A very successful Soils for Life Field Day was held on Biodynamic Agriculture Australia’s director Shane Joyces, Theodore organic beef farm, Dukes Plain, on 3 July. Around 50 farmers from near and far attended, with a number of participants driving up to 400km that morning to take part.

Shane and Shan Joyce’s garden gazebo made a pleasant and intimate location for the day’s activities. The continually chirping birds were not just atmospheric, but a great indicator of the biodiversity thriving on Dukes Plain.

Soils for Life Board member Alasdair MacLeod welcomed participants and talked about the strategic importance of landscape regeneration in the face of increasing landscape degradation across Australia and the impacts of a changing climate. He also highlighted the opportunities for Australian agricultural production with growing markets, particularly in Asia. Alasdair outlined how Soils for Life is working to encourage wide adoption across Australia of the regenerative practices identified through their case studies.

Shane Joyce shared aspects of the management approach used on Dukes Plain, including extensive use of biodynamic practices, to achieve sustainable production outcomes and a thriving landscape. All aspects – livestock, soil health, biodiversity and the broader environment – are considered. Shane clearly focuses on the sum of all parts rather than just individual elements working in isolation.

Shane also discussed the significantly greater rainfall infiltration achieved through perennial pastures in comparison to litter or bare ground – a clear reason to prioritise maintaining and improving groundcover to maximise production outcomes.

Terry McCosker of RCS presented the interaction between grazing management, water infiltration and healthy ecosystem services, in a practical and understandable presentation. He also talked about how blade ploughing cost Dukes Plain money: eighteen years of data have shown that there was no added benefit to production on cleared land in comparison to naturally treed pastures. Brief presentations were also provided by Joanna Gangemi from the Fitzroy Basin Authority and Ben O’Hara from the Queensland Trust for Nature on their programs.

A long convoy of 4WDs toured through the paddocks in the afternoon to discuss the different soil types and the various grazing management techniques – mob size and duration of graze and rest – to continue to improve soil and pasture. Refreshingly, Shane was open to admitting that he’s still learning and adjusting to obtain better landscape outcomes, willing to ask the experts on hand for new information.

A sign of the success of the day was how long was spent out in the paddock, asking questions and sharing knowledge, and how many people stayed to continue chatting well after the Q&A session was over.

Soils for Life thanks all those who made the effort to attend (from near and far), the guest presenters, the assistance of the Dawson Catchment Coordinating Association, and especially the hosts, Shane and Shan Joyce and their great support crew who helped to make the day possible.

Photos from the day can be viewed on the Soils for Life Facebook page, www.facebook.com/SoilsforLife and the Dukes Plain case study can be downloaded from: www.soilsforlife.org.au/case-studies.html.

For further information on Soils for Life visit www.soilsforlife.org.au.