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Unit 5: Sustainable Agricultural Production

Thursday, 16 August 2018 1:42 PM

Soil, Nutrients and Water

• Describe chemical characteristics of a soil including:


- soil pH
Soil pH is a measure of hydrogen ions in the soil solution. Acidic soil has a lower pH. Measured
on a logarithmic scale where pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 5.

The optimum soil pH is between 5.5 and 7.0. Especially keeping the subsoil above 4.8 means
plants are able to access water and nutrients in the soil.

- ion exchange capacity


Cation exchange capacity is an important chemical characteristic of a soil because it measures
a soil's ability to supply three important nutrients: Calcium, magnesium and potassium.

The five most common cations in soil include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium
and aluminium

It is important that pH is above 5.0 or more because aluminium is precipitated out at pH


above 5.0. Aluminium is toxic in high concentrations because it restricts access to water
and nutrients.

CEC is measured in centimoles of positive charge per kilogram of soil

Cations are held by negatively charged particles of clay called colloids, which are thin, flat
plates that have a relatively large surface area: thus acting as storehouses of nutrients for
plant roots.

A note that if there is a particularly high concentration of a particular cation (say Na), in
soil water, these sodium cations will force other cations off colloids.

Hence, CEC is a measure of how negatively charged colloids are, because the greater number
of cations colloids can hold, the greater number they can exchange with roots.

Low CEC means there are more cations than in the soil itself, which means that nutrients in
the soil are vulnerable to leaching (when nutrients are washed away by water)

CEC can be improved by adding lime and raising the pH, and by adding organic matter (since
organic matter is more negatively charged than clay or sand)

- soil carbon
Soils store more carbon than the atmosphere and plants combined, as part of the carbon
cycle.

Organic carbon consists of decaying plant matter, soil organisms, microbes, and other
carbon compounds including sugars, carbohydrates and waxes

Inorganic carbon consists of mineral based compounds such as calcium carbonate.

Note that organic matter includes any living or dead animals/plants or any by products
produced by living organisms, which can not only be comprised of carbon but also
hydrogen, oxygen, and small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, potassium,
calcium and magnesium

Generally, organic carbon can be increased by land management practices, whilst inorganic
carbon is relatively stable and not influenced by land management practices.

There are three types of pools that soil carbon is classified into:

Dissolved and particulate organic matter


Roots and simple sugars. Decomposing, fresh plants and animals with identifiable cell
structure. This category is the most active but also is most rapidly lost and cycled. This
usually makes up 30% of the soil

Humus
Older, decayed organic matter that has resisted decomposition. Humus usually makes

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Older, decayed organic matter that has resisted decomposition. Humus usually makes
up more than 50% of the soil organic carbon

Resistant organic matter


Refers to inert forms of organic carbon such as charcoal, which are chemically inert and
are not readily cycled. Can make up to 10% of the soil structure

Soil organic matter cannot be measured directly, so scientists measure the amount of soil
organic matter by measuring the amount of soil carbon in the soil, which makes up 58% of soil
organic matter in a soil (usually).

Some of the benefits of soil organic carbon include:

Provides energy for soil micro-organisms, nutrient storage and supply

Improves soil structure by binding particles in aggregates, which improves water


infiltration and prevents soil compaction

Increases pH buffering capacity, which makes soils less likely to become acidified

Prevents leaching by being able to store nutrients

Management
Land clearing and overgrazing disturbs the soil, which removes residue off-sites and
accelerates decomposition of organic matter.

In order to increase and preserve soil carbon levels, farmers should opt for perennial pastures
that have greater soil carbon inputs than traditional pasture species, and ensuring pastures
are not overgrazed.

Additionally, farmers can implement minimal tillage practices, and fallow management to
ensure that soil carbon continues to be added to the soil.

- nutrient status

Assumedly, this refers to the presence of nutrients in the soil, which include Nitrogen,
Phosphorus and Potassium but also include trace elements including Calcium, Magnesium,
Sulphur and a number of other trace metals in the soil:
https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/soils/improvement/plant-nutrients

It is not only important to measure the levels of nutrients in the soil, but also take into
account factors that would limit a plants access to these nutrients, such as pH, aeration,
drainage, compaction, salinity and weed competition.

Also ensuring that there is sufficient organic matter in the soil helps to reduce leaching
and improve nutrient storage

• Describe physical characteristics of a soil including:

- soil structure
Arrangement of pores and fissures (referred to as porosity) in a soil matrix. When
these soils bond and aggregate, the quantity and distribution of these pores
determines the soil's water holding capacity, infiltration, permeability, root

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determines the soil's water holding capacity, infiltration, permeability, root
penetration and respiration.

When soil particles become glued together to form aggregates. Aggregates can be
round and varying sizes of pores and distributions of pores. The presence of pores
allow both water and air to penetrate and drain throughout the soil.

The large aggregates in soil allows for the holding of water.

The amount of organic matter determines how easy or hard it is to break apart
aggregates.

Greater organic matter means the soil dissolves very readily in water, and thus retains
large pores, compared to soils with low organic matter.

Good soil structure is dark in colour. Poor soil structures are compact and retain their
structure when wet, and since they lack aeration, make it hard for plants to grown in
such soils.

Benefits of soil structure


Reduced erosion because greater aggregate strength and decreased overland flow

Improved root penetration which improves access to soil moisture and nutrients

Greater water infiltration and retention due to improved porosity

- Texture
Soil texture refers to the proportion of sand, silt and clay particles in a soil

These soil particles are grouped into sand, silt and clay based on the fineness or
coarseness of the particles:

Clay: <0.002 mm

Silt: 0.002 - 0.02 mm

Sand: 0.02 - 2mm

The sizes of the particles explain their characteristics because sand is so big, it does

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The sizes of the particles explain their characteristics because sand is so big, it does
not have a large surface area compared to clay for the same volume, meaning that
sand is less able to hold water and nutrients, which means has good drainage but is
vulnerable to leaching.

Clay particles are very fine and thus have a greater capacity to hold water and
nutrients. While this means that clay soils can be nutrient rich and have high moisture
levels, clay soils have poor drainage and aeration, which can make it hard for plant
roots to grow.

Texture is important because it influences:


○ The amount of water a soil can hold
○ The rate of water movement through the soil
○ How workable and fertile the soil is.

Sandy soils has high permeability but low nutrient retention. Clay soils have low
permeability but high nutrient retention. Best type of soil texture is loam (which
describes soil with roughly same proportions of silt, sand and clay).

The soil texture can be determined by the proportions of the soil particles, using the
soil texture triangle

Note that this is not the most accurate method, and there are various other methods
used to determine soil texture.

- Porosity
Porosity is a measure of pore spaces in the soil, which either are filled with water or
air, and the fraction of the volume of these pores over the total volume. Note that
porosity and permeability is not the same: whilst a soil may be highly porous, it is not
necessarily highly permeable, because these pores may not be connected.

Pore spaces can be formed by movement of roots, worms and insects, expanding
gases trapped in groundwater and the dissolution of soil material.

NOTE: Porosity only measures the number of pores in a soil and not necessarily the
size of these pores.

Porosity is influenced primarily by how the soil particles aggregate, and hence what
the soil texture is like. Porosity is usually inversely proportional to grain size, with silty
or clay soils having a greater volume of open spaces than sand. This is because water
will adhere to the silt or clay, because of surface tension and capillary action, which
will lead to a greater amount of pores in the soil.

Porous soils are beneficial to the environment because these pores hold water and

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Porous soils are beneficial to the environment because these pores hold water and
oxygen, which not only stores the groundwater which is used for drinking and other
uses, but also provides oxygen to roots in the soil.

- bulk density
Bulk density is the weight of dry soil divided by the total soil volume. Bulk density
indicates the levels of compaction in a soil, where a larger bulk density indicates
greater compaction in the soil.

The total soil volume includes the volume of solids and volume of pores in the soil, so
that the average of air, water and solid can be found based on the calculation of bulk
density. Generally, it is desirable to have a low bulk density (<1.5 g/cm3) to optimise
movement of air and water.

Bulk density, along with porosity, gives a good indication of size, shape and
arrangement of particles and voids, and can be used to measure a soil's suitability for
root growth and permeability.

• Perform a first-hand investigation to analyse and report on the physical


and chemical characteristics of a soil (include all chemical and physical
characteristics above)

Soil pH
1. Collected soil sample by digging a hole in the ground.
2. Placed soil on white board and added universal indicator, and barium sulphate to
make colour more visible.
3. Observed colour and compared to colourimetric chart in order to determine pH of soil

Ion-exchange capacity
Tested in labs, wanna find an actual method for this?

Defined as milliequivalents per 100 grams of soil, (meq/100g), where a meq is the number
of ions to satisfy a certain charge or centimoles of positive charge per kilogram of dry soil.

"The most common method used in commercial soil testing laboratories is to remove the
common cations from the soil with ammonium and measure the cations removed. The
cations removed from the soil are then determined in the laboratory by an Atomic
Absorption Spectrophotometer (see picture). The total of cations is then reported as CEC."

Read more here: https://www.agvise.com/educational-articles/cation-exchange-capacity/ (mostly


last paragraph)

Soil carbon
1. Took soil samples by digging a hole using a shovel and collecting soil
2. Measured soil density
3. Measured concentration of carbon in soil sample

Nutrient status
Use a soil nutrient tester like rapitest? I'm not entirely sure
1. Take soil samples from top 10-15cm, and place in a plastic bag. Take 6-8 other samples
from around farm and place into the same bag.
2. Mix soil samples together and take two cups/trowels of the mixed soil sample.
3. Use soil testing kit or send off to testing lab to determine soil nutrient status or
quantity of nutrients in soil (NPK usually).

Soil porosity
1. Filled a container with soil sample with a known volume
2. Poured water into soil until saturated
3. Divided volume of water by total volume (volume of container) to find porosity (as a
percent)

Soil bulk density


1. Extracted soil sample using metal ring with a known volume
2. Dried soil in oven/microwave

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2. Dried soil in oven/microwave
3. Weighed dry soil on electronic scale
4. Calculated bulk density by diving dry soil weight by soil volume

Soil texture

Method:

5. Take a handful of soil (remove anything larger than 2mm), and if dry, add water until
soil comes together to form a ball.

2. Knead the soil between your thumb and your forefinger ensuring that the soil is
completely mixed and no large lumps are present.

3. By pushing the soil between the thumb and forefinger you should be able to form a
ribbon of soil which will allow you to feel the soil constituents and the length of the
ribbon helps in assessing the clay content of the soil. Repeat this at least 3 times to
obtain reliable results

Ribboning tables, such as the one supplied by the DPI, indicate what texture your soil is,
based on the average length of the ribbons of soil.

SAND - feels gritty and hard to the touch, held to the ear you can also hear the sand

SILT - feels smooth, silky, even soapy but with little stickiness

CLAY - feels smooth and sticky

From <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fufeaLBLGlk>

Soil structure
"How to determine soil structure murray local land services)
Method
1. Dig top soil, keep intact, drop onto board to separate soil particles

2. Grade particles with finest at one end and coarsest at the ender.

3. Divide into three classes (coarse, medium and fine)

4. Use pitcher to separate particles and assess soil structure

More fine and medium particles mean soil is more aggregated. i.e. good soil structure

More coarse/large particles means soil is less aggregated i.e. poor soil structure

Nitrogen cycle

• Explain
- Nitrification
Nitrification describes the process by which ammonia or ammonium is converted into
nitrite by Nitrosomonas bacteria. Note that nitrates are inorganic nitrogen source. This
nitrite is then converted into nitrate by Nitrobacter.

Case involving NH4+

Case involving NH3

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It is important that Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter nitrify ammonia in the soil because
plants are only able to absorb nitrogen in the form of nitrate and nitrite ions.

- Denitrification
Denitrification refers to the process where nitrate and nitrite ions are converted back
to ammonia by bacteria. Generally, this will occur in very wet soil, where oxygen is
depleted very quickly, so bacteria use nitrates for respiration instead.

Denitrification converts nitrates into several gases, including nitric oxide, nitrous
oxide, and di-nitrogen. Once nitrate is converted into atmospheric nitrogen, it
becomes unavailable to plants in soil.

Nitrate in the soils are converted into atmospheric nitrogen according to the following
half reactions:

The overall reaction can be expressed as:

Where the nitrate has become fully reduced to become dinitrogen.

GOOD RESOURCE FOR DENITRIFICATION: https://grdc.com.au/


__data/assets/pdf_file/0032/108995/denitrificationfsdec14hires.pdf.pdf

- Mineralisation
Mineralisation is the decomposition of organic matter by micro-organisms into simpler
organic compounds, including plant-usable nitrogen. On top of microbial bacteria,
many other soil organisms, such as worms, ants, beetles contribute to the physical and
chemical breakdown of soil organic matter, which returns nutrients such as nitrogen
and phosphorus back into the soil.

The process involves mainly bacteria and fungi oxidise organic compounds into organic
matter, which releases carbon and energy, with the organic compounds ending up as a
mineral form of nutrients

e.g. Nitrogen converted into ammonium, sulphur converted into sulphate,


phosphorus converted into phosphate

The rate at which mineralisation occurs depends mainly on the soil's total nitrogen
content, its temperature and water content.

It is important to consider the carbon nitrogen ratio of organic matter in the soil
because it gives you an idea of how much nitrogen there will be in excess and usable
by plants after soil microbes have broken down organic matter (since the microbes
also utilise mineralised nutrients after breaking down organic matter). Generally, for
long term sustainability, it is better to add organic matter with low carbon to nitrogen
ratio (there is almost always more carbon than nitrogen in soil organic matter)

- Ammonification

Ammonification is described to a be the process where organic nitrogen is converted


into ammonium by decomposers. Primarily, these decomposers are bacteria and fungi
that feed on decaying organic matter to produce ammonia, which is then converted
into ammonia.

The process of ammonification is incredibly useful in the nitrogen cycle because it


allows organic nitrogen from plants and animals to be returned to the soil and be
reused by plants, which maintains the soil quality and sustainability of the soil nutrient
status.

• Explain the role of Nitrate and Ammonium in plant nutrition

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• Explain the role of Nitrate and Ammonium in plant nutrition

Nitrates and ammonium are important sources of nitrogen for plants that can be
readily absorbed by root hairs via ion exchange.

The nitrogen that is contained in nitrate and ammonium ions is essential to a number
of important proteins, including DNA and RNA, as well as comprising chlorophyll,
which is essential in photosynthesis.

A lack of nitrogen can lead to a drastic reduction in vegetative growth, poor growth
and a spindly appearance. Since nitrogen is mobile, the plants older leaves begin to
yellow first and in more severe cases, the younger leaves also become yellow

Note that the nitrate is converted into ammonium, and the nitrogen in ammonium is
converted into a number of important compounds, including ATP and ADP. Hence,
nitrate and ammonium ions are essential to plants, because they are important
sources of nitrogen.

• Illustrate and explain the nitrogen cycle

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Nitrogen gas is fixed by soil and nitrogen fixing bacteria, into nitrate compounds such as
ammonia and nitrates. Nitrifying bacteria convert ammonia into nitrates and nitrates.

Lightning can also fix atmospheric nitrogen to nitrate compounds

Plants absorb these nitrates and utilise the nitrogen to build proteins

This biomass eventually decays and is broken down by decomposers, with the nitrogen
being returned to the soil in the form of ammonia

In some cases, denitrifying bacteria convert nitrates into atmospheric nitrogen, which
completes the nitrogen cycle.

Carbon cycle
• Illustrate and explain the carbon cycle

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Slow carbon cycle
Movement of carbon between rocks, soil, ocean and atmosphere is considered the slow
carbon cycle, because these processes can take up to 100-200 million years.

Water in the atmosphere combines with carbon dioxide in the air to form carbonic acid,
which falls as rain and dissolves rocks, to release a number of ions. The carbonate ions,
containing the carbon from the atmosphere, are carried by waterways to the ocean.

Calcium carbonate, most notably, is deposited as limestone on the ocean floor. Over 80% of
carbon rock is stored in limestone, and the remaining form is from organic carbon stored as
fossil fuels and shale.

Volcanoes return carbon dioxide from the slow carbon cycle to the atmosphere, when they
erupt and release hot gas. Additionally, the ocean continues to exchange carbon dioxide
with the air, and the carbon dioxide reacts with water to produce bicarbonate ions.

Fast carbon cycle


Photosynthesis is the foundation of the fast carbon cycle, which mainly involves how living
organisms exchange, trap and release carbon. Plants convert carbon dioxide into sugars by
absorbing sunlight.

Phytoplankton also have chlorophyll and perform photosynthesis in oceans.

This carbon stored in sugars can be consumed by animals, which is converted into energy
and development of the animal. The plants or plankton can break down these sugars to
obtain energy for themselves. Plants and plankton can also die and be decomposed by
bacteria, releasing the carbon into the environment. Plants can also be consumed by fire,
which releases water and carbon dioxide into the environment.

The general reaction in the fast carbon cycle

In more recent years , a number of changes have caused a greater amount of carbon to e
released into the atmosphere, which has disrupted the balance of the carbon cycle.
Increased burning of fossil fuels and land clearing has contributed to over 1 billion tons of
carbon being released into the atmosphere being released

Clearing forests remove biomass which has stored a large amount of carbon in the wood,
stems and leaves. This carbon is replaced with crops or pasture, which stores far less carbon

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stems and leaves. This carbon is replaced with crops or pasture, which stores far less carbon
than trees. Changing land practices continue to expose the soil and degrade soil structure
continue to release carbon dioxide from decaying organic matter.

Additionally, emissions from burning fossil fuels has grown steadily since the industrial
revolution, where only half of these emissions from burning fossil fuels is being removed by
the fast carbon cycle. Concentrations in the atmosphere have risen from 280 ppm to 387
ppm since the Industrial Revolution, which provides strong evidence on how humans have
significantly upset the balance of the carbon cycle.

• Research and investigate using secondary resources the importance of


microbes and invertebrates in the decomposition of organic matter and
nutrient cycling

Microbes Invertebrates
Nitrosoma Worms
Nitrobacteria
Nitrogen cycle Dung beetles
Microbial decompistion
Rhizobium bacteria

WHAT ARE THEY? WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT? HOW DO THEY DECOMPOSE ORGANIC
MATTER AND CYCLE NUTRIENTS

Rhizobium Bacteria
Rhizobium bacteria induces nitrogen-fixing nodules on the roots of legumes (peas, beans,
clover, alfafa). This reduces the need for nitrogenous fertilizer because atmospheric
nitrogen is converted into, and can allow for biological maintenance of soil.

Rhizobia convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia by using the energy supplied by the
plant. The plant is able to have sufficient nitrogen, whilst the rhizobia is supplied energy to
survive (rhizobia must have a host plant in order to survive).

Rhizobia are important in cycling nitrogen and ensuring that there is sufficient nitrogen in
the soil for plants to grow. They allow nitrogen from the atmosphere to be converted into
usable forms for plants, hence being one of the main cyclers of nitrogen in the nitrogen
cycle.

Cyanobacteria
Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic and hence produce their own food. However, they
contain heterocysts, which are specialised cells that allow them to convert inert
atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into more usable forms, such as nitrate (NO3) or ammonium
(NH4).

They play an important role in supplying nitrogen to soils and plants, much like rhizobia.
Many cyanobacteria are free living, but some form symbiotic relationships with plants, such
as Azolla, which is a fern that is distributed in rice paddies because Anabaena forms a
symbiotic relationship which fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Nitrogen fixing bacteria are cost-effective and lessen the impact of chemical runoff and
chemical residue in plants when fertilizer is applied.

Nitrosomas (optional)

Dung beetles
Dung beetles are beetles that bury dung pads from pasture based animals, such as sheep
and cattle, and hence return the nutrients to the soil. This increases the total organic matter
in the soil when the beetles bury the dung. By eating and laying eggs in these balls of dung
that they bury underground, they help to not only introduce organic matter into the soil,
but also break it down and make the nutrients usable to other organisms.

This helps to reduce the loss of faecal nitrogen and help in cycling nitrogen between
animals and the soil

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Additionally, on top of introducing and decomposing organic matter, dung beetles are
important in improving the water retention and aeration of soil (soil structure), because
they dig tunnels in the soil which create more pores in the soil.

Earthworms
Earthworms burrow in the soil and feed on organic matter and break it down into smaller
pieces, allowing other decomposers, like bacteria and fungi, to break it down much more
quickly (because there is a greater exposed surface area). Earthworms help distribute this
organic matter and the nutrients when organic matter is broken down throughout the soil,
especially when it excretes its urine, which is rich in nitrogen and other nutrients.

Thus, earthworms are important decomposers of organic matter that help improve nutrient
availability in the soil, because they break down organic matter into nutrients. They also
improve drainage and soil structure by burrowing and creating macro-pores which allow
oxygen, nitrogen and water to pass through the soil.

• Describe the role of organic matter on the chemical and physical


properties of the soil

Physical
Help to bind aggregates by binding clay, soil particles together

Aggregates are desirable because they usually bind soil particles that aren't necessarily
the same size, which creates pores for plant roots to grow into, and for oxygen, and
nutrients to be stored in these pores

Improves water holding capacity of soil

Organic matter act as sponges, because they can store up to 90% of their weight in
water. Not only is it able to hold great quantities of water, but it is also able to release
this water readily to plants, unlike clay.

Research has also suggested that because organic matter increases water infiltration and
aggregation, organic matter in soil also reduces erosion (perhaps to a less extent than roots)

Chemical
Greater buffering capacity

Organic matter is able to absorb H+ ions in the soil, which can act as a buffer to the
acidification of the soil.

Nutrient supply

Not only is organic matter able to store and absorb vast quantities of nutrients (via
dissolved ions in water), but it is also able to supply these to the plants, and is hence
able to prevent the leaching of nutrients because it holds onto these nutrients.

• Research and investigate using secondary sources the various sources of


water and appropriate management of water use on farms

Rainwater tanks and dams


Rainwater can be harvested from shed roofs and stored in rainwater tanks or dams.
Usually, the water collected in rainwater tanks is very high quality and suitable for
stock drinking.

Rainwater collected in dams are generally high quality but are prone to contamination
from stormwater run-off, stock, and chemical runoff.

Additionally, dams can experience high rates of evaporation in the summer, so


farmers should consider pumping the water into storage tanks to minimize
losses

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Dams are also subject to harvestable rights: farmers in the eastern and central
divisions can only harvest up to 10% of run-off on their property, whilst farmers in the
Western region can harvest and use all the rainwater on their property.

Dams are limited by the Maximum Harvestable Right Dam Capacity, and any dams
exceeding the MHRDC are illegal and require a licence/application to the NSW
government.

In order to manage dams and rainwater tanks, farmers should regularly test the
quality of the water in dams and rainwater tanks, including water quality, salinity,
electrical conductivity (EC), and various other meters that measure the concentration
of trace elements in water.

Additionally, dams should be fenced off to avoid the banks from being eroded by
animals.

Bores
Groundwater sources of water can be accessed via bores or wells. This allows farmers to
access groundwater sources which are usually inaccessible. Groundwater tends to be high
quality, but groundwater that are closer to the surface have the potential to be
contaminated by chemicals which have leached through the soil.

However, in order to construct a bore, you must apply for a water supply work approval, to
ensure the construction of the bore does not cause negative impacts on the surrounding
environment.

Additionally, if the water is being used for more intensive purposes, such as commercial
crops or intensive livestock operations, then a farmer must also apply for a water access
license.

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In order to effectively manage bores, farmers must identify what ground water is available
on their property, at what depth underground, how much is available and the water quality.
The groundwater quality should be checked regularly, because there is a high likelihood of
contamination from the farm.

Same as dams: using EC, pH, and other water quality tests to measure quality of
water.

Pumping water from natural waterways


Rivers, creeks and estuaries, and lakes that are part of a catchment all fall under natural
waterways, and pumping water from these sources requires a water access licence. It is
important that the farmer uses water from these sources sparingly, because it not only has
an impact on the accessibility of water for their own property, but also other properties and
ecosystems further downstream in the catchment.

However, after obtaining a water access licence, which specifies how much, at what time of
year and where water can be extracted. It is an offence to extract water without possessing
a water access licence or in contravention to the terms outlined in the water access licence.

Management includes ensuring that they comply with the terms of the water licence and
that they sustainably manage the water sources by fencing off the water source (if a lake or
river) from stock, and testing the water quality regularly.

Management of water use on farm


Management include filling up water troughs, to ensure animals have drinking water OR
ensuring that there are water points at creeks or streams

- Water points manage waterways to ensure they are not eroded by sediment or
polluted by animal excrement

Farmers also use tensiometers to identify moisture levels in soil, to make decisions on
whether to irrigate: additionally they can determine if there are leaks in the soil, to better
optimize water usage

- Forms of watering include Sprinkler Drip systems, Furrow irrigation and Flooding

• Describe the influence of legislation and government regulations including


licensing on the availability and use of water for agricultural purposes
Three basic landholder rights under the Water Management Act 2000 include:

Domestic and stock rights


Owners/occupiers of land can take water from river or lake frontage on their property
without a license, for domestic purposes or to water stock.

This water cannot be used for irrigating commercial crops or for intensive livestock
operations

Harvestable rights
Allows landholders to collect a proportion of runoff on their property and store it in one or
more farm dams up to a certain size

Native title rights


Anyone who holds native title, under the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993, can take
and use water for a range of personal, domestic and non-commercial purposes

Driller's licence
Outside of these rights, in order to construct a bore accessing aquifers, farmers must apply
for water supply work or driller's license to ensure that the construction does not have a
negative impact on the environment when it is being built.

Water access licence


Additionally, in order to use water from natural sources (rivers, lakes, aquifers) for
commercial purposes, both individuals and corporations have to apply for water access
licences, which dictate how much water they can take, where they can take it from, and at

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licences, which dictate how much water they can take, where they can take it from, and at
what times of year can they take water from these water sources.

Factors contributing to the degradation of soil and water

• Describe the impacts of historical land-use practices in the development


of Australian agricultural systems

Firestick Farming
Firestick farming refers to the practice carried out by Indigenous Australians primarily to
encourage new growth and 'clean' up dead or old plant growth. Over many years, native
Australian plants have adapted to the cycle of fire: after fires many plants such as bracken.
Plants and trees would sprout new growth and old plants would turn to ash, which would
serve as fertiliser for young shoots and sprouts that germinate after the fire. Aboriginals
would light controlled fires to regenerate 'old' areas.

Many argue that firestick farming was integral into the survival of Aboriginal communities,
because it allowed them to live off the land without any intensive agricultural techniques,
and it preserved the soil nutrient level. Nutrients were recycled when plant ash was washed
into the soil and new plants continually grew in the wake of fires, which not only provided
food for Aboriginals but for animals as well.

Additionally, firestick farming thinned out the foliage, ensuring that sunlight could
penetrate the leaves and provide sunlight for plants near the ground as well as at the top:
this was beneficial in ensuring that many plants were not shaded out. Not only did firestick
farming contribute to more diverse and vibrant plant life, but it also provided for many
native animals (however some argue that procedural burning limited supply of food for
mega-faunas in Australia, and hence fire-stick farming caused these animals to become
extinct).

Prior to and in the early days of European settlement, there were accounts of open
landscapes, which strongly supports the claims that Aboriginals conducted intentional
burning.

Many farmers have learnt the importance of vegetation management after learning about
the benefits of firestick farming. Whilst firestick farming is seldom utilised in commercial
farms due to land clearing, the importance of nutrient cycling and vegetation management
has carried through in practices that involve tree management and slashing of crops, as well
as conservative tillage.

Land Clearing/removal of deep rooted plants


Land clearing occurred more widely when the First Fleet arrived in 1788, in order to
cultivate food crops and livestock and create room for housing. Prior to European
settlement, Aboriginals did not clear wide areas of land often, and if they did (usually using
fire), they left the area untouched to regenerate.

In 1861, the Crown Lands Alienation Act was passed which encouraged farmers to expand
their land and promoted rapid clearing of vegetation for Agriculture.

Note since 1788, over 40% of forests, 75% of rainforests and 90% of temperate forests have
been cleared away in Australia.

The impacts of land clearing encouraged many of the farming systems that we see today,
including monocropping and pastoralism (raising of animals on the land). Land clearing
conributed significantly to Australia's role as a major agricultural exporter that it is today.

Some of the negative impacts of land clearing that have directly contributed to changing
land-use practices in agricultural systems include:

- Salinity -> leading to development of Landcare groups and tree-based management


systems

- Soil erosion -> Which also contributes to increased awareness to use trees and deep-
rooted pasture species to minimize soil erosion

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Mono cropping
Monocropping has been a staple land-use practice in Australia, possibly dating back to when
the First Fleet arrived, because it is far more efficient and much easier to perform
management practices for pests and diseases and schedule sowing harvest for one crop
rather than multiple crops.

However, more recently, monocropping has been revealed to have an impact on the soil,
particularly because it depletes the soil of its nutrients, because without nitrogen fixing
plants such as legumes or beans, the soil nitrogen levels are quickly depleted.

Even if farmers applied fertilisers to the soil, they generated more problems, including
acidifying the soil and contamination of local waterways due to leaching.

The intensive nature of monocropping exposed a number of flaws that made the intensive
practice of monocropping unsustainable. As mentioned above, large scale use of fertiliser
led to soil acidification in the long term and could also potentially lead to eutrophication.

Widespread use of pesticides in monocropping industries has also raised some concern for
consumers, most notably DDT, a pesticide previously used on large scales after it was found
to have detrimental effects on humans and wildlife (four times more likely to have
degenerative brain diseases if exposed to DDT).

Particularly, farmers have turned away from chemical controls to biological,


managerial or genetic control to avoid chemical resistance being developed in pest
and pathogen populations. (Prominent example would be cotton bollworm)

Intensive irrigation in monocropping is also an issue because especially in rural areas where
access to water is limited, and in areas where there is poor drainage, salinification can
occur, which severely affects growth of plants and pasture species.

Overall, monocropping as a practice has encouraged many farmers and commercial


enterprises to adopt more sustainable practices, such as crop rotation and Integrated
Pest/Disease Management programs, in order to limit the damage to the environment.

Grazing/Pastoralism
Pastoralism or the practice of raising animals on the land, first occurred in 1788, but
became more widespread when John Macarthur imported Merino sheep and exploited the
grazing land beyond the Blue Mountains.

This contributed to Australia being one of the largest exporters of wool (only recently being
overtaken by China in total wool based on weight). However, hooved animals since being
introduced to Australia, have compacted soil, and hence increased the rate of soil erosion
and reduced soil fertility. Additionally, many native plant species have become threatened
or wiped out by hooved animals, because they have been trampled or are unable to
tolerate being grazed by these animals.

This has led to revegetation of many areas to preserve native species that have become
threatened by hooved animals. Additionally, some farmers have developed a mixed pasture
system that not only incorporates traditional introduced pastures but also native pastures,
and legumes, in order to preserve soil structure and fertility.

• Research and investigate using secondary sources the practices that have
led to one important soil degradation problem, the outcomes of these
practices on the land/water system and current recommended
procedures to alleviate the problem

Salinity
Salinity is defined as the accumulation of salt in land and water that can cause harmful
effects on the surrounding environment.

Salt can be deposited in a number of different ways:

- Rainfall: Airborne salts can be deposited when rainwater evaporates from the

Agriculture Page 16
- Rainfall: Airborne salts can be deposited when rainwater evaporates from the
ground, leaving behind salts
- Weathering: minerals that break down can be carried by rainwater or streams
and deposit salts in soil

Causes of salinity

Due to more recent land-use practices, the water table of lands has risen and
consequently, more salts contained in groundwater are being deposited in the surface
soil.

One of the main causes of salinity is land clearing, especially the clearing of forests and
vegetation which helped keep water tables low. Removal of deep-rooted trees and
grasses, and replacing these vegetation with pastures, contributed significantly to
water tables rising, which led to the salinification of the soil.

Additionally, poor water drainage and inefficient drainage systems can also result in
increased salinization, because salts accumulate in soils where the excess salts fail to
be leached away. Areas can become under-irrigated because of inefficient drainage,
and hence salts can accumulate, because they are not leached away.

The 'sustainable' practice of long fallows has also contributed to rising water tables
and salinification of land, because there are no plants being grown to keep water
tables low.

Irrigating with saline water adds more salts to the soil and hence requires more water
for the salts to be leached away from root zones.

Monocropping of shallow-rooted crops may have also contributed to increased


salination.

Negative impacts
- Direct ion toxicity (leaf burn)]
- High concentrations of certain ions, such as sodium and chloride, can cause leaf
burn, necrotic patches and potentially defoliation

- Altered nutrient interactions


- Excess of some salts inhibits the uptake of other salts i.e. high levels of sodium
restricts uptake of potassium, and high levels of calcium can restrict uptake of
iron (lime induced chlorosis)

- Osmotic effect (increased salt concentration makes it harder for plants to absorb
water)
- Plants rely on osmotic effect (water moving from low to high salt concentration),
and as salt concentration increases in soil, plants will find it more difficult to
extract water from the soil

- Salinity tolerance
- Many plants that are not salt-tolerant are only able to exclude salts at roots, and
at high concentrations, they must absorb salt in order to obtain sufficient water.
High concentration of salt, along with ion toxicity, impacts growth and yield.

Hence soil, becomes unproductive, to both animal and plant growers (concentration
of toxic ions makes plants consumed by animals cause gastro-intestinal irritation). This
leads to a loss of production and increased costs by farmers in protecting and
rehabilitating saline land.

- Additionally, saline soil has the potential to increase soil erosion, because it can
lead to the death of plants that helped bind the soil and prevent erosion.

Management
Management of salinity is focused on preventing the 'leakage' of water, which is when
run-off leaks through the plant root zone into groundwater, from unsaturated to
saturated zone.

Agriculture Page 17
Groundwater recharge is when leakage reaches the saturated groundwater source,
and groundwater discharge is when groundwater is deposited onto the surface.
Groundwater discharge deposits salts when the water evaporates on the surface.

Whilst the method of preventing leakages by intercepting and preventing leakages in


catchments, often these solutions are not viable for individual farmers because of
costs and the required technical skill needed.

Large scale catchment models can be implemented and organised by respective


governing bodies (State and Federal), in order to effectively manage salinity in major
catchment areas. Already, one of the largest catchment management entity in
Australia, the Murray Darling Basin Commission, has been assigned an area of 1.6
million square kilometres in order to control and reverse effects of salinification and
protection of the natural environment.

Ultimately, there must be changes to the dominant farming systems. Replacing


shallow rooted pastures and crops with deep rooted ones, revegetation of areas, and
tree-based management all help to manage leakage and the water table to minimize
salinification of the soil.

Acidification
Structure decline

• Identify indicators of water quality for irrigation and livestock use

Biological: presence of bacteria, algae

Physical: temperature, turbidity and clarity, salinity, suspended solids

Chemical: pH, dissolved oxygen, nutrients (NPK), organic and inorganic compounds

Aesthetic: odours, taints, colour

Turbidity/clarity and suspended solids

Total suspended solids are particles larger than 2 micrometres (1x10-6 m). This can include
inorganic materials, as well as organic materials such as decaying plant and animal matter.
TSS contributes to water clarity, because the more solids present in the water, the less clear
the water will be. Note that TSS includes solids that have settled at the bottom.

Turbidity is a relative optical measure of water clarity. Turbid water is described as murky,
cloudy or coloured. Suspended solids reduce water clarity by creating an opaque or muddy
appearance. Turbidiy is based on how much light is scattered by particles in the water. The
more particles, the more light will be scattered. Turbidity is only a measure of relative
clarity, and hence is more useful when measuring changes in turbidity.

Water clarity is defined by how clear or transparent water is, or how far sunlight penetrates
in water. The greater the clarity, the deeper sunlight will reach. The depth sunlight reaches
Agriculture Page 18
in water. The greater the clarity, the deeper sunlight will reach. The depth sunlight reaches
is known as the photic zone and the deeper the photic zone, the greater the potential for
photosynthesis. Water clarity is directly related to turbidity and TSS, because the depth
sunlight penetrates the water is influenced by how much light is scattered and the amount
of particles in the water.

• Describe farming/agricultural practices that have affected water quality


and quantity including:

- fertiliser usage (eutrophication of waterways)

Effect on quality
Pollutes water because it leads to eutrophication (blocks off sunlight), and
deoxygenises the water (the plants that die take oxygen from the environment)

Pollutes water environment, with chemicals that can kill aquatic life

Effect on quantity
No impact on water quantity

Can reduce amount of water that is available for use to water stock and irrigate crops

- the effects of stock (overgrazing)

Effect on quality
Animals can urinate and excrete faeces into waterways, directly polluting the
waterways with faecal matter, and excess nitrogen

Additionally, animals erode the banks of rivers with their hard hoofs, which leads to
sediment deposition in the water

Effect on quantity
Reduces available drinking water for stock, because water becomes polluted and
hence undrinkable

- effluent management

Effluent management is the management of faecal matter, especially in feedlot or


dairy systems when animals are kept in confined areas. Usually, effluent management
involves taking manure collected in a pond

Effect on quality
If slurring is conducted too often or in poor weather conditions, the manure can
pollute waterways when they are carried by rain or run-off

The nutrients in faeces can stimulate algal growth -> lead to eutrophication

Effect on quantity
Reduces available drinking water for stock

- Chemicals
Chemicals include pesticides, herbicides, drenches

Effect on quality
Runoff of chemicals from pastures into riverways

Especially small droplets can be carried quite far and pollute waterways with
chemicals. Ensure droplets are sufficiently large enough so that they cannot be
transported over large distances

Can leach into groundwater, contaminate groundwater sources of water as well

Effect on quantity

Agriculture Page 19
Effect on quantity
No

- grassed waterways
Grassed waterways are constructed broad, shallow channels that are constructed to
direct waterflow away from crops and prevent soil erosion, because the pasture
absorbs the water and slows water flow

Effect on water quality


Reduces erosion, because prevents formation of rills and gullies.

Slows down runoff, increases infiltration, which could potentially impact the quality of
groundwater sources (depending on quality of water, especially if contaminated with
fertiliser or chemicals in pastures or plants)

Effect on water quantity


Increases quantity of groundwater by concentrating runoff into soil

- riparian zones

Riparian zones are used to describe lands adjacent to rivers where vegetation is
strongly influenced by the presence of water. Often these are areas with native plants,
grasses and trees that line the banks of waterways.

Effect on quality
Riparian zones act as buffer zones to protect surface water from contamination

They provide aeration to soil around waterways, and help stabilise banks, which
reduces erosion and sedimentation.

This means surface water surrounded by riparian zones is often much cleaner and of
higher quality

Effect on quantity
No significant impact on water quantity

dam construction

Effect on quantity
Dams means farmers are able to store water, hence being able to save excess water
for later use (able to save 10% of the water on their farm). Increases supply of water
available to a farmer

Effect on quality
Despite downstream effects affecting the dam (including sedimentation, turbidity,
pathogens), regular quality checks means water quality is generally quite high in dams

Traps sediment, pathogens, and releases high quality water downstream, which
benefits water quality.

Agriculture Page 20
irrigation methods (over irrigation or the inefficiency of irrigation)
e.g. Drip irrigation vs sprinkler irrigation. Sprinkler irrigation would use a greater
quantity of water compared to drip irrigation. Depending on the irrigation method
used, the quantity of water used by farmer differs.'
Effect on quality
Runoff of salts salinizes surface water (when overirrigating)

Runoff of chemicals causes ecological damage, because waterways become


polluted -> can lead to eutrophication (refer to fertiliser)

Enrichment of groundwater with salt nutrients? Kinda dodgy since why does
groundwater need to be enriched with nutrients

Effect on quantity
Depending on irrigation methods (drip irrigation vs sprinkler irrigation), a farmer will
be using a greater quantity of water when using say sprinkler irrigation vs drip
irrigation.

Thus the quantity of water a famer will have depends on their irrigation method.

Irrigation methods
Drip irrigation: When water 'drips' onto plants or plant roots. The aim is to minimize
evaporation and maximise water efficiency

Sprinkler irrigation: When water is distributed using either overhead, high-pressure


systems or from a central location in the field

Flood/surface irrigation: Water is distributed across land by gravity, almost like a


flood would

Centre Pivot: Involves a central sprinkler system that moves in a circular pattern in
wheeled towers, kind of like from Wipeout:

Notice how these irrigation methods have varying efficiencies and overall output
volume: water losses can be attributed to run-off and evaporation when water is
unable to penetrate the soil because it is saturated or has poor infiltration.

Sustainable resource management

• Describe techniques used to manage soil fertility including


Soil fertility is defined as the ability of the soil to sustain agricultural growth. Two of
the major characteristics of fertile soil is its ability to supply essential plant nutrients
and water in adequate proportions for plant growth and reproduction AND the

Agriculture Page 21
and water in adequate proportions for plant growth and reproduction AND the
absence of toxic substances that may inhibit growth. Apart from these two, additional
factors to contribute to soil fertility include:

Amount of organic matter

Soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0

Good internal drainage and aeration

- crop rotations
Crop rotation is when a plant is grown in a field for 3-5 years, and then a dissimilar
crop is grown in that field to break the lifecycle of species specific pests and diseases.
Additionally, by including legume crops in the crop rotation, farmers can maintain the
nutrient balance in the soil, to make his production sustainable.

A farmer must be proficient in growing more than one type of crop, and be able
effectively manage both crops.

- organic fertilisers

The nutrients from organic fertilisers are released slowly into the soil because it needs to be
broken down by soil organisms. Therefore, less nutrients are wasted from organic fertilisers
because nutrients are not leached away because the nutrients are released slowly.

Organic fertilisers also improve the structure of the soil because they add organic matter to
the soil.

Blood and bone


Made out of organic matter, primarily bone meal grinded from animals, mixed with
blood. Blood and bone provides essential minerals, including calcium, phosphorus,
iron, nitrogen and potassium.

Unable to determine the specific amount of minerals and nutrients being applied to
the soil.

NPK Analysis: 8:5:1

Therefore, source of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Dynamic lifter
Dynamic lifter is made up of chicken manure, blood and bone, fish meal and seaweed

Some organic fertilisers such as dynamic lifter need to be applied in tonnes, rather
than kilograms, in order to be effective.

Has a mixture of nitrogen, phosphorus and nitrogen (NPK analysis: 3.7, 2, 1.8)

- inorganic fertilisers

Either applied when dissolved in water, called fertigation, or fertiliser is sprayed first
and the fertiliser is irrigated into the soil.

Inorganic fertilisers make the nutrients instantly available in the soil

Much easier to apply, since inorganic fertiliser can be sprayed

Additionally, farmers are able to determine exactly how much fertiliser they are
adding to the soil.

Inorganic fertilisers are expensive, and leaching can occur, which will acidify the soil.

Examples
Calcareous: such as calcium oxide (quicklime) and gypsum (adds sulfur, improves soil
structure and acidity)

Agriculture Page 22
structure and acidity)

Nitrogen fertilizers: Ammonium sulphate, Ammonium nitrate, Ammonium Phosphate

Potash fertilizers: Potassium chloride, Potassium nitrate, Potassium sulphate

Phosphate fertilizers: Bone meal, Rock Phosphate, Superphosphate

- pasture ley phase (incl legume pasture)


Crop rotation with a pasture (usually a legume pasture), that are used to improve soil
structure, rebuild soil organic matter and improve nitrogen levels for subsequent
plants.

Pasture species used in pasture ley phase include legumes, grasses and forage crops,
as outlined in the table below.

Including legumes in the crop rotation increase soil nitrogen, while the pasture
component improves soil structure and may improve nutrient availability by adding
organic carbon to the soil.

Additionally, diseases for specific plants are controlled because the lifecycle of
pathogens is broken when plants are rotated

However, this practice depletes soil water reserves

- conservation tillage systems

Since continual cultivation has damaged soil structure, lowered organic matter levels
and contributed to more erosion, farmers have developed reduced tillage systems
that preserve soil structure, nutrients levels and combat erosion.

Conservative tillage systems also require fewer operations than conventional


methods

Reduced tillage: Crop stubble and weeds are grazed after harvest. Seedbed is
prepared using fewer tillage operations and contact herbicides are used before sowing

Agriculture Page 23
prepared using fewer tillage operations and contact herbicides are used before sowing

Minimum tillage: Stubble retained. Weeds controlled with herbicides during fallow
period.

Direct drilling: Seed is sown directly into undisturbed soil. Weeds and crop stubble are
grazed during fallow period

No tillage: All stubble is retained and no tillage during fallow period. Weeds controlled
with herbicide and crop is sown directly into soil

- maintenance of soil organic matter (or carbon)

Organic matter increases the fertility of the soil because it is able to store water, bind
soil particles and hold onto a large number of nutrients and hence prevent the
leaching of these nutrients.

It also improves soil structure, because it helps aggregate soil particles and create
more pores in the soil.

It is important that a farmer aims to maintain soil organic matter by using conservative
tillage practices that add organic matter back into the soil.

- Planting deep-rooted crops e.g. trees


Trees and other deep-rooted crops are beneficial because they:
- Prevent erosion
- Act as windbreaks, protect crops and stock
- Provide shade for animals and reduce evaporation rates for crops
- Can provide timber, additional source of income
- Reduce dryland salting by lowering water table levels
- Provide bees with pollen and nectar
- Provide home for many biological control agents such as birds

• Research and investigate using secondary sources programs such as NSW


Local Land Services and Landcare that involve community and
government groups working together to conserve to protect soils, water,
waterways and water catchments
MURRAY DARLING BASING COMMITTEE

National Landcare Program


A nationwide effort to address problems such as:
○ Loss of vegetation
○ Soil degradation
○ The introduction of pest, weeds and animals
○ Changes in water quality and flows
○ Changes in fire regimes

Group of people who volunteer their time and expertise to preserve and protect the
environment: these groups including NSW Local Land Services and Landcare are
supported financially by the State and Federal government.

Activities include installing infrastructure such as water tanks, holding field days that
educate farmers about sustainable management, and publish pamphlets/brochures
that are distributed in communities that raise awareness about sustainability and
environmental issues and possible solutions

Example: Concrete flume to slow water speed, native vegetation was placed on the
side of the banks of the gully to minimize erosion, the area was fenced off to prevent
animals from grazing the area.

NSW Landcare
Formed in 2007 by a group of people in Lake Macquarie, first meeting held in
Tamworth in the October of 2007.

Agriculture Page 24
NSW Landcare is partnered with Local Land Services NSW (a NSW government entity),
and received 15 million dollars over 4 years as part of a NSW Landcare policy to set up
a network of locally based coordinators and centralised support for Landcare groups in
NSW

Environmental activities: Bush regeneration, weed control, revegetation; repairing


eroding gullies and stabilising riverbanks; collecting litter; creating and repairing
walking tracks; protecting threatened species; stabilising sand dunes, and; working
with councils on installing litter traps.

Agricultural Activities: Sustainable cropping techniques; local fox and wild dog control
programs; drought management programs; safe chemical use and storage; minimising
nutrient run-off; building soil carbon; managing climate variability; fencing; managing
groundwater and salinity, and; coordinated action among neighbouring landholders to
plant corridors for wildlife.

From <http://landcarensw.org.au/about-us/about-landcare-nsw/>

• Assess the factors involved in long-term sustainability of agricultural


systems including:
- Australian land classification/capability

This land classification or capability allows farmers to determine the capacity of a


farm, and hence utilise the land sustainably.

ADV DISADV
More efficient use of resources on farm, because more Land classification often costs money to bring in
sustainable use of land trained assessor's of the land

Long term sustainability, because farmers adapt their Also, land classifications are subjective and not
practices to preserve the farm appropriate to its necessarily objective because they rely on the
capabilities. observations of assessors

Farmers can plan for the future, by knowing the Land classification often has a shelf-life, because as
classification of their farm e.g. It has been identified that time passes, the capabilities of the land may decrease
one part of the farm is category 5, which means that due to increased degradation of land, and new
farmers can apply for government funding and save up in technologies may increase the capabilities of the
order to regenerate and revitalise that area, now knowing farm (therefore meaning the land classification is not
that there is an issue. Farmers can set future targets and an accurate representation of the most
thus improve the farm overall. sustainable/appropriate practices for particular
farms)
Prevent soil structure decline and soil erosion in the future
Not always a comprehensive classification because
land classifications only take into account aerial
imagery and soil samples, and often fail to take into
account social factors and impact on the wider
environment, outside of the farm.

Agriculture Page 25
environment, outside of the farm.

- Whole-farm planning
When you have a holistic approach to the farm (look at sustainability, look at
input efficiency, market dynamics, demand, most efficient use of plans), in order
to encourage long-term sustainability.

1. Dividing land into homogeneous land units based on natural features


2. Each land unit should be managed according to potential and limitations
(according to land classification)
3. Farm improvements should be assessed into a plan which considers the overall
impact of water supply, drainage and revegetation etc.
4. Should also aim to incorporate elements of existing natural systems (i.e.
structural and species diversity, use of energy and resources, recycling of matter
and nutrients)

One of the first steps to whole farm planning is to take an aerial photograph.

Is there enough water? Is there demand? Is it economically viable? Is it


environmentally, long-term sustainable? Is there labour available? What are
alternatives to labour, and are they cheaper? What factors are limiting
production and how can a farmer aim to reduce the impact of these factors on
production?

ADV DISADV
Allows farmers to plan for the future by looking at the farm Division of land into homogenous units is as good as
as a whole assessor's skill

Prevents soil structure decline Very hard to interpret large amounts of information,
requires a lot of time and expertise
Whole-farm planning also involves finances and how
profits can be invested to make farming more efficient Field surveys are costly

Takes into account climate and resources, analyse whether Whole farm planning is a dynamic process, because the
these inputs are in line with these plans: is there storage, land is constantly undergoing change due to natural
how will the farmer transport, do you have the money to processes (weathering, erosion, water cycle, nutrient
purchase these inputs, are you making a profit cycle etc.)

e.g. Restoration work on farm: can you afford not to grow any crops in that
particular plot in order to restore that land, do you have the expertise

e.g. 3 years time, climate is really good for growing a particular crop, such as
cotton. Do you have enough water, are you on a riverbed, are you able to have a
reliable supply of water for the 3 year period

e.g. If planning for a particular crop or animal, such as buying steers at saleyard
to fatten, whole-farm planning might be planning how to feed these animals,
how to market these animals, what kind of husbandry practices do you need to
carry out, when will you sell out, will it be profitable?

• Identify and explain the tensions between sustainability and short-term


profitability in farming systems

1. Use of inorganic fertilizers


Short term: Immediate, instantaneous boost to soil quality, increased yield, profit

Long term sustainability: Acidified soils, eutrophication of riverways

1. Crop rotation with pastures


Short term
Pastures are not being used to maximum potential: opportunity cost, loss of potential yield

Agriculture Page 26
Pastures are not being used to maximum potential: opportunity cost, loss of potential yield

Long term
Diseases are controlled by rotating crops, soil nutrient and structure is preserve and
sustainable for many years to come

2. Green manuring
When crops are grown prior to sowing of crop before actual plants are grown, before being
ploughed into the soil to increase nitrogen in the soil and organic matter in the structure

Short term
Slow release of nutrients is unable to quantify amount of nutrients being added to soil. Not
necessarily most efficient method to restore soil nutrient status in the shortest amount of
time.

Long term
Not only adding nutrients to soil, but also adds organic matter to soil, improves soil
structure and nutrient status without acidifying soil (which would occur if using inorganic
fertilisers for a long time)

3. Chemical control vs biological control


Short term: Chemical control is much quicker and often much cheaper than biological
controls. Often businesses and commercial enterprises will turn to chemical control because
it is fast and effective.

Long term sustainability: If chemical control is used repeatedly and the spray used is not
rotated, then there is the possibility of the pest/weeds developing chemical resistance.

Biological control, in the long term, is more sustainable, because there is no chance of
chemical resistance being developed, because pests and weeds are killed off by other
means.

Agriculture Page 27