What is TopSoils
The TopSoils is a multi-partner East Gippsland region project centred on improving soil condition for farm profitability through farmer-driven focus groups and demonstration sites. The aim of the project is to encourage and support change towards best management practice in soil health.
TopSoils1 was developed in 2013 as a 5-year project. The need was determined through Australian Bureau of Statistics data that showed that sustainable land management practices were not widely adopted in East Gippsland region. At the time data showed, for example:
- Only 12 % of farmers use soil testing to decide on fertiliser use,
- 76% of grazing enterprises determine ground cover through drive-by and visual assessment.
- Only 7% of cropping enterprises set ground cover targets.
- Only 27% of cropping enterprises use controlled traffic,
Reference: Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009/10)
The first few years saw partner agencies gather soil and plant data across well over 100,000 hectares in East Gippsland to benchmark (then) current soil condition, soil fertility and farming practices. TopSoils2 (1 July 2018- June 30 2023) will see some of these sites retested to determine change over the 10 years of the project (if any).
In TopSoils1 the Landcare Networks in East Gippsland supported the development of 5 farmer-driven focus groups. These groups are based in geographical areas: Plains, Foothills, High Country, Far East and Deddick/Bendoc region. Each group is provided with group support (facilitator), training opportunities, on-farm trials, technical advice and access to TopSoils demonstration sites.
Several demonstration sites were established by Agriculture Victoria and Southern Farming Systems (with initial advice from Greening Australia) during TopSoils 1 and will continue in TopSoils 2 until at least 2020. High Country demonstration sites at Connors Hill and Reedy Flat investigate the effects of nutrients and strategic grazing on weed loads in native pasture systems. The Swan Reach demonstration site investigates the effects of nutrients and rotational grazing on weed loads in improved pasture systems, with a particular focus on Parramatta Grass. Open days are held at these sites to share information at lease bi-annually.
There is no cost to be a member of a TopSoils group in your area or to attend the demonstration sites and you do not need to be a Landcare member to be a TopSoils member. There is, though, an expectation that during the course of the project you will trial something you have learnt through the program and share the results with the project partners and participants. TopSoils will provide support throughout your trial process.
The TopSoils program is funded through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Victorian Government’s Land Health Program. Project partners include East Gippsland Landcare Network, Far East Victoria Landcare, Snowy River Interstate Landcare, Agriculture Victoria, East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority and Southern Farming Systems.
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