Unearthing New Knowledge: Using Soil Samples to improve production and sustainability at Glen Vale

Unearthing New Knowledge: Using Soil Samples to improve production and sustainability

Soil health and carbon levels are critical factors that impact agricultural productivity and sustainability. To gain insights into these factors, FarmLab, a leading agricultural technology company, partnered with VRM Biologik, a local agronomy and inputs business, to conduct an assessment of soil carbon and biodiversity on Glen Vale, a 150ha grazing and dryland cropping property located near Warwick on the Darling Downs in Queensland, Australia.

The goal of the project was to develop an overview of production drivers and current carbon levels on Glen Vale for the land manager, Penny Frederiksen, and use soil tests as the basis for this analysis.

To achieve this, FarmLab was used to develop a desktop estimate of carbon for the property owners, which provided an initial assessment of soil carbon using a licensed version of the CSIRO’s LOOC-C tool. The report predicted current carbon levels of 1.7% with maximum levels in the region estimated at 4.8%.

To further optimize the sampling process, VRM Biologik used FarmLab to look at recent productivity based on Vegetation Indices across the property. This helped identify areas where soil was not performing optimally and was used to strategically determine locations for sample collection. Paddock history, with more focus on cropped paddocks than grazed ones, and proximity to strata were key factors considered in determining sample locations. The land managers were consulted for feedback on the strata and sample plan prior to conducting the sampling.

Figure 1. Sample Plan  for Glenvale showing the Northern Cropping paddocks and strategic sampling locations.

Using the FarmLab Mobile App, Clinton Buck from VRM Biologik collected samples at 10 pre-determined locations on Glen Vale. The mobile app allowed them to navigate to each site efficiently, based on their proximity to the last location. At each site, photos were taken and notes were entered in the app to capture field conditions and relevant sample information. FarmLab was used to quickly create additional data collection fields to be used in the estimation of biodiversity and soil texture.

Sampling one of Glen Vale’s Northern dry cropping paddocks.

Personalized sample labels were provided by FarmLab to improve accuracy and reduce time taken when logging the soil data.

Once the samples were collected, they were submitted to the Environmental Analysis Laboratory (EAL) at Southern Cross University who conducted agronomic and carbon testing. The samples were receipted by the lab, and analysis is currently underway to generate valuable insights into the soil health and carbon levels on Glen Vale. Upon completion, EAL used the FarmLab portal to automatically upload and display results for the client.

‘Like 65% of the population, I’m a visual learner,’ said Penny. ‘Using the maps was particularly helpful in receiving and understanding the information gathered’

‘We were able to generate a highly accurate map using FarmLab’, said Clinton Buck at VRM Biologik, ‘this helped us better understand and consult our client on exactly where they lacked carbon, and the areas they could focus on improving yield’.

Figure 3. A Glen Vale Soil Map automatically generated from soil test results using FarmLab Analytics for streamlined client reporting.

This collaborative effort between FarmLab and VRM Biologik exemplifies the power of technology and scientific expertise in advancing our understanding of soil health and carbon dynamics in agricultural systems. By leveraging innovative tools and approaches, this partnership aims to unearth new knowledge that can inform sustainable farming practices and contribute to the ongoing efforts towards improving agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability for growers.

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