Several members from the Soil Wealth ICP team joined Greater Sydney Local Land Services (LLS) at a field day at Richmond Lowlands, NSW in June with a focus on farm practices that can help or hinder soil health and integrated pest management (IPM).

The event, held in conjunction with the Australian Chinese Grower Association of NSW’s General Meeting, brought together 50 enthusiastic participants.

During the workshop, participants had the opportunity to explore three different stations covering IPM, and the role of organic matter and cover crops in soil health.

In preparation for the event, LLS had planted a diverse range of cover crops – including white clover, cowpea, shirohie millet, oats, oats and cowpea, sorghum super graze, and sorghum scavenger – on 1 March 2023. A second set of crops were planted on 18 April 2023, including ryegrass, barley, oats, wheat and ryecorn.

Kelvin Montagu discussing activities that increase or remove soil organic matter.

Workshop stations explore key topics

Participants were split into smaller groups and rotated through the workshop stations, where they heard presentations from LLS staff and the Soil Wealth ICP team.

At the IPM station, NSW VegNET Regional Development Officer Sylvia Jelinek conducted an informative session that addressed critical aspects of pest identification and control. Participants gained insights into correctly identifying pests and learned where, and how often, to inspect plants for signs of infestation with guidance on the resources available to assist.

Sylvia also discussed chemical groups, their modes of action and the importance of targeted use of chemicals for effective pest management.

Soil Wealth ICP team member Kelvin Montagu led a workshop on organic matter which focused on the significance of soil organic matter and the impact of cultivation practices. A tractor with a rotary hoe was brought in, enabling participants to better understand the impact of cultivation and tillage techniques on soil health.

The workshop emphasised the importance of organic matter in enhancing soil health, and highlighted various ways to improve organic matter levels, and how it can be lost.

How cover crops contribute to a healthy soil was the focus of station three, where Soil Wealth ICP team member Stephanie Tabone explored the foundations of healthy soil, including good structure, drainage, microbial diversity and nutrient availability.

Participants were introduced to the concept of cover crops and their flexibility to meet individual growers’ needs based on their farming system, environment, crop rotations and soil types. The session delved into selecting suitable cover crop species, timing of optimal establishment, biomass levels for weed control, and managing cover crop termination and residue levels.

Stephanie Tabone discussing cover crops with the group.

Practical learnings a highlight for participants

Participants were enthusiastic about the interactive and hands-on field day and asked relevant questions concerning the implementation of principles in their specific farming systems.

Many participants expressed an eagerness to explore the opportunity of planting cover crops in areas traditionally left fallow, recognising the potential benefits to their soil health and farming operations.

The Soil Wealth ICP project team would like to thank LLS for organising the event and the opportunity to present to the group.

Participants at the Chinese Growers field day at Richmond Lowlands, NSW.