Soil health and hydrology of a Strathbogie Tableland farm landscape

A bitterly cold Strathbogie day didn’t stop a great turnout for the SRCMN’s first Soil health and hydrology day. The goal was to select a place with the right mix of land types Phillip Siem’s property on the Seven Creeks happened to be perfect. With remnant bush, hills, flats, swamps, bogs and creeks, we couldn’t have asked for a better venue.

The bogs and swamps of the Seven Creeks

Our expert speaker was Water Jehne’s, whose breadth and depth of knowledge drew a curious and thoughtful crowd from all over the state. Adding to that was the opportunity to hear from Phillip Siems, a local farmer embracing a holistic and sustainable approach to agriculture. Phillip runs a fine wool enterprise with constant rotational grazing, year round ground cover and constant soil improvements among his practises. Sensitive areas have been fenced to prevent stock damage, and tanks and troughs given preference to dams and creeks for stock water supply
Philip’s farming success is a result of practises he’s developed from hands on experience and constant refinement of his land management. He was keen to stress that there is no one size fits all approach to farming, and that the latest academic findings are better used as a starting point than as gospel. Phillip stressed that he uses what suits him and his land to guide his decisions, rather than strict adherence to best practises.

Phillip Siems sharing his experience with the group

After hearing what Phillip has been doing with his land, Walter spoke about the invisible, underlying concepts and mechanisms that were at work in the landscape. He was able to roll seemingly incongruous topics into practical information for farmers and land managers. Delving into ancient dew ponds, methane emissions, native vegetation, soil carbon, fungi networks, weather patterns and more gave the group a lot to mull over.

Walter’s presentation in the cosy Boho Hall

After the farm visit, the group drove down to the Boho South Hall for lunch and a presentation by Walter. The presentation focussed on soil carbon and it’s importance in building a resilient environment for both agricultural enterprises and bushland. The importance of soil carbon is hard to overstate. It’s desirable because it separates soil particles allowing water to more easily infiltrate soil. Why do we want more water in our soil? A 1% increase in absolute soil carbon can yield an additional 168,000L per hectare in water retention. Adding this much water to our soils has to potential to radically improve agricultural viability. The flow on benefits from this are huge, with more resilience to drought, better ground cover leading to less erosion, and longer growing seasons to name a few.
It also made clear just how devastating our loss of soil carbon as a country has been, with current levels radically less than pre-colonisation.

Thanks to all of those who attended, the SRCMN committee for their time and effort organising the event, to Phillip and Tess for sharing their knowledge and land, to the Ellis’ for preparing the hall, to Landcare for funding the event, to A3 catering for the delicious food, and to Stephen Curtain from Regenerate Earth for filming the event.