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Kyabram farms centre of La Trobe University project

By Country News

Three Kyabram farms are at the centre of a La Trobe University research project unlocking the potential of Campaspe's organic waste.

Over two years, researchers are taking the kerbside-collected food and garden waste generated by residents in Campaspe Shire – and processed by Stanhope contractor Biomix – and spreading it over local farms.

Jim Radford from the Research Centre for Future Landscapes said he hoped the organic compost would improve the soil enough to increase carbon draw-down from the atmosphere into the soil, where it would remain in solid form.

“We are measuring how the soil responds – particularly how its biology and structure changes,” Dr Radford said.“Our hope is that the compost will increase the soil’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by super-charging the soil microbes that are already present.”

The organic compost is being spread across the trial sites located on cattle farms in Stanhope, Raywood, Kyabram and Arnold, and each site is about 7ha.

Dr Radford said the project was also examining whether rotational grazing improved the structure and condition of the soil.In rotational grazing, cattle graze intensively for short durations on small areas, before rotating to new pastures, thereby allowing pastures to rest and recover for longer.

“We predict that the two treatments in combination will encourage more good soil microbes, like bacteria and fungi, to grow, thereby improving soil quality,” Dr Radford said.

“This could improve pasture quality and water infiltration and retention rates and, importantly, enable more carbon dioxide to be absorbed from the atmosphere.

“If successful, we could achieve environmental goals – including reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions – with household waste that was, until recently, dumped in landfill.

"Biomix chief executive Vanessa Lenihan said the project would help quantify the benefits of compost and reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill.

“We recognise the importance of returning nutrients to the soil, which produces more food for your plate. It’s an exciting project to be part of and it sits really well with our philosophy of reducing waste,” Ms Lenihan said.

Participating Kyabram farmer Jo Dawn agreed.

“We are really interested in closed loop farming, and anything that helps our land retain moisture is something we are interested in exploring,” she said.

The project is funded through the Virtual Centre for Climate Change Innovation, an initiative of DELWP.

DELWP Community and Partnerships Program manager Geoff Caine said local research of this kind played a vital role in addressing climate change on a larger scale.

“If this project yields significant results, it creates an opportunity to reuse waste and create greater resilience for some farming systems, particularly organic farming,” Mr Caine said.