, Tony Barila, by improving fruit quality, yields and consistency. As a grower, he was experiencing a number of problems which he attributed to poor soil fertility. “I used to get a lot of small fruit, yellow leaves, fruit drop and alternate bearing,” he said. “Like every grower, I know that fruit and quality are a direct result of nutrition, so I kept on applying gypsum, manure and granular fertiliser whenever I thought my trees needed it. And if I had a particular problem, my fertiliser rep recommended me to apply some more of something else! “I was packing fruit from Palinyewah Producers three years ago and I saw how much bigger, firmer and better their fruit was. I asked their manager, Peter Donaldson, what was he doing and …

Case Study: Viticulture in the Sunraysia

Viticulture

The adoption of a biological nutrition program and an advanced irrigation scheduling system has paid major dividends for Sunraysia grape growers, John and Alison Wrate. Running a small vineyard planted to two hectares of Chardonnay and 3.5 ha of Shiraz grape vines, the Wrates are achieving yields and quality well in excess of the district average. John attributes his success to his willingness to use external consultants and adopt new ideas. “I have no aspiration to be the biggest, so I want to be the best little grower around,” he said. “When I started growing grapes 15 years ago, I was putting out a bag of this or that and relying on other people for free advice. Then I started using a consultant and later an agronomist who gradually introduced me to the BioAg approach. “I was already growing good quality fruit and yield, but I have always been interested …

Case Study: Growing Pasture in the Riverina, NSW

Riverina farmer, Andrew Forrest, has transformed a tired farm into a highly productive property yielding as well as any in the district after adopting a minimum till biological farming system. Andrew, his wife, Sue, and his sister and brother -in-law, Kate and Kevin Hall, grow 800 hectares of wheat, barley, canola and field peas and 100 ha of oats for grazing and hay on adjoining properties, “Columbia Park” and “New Park” at Corobimilla, 20 kilometres south-west of Narrandera. A fifth generation farmer, Andrew grew up on his parents’ property near Corowa. The two couples bought “Columbia Park” in 1994 and then “New Park” seven years later, reuniting what was once a single farm. The soils on “Columbia Park” were worse for wear after many years of continuous conventional cropping. “The soil was powdery with no structure and would blow, wash and crust pretty easily, which is not uncommon in these …

Case Study: Mixed Farming in the Riverina, NSW

Riverina mixed farmer, Drew Vidler, has noted a marked improvement in the health of his Merino sheep and the quality of their wool since he adopted a minimum-till biological farming system eight years ago. Together with wife, Janelle, and children, Jock, Harrison and Alexandra, Drew runs 1200 Merino ewes on 1600 hectares of undulating sandy loam soils at “Coro”, Corobimilla, 20 kilometres south-west of Narrandera. Half the property is sown to lucerne and clover-based pastures while the remainder grows wheat, canola, barley and lupins. “When my family came here 46 years ago here, the country was tired, with hard-setting, cloddy soils,” Drew said. “Like everyone else in the area, they grew wheat. In those days, it seemed that the more they cultivated the better things got – but they didn’t know when to stop.” Drew’s father realised that the country was in trouble. In an effort to build up organic …

Case Study: Growing Organic Beef on Victorian Pasture

The adoption of biological farming principles has enabled north Victorian beef producer, Craig Sobey, to rejuvenate a run-down property to the point where it has almost doubled productivity in the past five years. The Sobey family bought the Rochester-district property, “The Castle”, in 1999 but it was not until late 2001 when Craig started to develop his dream of creating an organic beef enterprise that things really started to change. A fourth-generation farmer who trained as a cost engineer and spent most of his career in Asia, Craig decided to apply science-based methodologies to his new farming enterprise. “I was completely new to farming but it made sense to go forward with a biological or organic farming approach because it has sound, science-based principles behind it,” he said. “You can add, subtract and change the outcomes, whereas a lot of conventional farming seems to be hammering a round peg into …

Case Study: Growing Pasture in Victoria

The adoption of biological farming techniques six years ago has allowed Victorian chaff producers, Jeff and Gae Dalton, to grow top quality lucerne on a block that had previously repulsed their best efforts to establish the crop. The Daltons mill and bag their own chaff from lucerne grown on 100 hectares of irrigated land which they own, lease or share-farm near Swan Hill on the Murray River. Their business, Kiambra Stock Feeds, markets a range of premium quality bagged lucerne, oats and molasses chaff in produce stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The chaff is favoured by racehorse owners and trainers and is supplied to horses at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. The Dalton family has been on the 53 ha home block for half a century but when Jeff took it over 25 years ago it was, in his words, “waterlogged paspalum, rushes, couch grass, boulders and snakes”. Jeff …

Case Study: Dairy Farming in Victoria

Dairy

The owners of northern Victoria dairying operation, Calmo Farms, have significantly improved the vigour and persistence of their pastures since they adopted a biological farming program four years ago. The Clymo family – Jade and Belinda, and Trevor and Jan – milk about 500 Holstein cows on 400 hectares of irrigated pasture and lucerne at Calivil, 40 kilometres west of Rochester. The Clymos milk in a 50-stand rotary dairy with a computerised identification system linked to production records and the feed delivery system. The herd has an average production of about 9,000 litres of milk at 3.6% butterfat (325 kg) and 3.3% protein (297 kg). A fourth-generation dairy farmer, Jade was studying lot feeding in Adelaide when his marketing lecturer encouraged him to investigate more environmentally friendly methods of livestock production. Spurred on by some of the real problems which were becoming evident on his parents’ property – including mastitis, …

Case Study: Broadacre Cropping in Dunkeld, Vic

A biological soil nutrition program is enabling Victorian farmers, Gavin and Vikki Bensch, to shrug off the effects of the drought and produce some of the best clover hay they have ever grown. Gavin and Vikki grow about 180 hectares of clover hay, wheat, linseed, field peas and oats on their 350 ha property, “Kengurra”, near Dunkeld in the Western District. They also run 1,500 superfine Merino ewes, some of which are joined to Poll Dorset and Southdown rams for prime lamb production, and a small Angus beef herd. A fourth-generation farmer in the region, Gavin has long been concerned about the ongoing effects of acid fertilisers and the use of crop protection products on the health of his soils. “I am no longer comfortable about using a lot of conventional fertilisers and pesticides,” he said. “I’m more interested in getting production out of the soil naturally rather than forcing …

Case Study: Growing Wheat and Oats, Inverell, NSW

Northern NSW farmers, Geoff and Kaye Bassett, have defied the drought to produce an amazing 500 kilograms of beef per hectare on their dual-purpose wheat and oat crops. The key to their success is a revolutionary biological farming program which they claim has dramatically improved their soil structure and, as a direct result, plant vigour and animal health. The Bassetts run 300 Limousin cows and grow bought-in steers for the feedlot trade on their 1,800 hectare Inverell-district property, “Pindaroi Station”, which usually receives an average of 800 mm of summer-dominant rain a year. Yearlings are run on a mix of winter and summer fodder crops, including oats, wheat, lab lab, cow peas and lucerne, sown into 800 ha of arable basalt soils, while the breeding herd grazes semi-improved pastures. The Bassetts began an intensive fertiliser and pasture improvement program in their grazing country about 25 years ago, applying 125 kg/ha …

Case Study: Mixed Farming Operation, Manildra NSW

Mixed Farming

The adoption of a biological soil nutrient program six years ago has dramatically improved the productivity and general well-being of a mixed farming enterprise operated by the Watts family in Central West NSW. Charlie and Jenny Watts, together with their son and daughter-in-law, Andrew and Tina Watts, run 1,100 first-cross ewes and 40 Angus x Santa Gertrudis crossbred cows, as well as growing up to 200 hectares of winter cereals and oilseeds on their 890 ha Manildra-district property, “Pinevale”. According to Charlie, the enterprise faced a major crossroads about a decade ago. Their wool enterprise was becoming unviable, yet increased emphasis on cropping seemed unfeasible due to a number of soil and weed problems. The “crunch” came when they lost a cow and calf to magnesium deficiency, even after implementing a conventional fertiliser program to correct this problem. “That really made us start thinking – we knew there was something …

Case Study: Dairy, NSW

Dairy

The adoption of organic farming techniques has increased the net income of Upper Murray dairy farmer, Don Jarvis, by a tidy 25 percent, as well as significantly improving natural soil fertility and animal health. A long-time exponent of biological farming practices, Don seized the opportunity to switch to full organic production in the lead-up to deregulation five years ago. His decision has proven to be not only financially-sound, but has helped to resurrect the natural vitality of the family farm. “We lost our Sydney milk quota and half our income overnight, so we needed an alternative,” he said. “A small organic milk factory had started up in Corryong and they wanted us to supply them, so I decided to give it a go.” Don now supplies the Organic Dairy Farmers Co-op, based at Korumburra in South Gippsland, which markets its own range organic dairy products as well as wholesaling organic …

Case Study: Grazing, NSW

Upper Murray graziers, Jamie and Virginia Bond, have lifted total beef production by nearly 30 percent over the past decade via a concerted effort to improve their pasture efficiency and livestock husbandry. The couple run 500 Angus and black baldy cows on their 783 hectare property, “Wyandra”, Tooma. When the Bonds purchased the property from Virginia’s parents 11 years ago, they realised that they faced a bleak future unless they changed their management. At the time, the property was subdivided into a network of 40 ha paddocks. The soils were in poor condition and there were few perennial pastures. Grass tetany was a huge problem among the autumn-calving herd and there was often insufficient feed during winter. With a background in dairy farming and a cell grazing course under his belt, Jamie believed that rotational grazing could deliver much better pasture management, feed utilisation and weed control. He dismantled the …