Senior soil scientist Declan McDonald explained the “measure of what you are doing is in the roots” during his talk at Bill Cleeland’s Phillip Island farm.

FEED the soil, not the plant, was one part of senior soil scientist Declan McDonald’s message at the Growing Southern Gippsland field day held on Phillip Island on Friday, February 28.
The value of soil and its ability to hold water were topics of discussion at the recent field day with industry experts and an on-site discussion at local farmer Bill Cleeland’s property.
Soil expert Declan McDonald of Sydney Environmental and Soil Laboratory said most modern productivity focused on farming degraded soil quality.
“We’ve gotten ourselves into a slightly difficult situation, a lot of our tools that were developed for high productivity exhaust the soil,” Declan said.
“A problem is that we haven’t managed to retrofit a lot of our problems with sustainable solutions,” he said.
Declan understood that many farmers aimed to leave the property better than how they found it.
“Soil function happens when we let the soil do what it has always done [naturally],” he said.
“Planting a range of crops in the one field will mean they flourish at different times and will create a variation in produce and roots will develop deeper,” Declan said.
“These deeper roots improve the soil biology, helping it function and retain more water,” he said.
Bass Coast Landcare sustainable agriculture team leader Joel Geoghegan said the third Growing Southern Gippsland event was again well attended.
“Feedback from the day was extremely positive and we hope all those who attended went home with increased knowledge and understanding on how to manage their farms in a changing climate,” Joel said.
The fourth Growing Southern Gippsland field day is coming up on March 27 and will focus on waste and energy use, at Amber Creek Farm in Fish Creek.