6 Aug 2012
By Paul Clancy for The Weekly Times

DID you know that a single teaspoon of soil contains more than four billion organisms?

Renowned Australian soil microbiologist Pauline Mele has a passion for soil and understanding what factors contribute to its health.

It is no secret – healthy soils are integral to sustaining adequate crop yields and stocking rates for a profitable farm business.

Prof Mele’s focus is to develop sustainable and productive soil systems by harnessing the biological potential of soils. If this is achieved, the industry can increase the availability of nutrients, reduce disease and increase overall resilience of the soil system.

Prof Mele will discuss these issues at the 2012 National Fodder Conference at the Grand Chancellor Hotel in Hobart on August 7-8, and will share the secrets of a truly productive soil. While soil health determines productivity, what contributes to quality?

Each year there are a new technologies and processes that enable fodder producers to improve the quality of hay and silage.

Whether it is through the use of inoculants, conditioning, tedding or chopping, there are a multitude of micro-tweaks that help improve the finished product.

The two-day event will feature a number of speakers from Australia and overseas, including NSW DPI agronomists Mary-Anne Lattimore and Neil Griffiths who will discuss the programs that help increase the quality of hay and silage and the benefits to growers’ livestock and export clients.

What would happen, for example, if you stuffed straw down your petrol tank?

Producing ethanol from straw is not necessarily a new concept, but one company has dramatically improved this process to the point where it is commercially viable to produce ethanol from straw. This would be a great opportunity for Australian grain growers.

No longer would straw be seen as a waste product. It is set to become a by-product with a consistent market and value-added product for grain growers offering a real incentive to bale stubbles.

The conference will also hear from Chris Wilcox, from Zeachem, who will discuss how their first commercial pilot plant in the US is benefiting local producers.

The conference featured innovations in fodder conservation and provided an opportunity to interact with fodder producers and contractors from all over Australia, Whitemore hay and beef producer Doug French said.

In between learning about the most innovative ideas in fodder conservation at the conference, a trade and machinery display will feature the latest products and technologies for producing the highest-quality hay and silage.

Delegates can talk to producers using this equipment and manufacturers and distributors who will show it.

For more information and registrations, phone the Australian Fodder Industry Association on (03) 9530 2199