Demonstration sites set to offer new insights into summer feed options and soil health

HELPFUL: The Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board held field days across the five sites earlier last December, which received a lot of interest and positive feedback.
HELPFUL: The Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board held field days across the five sites earlier last December, which received a lot of interest and positive feedback.

An innovative new project will provide Fleurieu farmers with a great opportunity to learn more about summer fodder cropping techniques.

A partnership between the Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board and Fleurieu Farming Systems has resulted in the development of five 'Multi Species Summer Fodder Crop' demonstration sites across the region.

The sites will help the board, farmers and agricultural groups better understand and improve best-practice in summer fodder cropping and potentially allow them to extend the green-feed season.

Results and lessons will be used to improve public workshops and other board services concerning climate adaptation, soil health and regenerative agriculture.

Each five-hectare site was sown with a 12-species fodder crop mix, which was developed in consultation with S&W Seeds to incorporate functional plant types to increase the diversity of root types.

The board's sustainable agriculture project officer John Butler said he is confident that the project will help farmers establish the most beneficial preparation and sowing technique for their summer crops.

"By using five different sites across the peninsula, each with different paddock preparation and sowing methods, we will be able to make comparisons and measure the effectiveness of various cropping techniques and their impacts on soil health and green-feed carrying capacity," Mr Butler said.

"We hope to learn more about extending the season with green-feed into summer, effectively reducing the need to buy-in feed, increasing summer carrying capacity and making better use of summer rains."

The demonstration sites will provide an insight into which techniques best benefit soil health and biology.

This will be measured by using deep moisture and temperature probes and monitoring rainfall across each site to establish how much water is used by the summer crops and from how deep the crops draw water.

Mr Butler explained that the board will learn more about the effects of an extended season on soil health, and will likely expect some positive results.

"The longer the crop is in the ground, there is greater photosynthesis, which increases organic sugars and soil biology, and this in turn results in an increase in water holding capacity and drought resilience," he said.

The Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board held field days across the five sites earlier last December, which received a lot of interest and positive feedback. More are planned for February this year.