Australian Vermiculture & broad acre farming in the Millewa region

We farm 3000Ha at Werrimull in North West Victoria with an annual average rainfall of 250 mm.
We first trialled 2000 litres of Progrow liquid in 2010.
The Progrow Liquid was foliar applied to a Gladius wheat crop at a rate of 6 litres per Hectare (L/Ha) in a water rate of 80L/Ha. At these levels the concentration of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and sulphur provided per Ha were as follows:
Nitrogen                7.8 – 9.6 U/Ha
Phosphorus        0.96 – 1.2 U/Ha
Sulphur                                    6.6 – 8.0 U/Ha
The liquid was applied to crop located on sand rises where leaching of granular applied nutrients had previously occurred.
The crop was sprayed in cool conditions on the caps of the hills and side slopes, the crop in these areas were notably behind in the growing stage and looked sparse as they had not tillered (bulked up) to the point of the surrounding crop in the lower better profiled soils.
 After the application of the Progrow Liquid the crop response was significant, within 72hrs from application the colour of the plant had enhanced to a deep lush green and within 2 weeks of the application the foliage had greatly improved, adding more tillers, increasing plant growth which predominantly results in greater yields. The aim of the trial was to use the biological “brew” as a foliar spray to compliment the current farming system in place where soil microbe activity is promoted to ameliorate the soil profile providing a greater overall soil health.
Since the initial 2000L trial we have been working closely with Brendon and Del at Australian Vermiculture and now use the Progrow Liquid as an ongoing part of our farming system.
The cropping program also includes the use an organic carbon powder on the seed at a rate of 5 KG/Tonne ($18 per ton of seed) as well as an organic liquid phosphorous seed coating at 5 L/tonne ($20 per tonne of seed) to give the seed a “kick start”.
 Approximately four to six weeks after sowing we now apply the Progrow liquid as a foliar spray at 5L/HA (around $8 per HA) as well as Zinc Sulphate at 2L/HA ($3.40 per HA) both incorporated with the broadleaf sprays. Our yields have been consistent with area averages but our input costs have reduced significantly resulting in a greater dollar return per hectare, something that certainly needs consideration with the absorbent cost of traditional fertiliser, minimising profit margins.
 
The soil health has improved significantly both visually and scientifically. Annual soil testing is showing improved amounts of both macro and micro nutrients due to the increase in organic matter, with bacteria and fungi playing an active role in the overall soil health. A healthy food web efficiently stores and cycles nutrients.
Our traditionally high PH soils (CACL2) (7.6 to 8.2) are now ranging between PH 6.1 to6.7 meaning the nutrients in the soil are more readily available to the plant.
The soil has greater water retention so the plants cope better in dry finishes to the growing season which does happen regularly in our marginal area. The grain size and weight at harvest has been good and issues with small grain are now non-existent.
 
 
This season (2013) we have also used Progrow on Casper field peas at a rate of 5L/HA, as well as organic carbon as a seed dressing at 5kg/T replacing the traditional seed inoculant to promote nodulation.
The peas are very healthy with no presence of disease. They are nodulating freely and are in the very very early stages of flowering. We are monitoring them closely and research and agronomist advice suggest the high levels of silica present in the Progrow will help to protect the peas from heliothis attack by strengthening the cell walls of the plant, thus making it unpalatable and less likely to be attacked. This trial is in its infancy and observations closer to podding to monitor attack as well as final yield, plant and soil health will determine future use on peas.
In 2013 we are also trialling vermicompost at a rate of 1 T/HA on Esparda wheat. The results so far are promising and the yield and cost comparisons of the vermicompost and Progrow liquid along with soil testing will be used to determine if the compost is a viable option on a broad acre scale.
 
Since working with Brendon and Del at Australian Vermiculture we have amassed an ever increasing knowledge of biological farming and a greater understanding of soil science, and continue to be amazed by the simple yet complex nature of the soil food web and the role of organics in broad acre farming.
We are all merely the caretakers of our land and we are endeavouring to pass on a healthy soil to our future generations so they may prosper and grow.
The result of this investment is seen in the increasing biological richness of our soil and puts the company (Australian Vermiculture) at the forefront of biological farming.
 
Don and Carolin Rankin
Pendrea
Werrimull
Victoria

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