NIGEL Corish reckoned he was a progressive farmer. That was until he undertook a Nuffield Farming Scholarship when he says he quickly realised that there was far more to farming than just maximising yields.
The Goondiwindi farmer said after 16 weeks of visits to China, the United Kingdom, and the US to meet with farmers, consultants, researchers and experts in their fields, it became very apparent that Australia’s farming systems were still new, at least compared to the rest of the world.
In fact, Mr Corish said his overseas experience had made him refocus his management systems based a sustainable and regenerative approach, which had been in place for more than 10,000 years around the globe.
“We need to stop treating the soil like dirt,” Mr Corish told Queensland Country Life’s Food Hero event held at Coorangy, Toobeah.
We need to stop treating the soil like dirt.
“We have only been farming for a short time in comparison to the rest of the world.
“Inputs costs are always increasing, and we all have to stay profitable. We need the soil to work for us.”
Mr Corish said he quickly realised there were few simple solutions: Soil health was all important, fertiliser losses could be as high as 60 per cent in the system, the importance of rotations and cover crops, minimising the disturbance caused by tillage, and the damage caused by water logging from irrigation.
Mr Corish said sustainable farming was the use of techniques that protected the environment and ensured animal welfare in the production of food, fibre and animal products.
“Large amounts of synthetic nitrogen causes imbalances in the soil, say above 200kg of N applied, because it breaks down too quickly in the soil,” Mr Corish said. “The problem created by the readily available synthetic N is that plants become lazy and stop looking for mineralised nitrogen.”
Mr Corish said while the limited amount of organic carbon in Australia’s agricultural soils were a major challenge. Many local soils contained less than 1pc organic carbon earning them the label of “functionally impaired”. He said his own own soils ranged from just 0.5pc to 0.7pc.
“Organic carbon is the glue that hold the soil aggregates together,” he said. “If it is low or missing, the soil is more susceptible to compaction, and erosion.”