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Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

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Published: 27 Nov 2019

Forthside Farm

A research farm on Tasmania's North-West Coast is home to one of the world's longest-running soil investigations – and it has attracted the interest of an international agricultural researcher.

International agricultural researcher, Professor Adrian Newton, was a guest speaker at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture's (TIA) Forthside Open Day on 5 December. Professor Newton has a keen interest in soil cultivation and works at Scotland's James Hutton Research Institute, which is one of the largest research centres in the United Kingdom.

Professor Newton was eager to share his insights about resilient cropping systems with Tasmania's agricultural community and hear from local farmers about their experiences. His presentation focussed on the measurable impact that different cropping practices have on soil health.

Adrian Newton

"The James Hutton Research Institute's Centre for Sustainable Cropping is running a number of long-term research trials looking at soil management from a whole cropping system perspective. Sharing our knowledge with the similar research trials happening at Forthside in Tasmania will be very useful to our understanding of these complex systems," Professor Newton said.

"The beauty of these trials is they show the sum of all that has happened in the system, whether it be a crop rotation, tillage practice, cover crop or soil amendment. Our goal is to help farmers achieve resilient cropping systems that can bounce back from tricky crops like potatoes and continue be productive for future generations."

TIA Researcher Dr Robert Tegg also delivered a presentation at the Forthside Open Day, drawing on 12 years' worth of local research trials that demonstrate changes in soil health. This was followed by an exploration of the day-to-day practicalities of managing soils in vegetable cropping systems by a panel of vegetable growers, researchers and agronomists.

Forthside Research Facility Manager, Doug Clark, said the research farm is an invaluable base for a diverse range of vegetable and crop research trials and this is one of the reasons he loves his job. In any one season Mr Clark manages up to two hundred individual research plots, which might involve applying extra irrigations to encourage a particular disease or planting new varieties for evaluation.

Forthside Farm

"Every day I come to work and get to rub shoulders with researchers and agronomists from industry and be exposed to the new technology, crops and research taking place. I am excited about the results of the long-term trials happening at Forthside. These are the numbers that tell the real story about soil health under different cropping practices," Mr Clark said.

Mr Clark encouraged growers to come along the Forthside Open Day to be part of the conversations that only happen when you are out on the farm.

"Factsheets and the internet can only tell you so much, it is the practical questions that come up during field days that can really highlight better ways of doing things or lead research in a new direction" he said.

The TIA Forthside Research Facility Open Day was held on 5 December 2019.  The full program is avaialble on Eventbrite. REGISTRATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED.