Authority Figures and Plausible Explanations Cannot Always be Trusted

More and more farmers are increasingly becoming uneasy as they see their position being continually eroded rather than supported.

Let’s look at what lengths the powers to be go to give farmers a one-way track of farming which is to use agri-business products.

A recent article in local Stock and Land paper “Who wants an extra 100mm GSR?” featured two authority figures, people we have come to trust. An agronomist, Simon Craig from the Birchip Cropping Group and a research student, Jackson Davis, who is completing a double degree in agricultural science and International development and who were saying that “Should weeds be controlled, it would be possible for some farmers to have 100 mm of moisture in their subsoil profile by the end of summer”. That is to say, farmers should get rid of their weeds with weedicides.

This prompted me to seek comment from Colin Seis from the Advanced Pasture Cropping Company who is a pioneer of pasture cropping systems. He says the following facts have been proven by farmers:

  • Weeds have a shading effect and actively help retain moisture
  • Summer weeds are usually broadleaved weeds so if you are going to spray them, spray as late as practical to have the advantage first of them shading the soil
  • Spraying weeds to reduce the weed seed bank in the soil is a futile effort. Farmers have not won the war on weeds despite using weedicides for over 50 years.
  • Farmers have reduced their weeds using shading technique, stubble retention including cover crops and pasture cropping
  • Spraying the weeds often leads to wind erosion and loss of top soil
  • Granite soils and sandy soils won’t retain any significant moisture from summer rains
  • You are only likely to achieve higher retention of moisture in black self mulching soils
  • Weeds take the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and through a complex plant, soil bacteria and fungi process to create new soil carbon. A lift in soil carbon increases moisture holding capacity of the soil dramatically.

Did you know many weedicides actually kill the fungi in the soil? And as weeds love growing in a bacteria dominated soil, that is one where fungi has been destroyed, the farmer has unwittingly created a soil condition for weeds to re-occur year after year. Furthermore the fungi are the key to creating soil carbon so why kill it with weedicides?

Why not use pasture cropping for the purpose of shading the weeds? Colin says if you find say one beneficial red grass in a paddock that means there is a seed bank of red grass in the soil which will get you going for pasture cropping providing you work on the conditions to support it. Pasture cropping maintains ground cover which increases soil carbon, soil fungi levels and by shading the soil any summer rainfall moisture is retained.

This approach to farming is far more sustainable and profitable option.