Looking for natural signs for an autumn break

Steve Jarvis with a very healthy young eucalyptus tree showing green shoots during a drought. He wonders if the new growth might be a sign.
Steve Jarvis with a very healthy young eucalyptus tree showing green shoots during a drought. He wonders if the new growth might be a sign.

Steve Jarvis admits his theory is not scientific but purely based on his observations: but he wonders if the new growth on trees on his Boorowa-district product are a result of rain which fell three weeks ago or are in anticipation of more rain to come.

Working closely with nature landholders observe the natural phenomena even if the response is sub-conscious and Mr Jarvis said he has been thinking about the manner in which plants and animals react to seasonal change.

"It has been in my mind for about five or six years," he said. 

"I've pondered because it can be very dry in the summer and then all of a sudden trees will start putting on new growth and you wonder where they are getting the moisture."

Mr Jarvis said it seems to rain within a reasonable time frame after he has noted the fresh leaves.

"I have seen it happen a couple of times but the question is … are they preparing for more rain or are they reacting to moisture already in the soil?" he reflected.

"I think a lot of time there doesn't appear to be enough moisture for them to react … but they must be accessing it from somewhere or do they know there is a change in the season and they have to prepare for it."  

Mr Jarvis admits it is only his theory, but he surmises the new growth has to be related to the amount of moisture in the soil which might be rising due to low air pressure.

"Nobody seems to be able to explain why springs start to run and I think some research needs to be done on these natural events," he said.

"Even if people recorded their observations we might be able to build some knowledge." 

Mr Jarvis noted the amount of anecdotal knowledge accumulated by generations of experience would be very helpful if it was documented or at least spoken about. 

"I'm sure the older generations of farmers or the aborigines would have had a handle on it," he said. 

"Has the knowledge been lost or are we now to used to waiting for the weather report?"

Mr Jarvis said he finds the whole process so interesting he has started to record his observations with the intention it will be of some use for future generations and he is using social media to start a dialogue.

"I've decided to start documenting what I am seeing and I think Facebook is the place to do it because it s on public record and I would really like other people to talk about their experiences," he said.

"Several people have already said they agree with me." 

Mr Jarvis said it is about being observant because if you don't take the time to look you will never know what is happening.

Soil biology not forgotten for Riverina farmer

Soil health is a topic which is attracting a lot of interest from farmers concerned about the fertility of the soil on their farms but also aware of the increasing demand from consumers for hearty foodstuffs at reasonable price.

Col Harper who manages the 2000ha family farm south of Ariah Park in the northern Riverina is one such advocate for the benefits of a healthy soil leading to healthy products and he organised an open day which was held in the Ariah Park Showground.

“As things get tougher and farmers realise high input farming doesn’t solve all the problems of profitable production it is great to see exhibitors and farmers taking time to share their knowledge and experience,” Mr Harper said.

"The more we can spread the word and make it the subject of conversation it will be better for the soil."

Mr Harper pointed out if soil health can be improved through our crops and livestock which produce our food then our health can also be improved.

“It puts some enjoyment back into farming and we don’t have to buy everything grow a crop,” he said.

“We can manage our paddocks to increase the biology numbers to store carbon and the biology will release the nutrients that we have in the soil.”

Mr Harper said the slogan for the field day … ‘there are six billion living organisms in every teaspoon of soil’  … summed up the point of the display.

“If we can get those organisms working for us around the clock and for no cost, we will be able to produce healthy food,” he said.

“That is what is missing in agriculture at the moment.”

When Mr Harper talks about his concerns about soil health, he is most troubled about current agricultural practices which, in his view, are harmful to the living organisms in the soil.

“Most things we do as a farmer are detrimental to biology, whether that’s cultivation, or chemicals or fertilizer or fungicides we are knocking that biology around all the time,” he said.

“If we realise that we are knocking the biology by continuing to use those functions, but then on the other hand if we can stimulate them, feed them, protect them, leave some ground cover we build their numbers.

Building soil structure, storing carbon which will in turn store more moisture and nutrients and holding the soil together is critical according to Mr Harper if we are to have a sustainable agricultural industry going forward.