Lay of the land

More than 40 people attended a seminar called Loyal to Soil in Dunedin last week. The seminar was led by Australian soil ecologist Christine Jones, whose talking points included the role of soil biology for fixing nitrogen, preventing leaching and raising farm profitability. At the lunch break, Shawn McAvinue asked southern farmers in the audience what they were hoping to gain from the event.

Landowner Norman Strang, of Tokanui ... "To gain knowledge to help out the people I lease my farm to for organic dairy support."

Dairy farmer Shelli Mears, of Palmerston ... "I want to learn more about diverse pasture species and growing them and how they can benefit our farm and our cows."

Farm manager Georgie Galloway, of Waianiwa ... "To improve my knowledge and network. Days like this, when they talk about soil and are passionate about it, it can go any way — you come along with an open mind and be enlightened. We do a bit of everything — sheep, beef, dairy, winter grazing and we do all our own contracting work. We are a closed system so what we learn, we can try. In spring, we planted some multi-species crops for winter grazing and we haven’t done that before. We’ve been on an alternative journey for about the last four years trying to reduce fertilisers and sprays."

Dairy farmer Mark Anderson, of Waiwera South ... "This is the fourth time I’ve heard Christine in New Zealand. She has new research to bring each visit so it’s always exciting to come along and learn. Most of the learning comes from questions from the crowd and her explanations — it’s good."