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    Compost Thermometer Probe Handle
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    Australian Compost Tea Brewing Bag
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Biological Farming

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Biological farming is a chemical free method of farming that focuses on improving the microbiology as a way of increasing plant growth and produce yield.

 

 

Biological farming includes (but is not limited to):

  • organic farming
  • biodynamic farming
  • sustainable agriculture
  • Natural Sequence Farming

Biological farming methods present a viable way of producing high quality, nutritious produce without the use of large quantities of conventional fertilisers and pesticides or the use of gene modification. 

Biological farming predominately relies on the use of Aerobic compost and associated liquid innoculums, Bio-fertilisers and other organic additives and  good management techniques to build soil. 

Biological farming works with natural systems and processes to build optimum soil, plant and animal health, while also incorporating the best of "conventional" farming methods to maintain production levels and quality. Ultimately it also looks for outcomes in food nutrition and improved ecosystems health.


Why farm Biologically?

Progressive farmers around the globe are seeking alternatives to their current management practices, in particular their increasing reliance on pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilisers and other salt-based additives. Biological farming is one such alternative. It presents a viable method of producing high quality, nutritious produce.

The Biological  Appoach - with respect to what is measurable

The Biological approach to farming is based on measuring the microbial life in the soil and then applying the microbes, nutrients, compost tea, that the soil needs to regain its balance. An important part of this is an understanding of the Soil Succession Cycle. The fungal to bacterial ratio (F:B) is different in different types of ecosystems, so, the optimal F:B ratio is dependant on what is being grown. (See the Soil Succession page for more information). Using this knowledge means that composts, compost teas and soil additive programmes can be tailored to suit the specific land area and the desired crop or tree species.

On-farm it can mean the following:

  • Balancing soil minerals using scientific tests on microbiological activity and chemical analysis.
  • Applying soil conditioners to build structure, biology and nutrient availability.
  • Adding humate and liquid humic acid to conventional fertiliser to improve efficiency and root growth.
  • Applying nutritional and biological seed dressing to optimise germination.
  • Liquid injection of nutrition and living biology.
  • Applying foliar nutrition (not just nitrogen) with biology to build yield and quality potential while reducing pest and disease risk.
  • Applying specific fungi to plant residues to build soil carbon and available nutrients. 

Improving Natural Soil Fertility

The availability of phosphorus and calcium, as well as the presence of an active and diverse soil microbial population (The Soil Foodweb), are essential to maintain highly productive and sustainable plant growth.  Conventional farming practices and management, such as continuous cultivation, over-reliance on pesticides and herbicides or excessive application of conventional fertilisers impede the availability of these nutrients and adversely impact the size and diversity of the microbial population in the soil.

Natural Soil Fertility


Biological farming is based on scientific principles and common sense. Central to this is the realisation that microbes are the basis of all agricultural production systems. Many farmers are already familiar with the importance of microbes in ruminant nutrition. Another example is the role of Rhizobium bacteria in encouraging nitrogen fixation in legumes.


Producers need to understand the natural processes that occur on their farm, and then learn how to look for the indicators that identify a lack of microbial activity - and its obvious effect on available plant and livestock nutrition. Insects, disease and weeds are such indicators. Conventional management dictates that these pests are removed using pesticides. Biological farming aims to address the cause of these problems, rather than the symptoms.


In order to maximise plant available nutrition, and thus livestock available nutrition, it is necessary to create a thriving and sustainable microbial activity in the soil itself. In most farmed and grazed soils, the size and diversity of the soil food web is now insufficient to provide self-sustaining fertility and plant nutrition at required levels of production. This not only decreases the amount of organic matter converted to humus and microbial activity over time, but impacts on the soil’s capacity to hold water. For example, it is estimated that a one percent increase in humus can allow soil to hold an extra 80,000 litres of water per hectare.

The application of microbial nutrients, such as fermented liquid cultures, to bare earth or foliage help to establish a thriving and sustainable microbial population in the soil. The soil foodweb communities play an important role in converting previously applied calcium and phosphorus that has been locked up as tri-calcium phosphate back into plant usable forms. If the system is balanced, the soil foodweb will also help to maintain a satisfactory soil pH. By improving soil microbial mass and diversity, producers can improve the natural fertility of their soils. In turn, this increases the amount of plant-available and therefore livestock-available nutrients.

Biological farming presents a major challenge to conventional thinking. (Despite this, many Australian farmers have already successfully incorporated the principles of biological farming into their operations;  but most producers need to see it in practice before they can truly comprehend it.) For more information about biological farming, visit Biological Farmers of Australia.

How can you start farming biologically?

  Many farmers who have attended our courses and forums ask us this question: "Where do I start with biological farming?"

The answer to this question is a complex one and different for every farming operation, but to sum it up we recommend the following:

  1. Realise that the health of your plants and your crop yield are dependent on the health of your soil. Balance soil minerals to advance soil life, soil structure, plant production and animal health 
  2. Test your soil to determine what is in it? What is alive and active, what is dormant, what is absent altogether? Get this done through a registered Soil Foodweb laboratory.
  3. Build organic matter and humus in your soil by using  mulching, green-manuring and composting or by using pastures in rotation. Use compost that is independently tested. Few compost suppliers understand that compost needs to be produces with carefull managemnt and have huge numbers of beneficial microbiological species present in its structure. 
  4. Think about management methods to increase beneficial soil life such as the protozoa, fungi and earthworms
  5. Apply good quality Compost and other soil additives that  enhance the soil life stimulants.
  6. Visit farmers that are successful with biological farming and who base their decisions on scientific evidence and from what is seen above the ground.
  7. Rethink and adapt your chemical programme - phase out damaging fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides as far as possible
  8. Study books and other information that promote biological farming methods
  9. Attend forums and courses that promote biological farming especially where there are case studies on both small and large-scale properties
  10. Ask for the services of a knowledgeable biological farming consultant with a knowledge of the soil microbiological communites and there importance to long term productivity and sustainability.
  11. Join a biological farming study group. In these groups you will recieve the support and inputs of your fellow farmers who have also decided to go the biological route. It is in these groups that the practical application of issues surface and are dealt with.
  12. Contact a lab for a soil biology analysis and consultation.
  13. Balance soil minerals to advance soil life, soil structure, plant production and animal health

 

Our full range of biological farming products and services can be seen on groundgrocer's online shop, specialising in sustainable agriculture.