Soil experts highlight best practice in South Canterbury

Local farmers keen to explore soil best practice - for productivity and the environment - heard from two soil experts and viewed on-farm solutions at a field day near Waimate in May.

Held at Hugh and Liz Wigley’s Hook farm, around 50 farmers and industry representatives came along to hear from Trish Fraser from Plant and Food Research and Andrew Barber from Agrilink - as well have a look at how the Wigleys have been addressing sediment loss, using sediment traps, bank battering and grass buffers next to risk areas.

Hugh Wigley hosts field day near Waimate

Hugh Wigley, host of the field day, explains how he is mitigating sediment loss using a grass buffer.

The event was hosted by the Waihao Wainono Community Catchment Group, who promote good management practice on farms to improve sustainability and reduce environmental impacts, and was supported by FAR, Te Rūnanga o Waihao, Farmlands and Environment Canterbury.

Trish Fraser from Plant and Food Research in Lincoln talked about how poor soil health and management can affect productivity and cause nutrient and sediment loss to water. Trish also showed the negative impact grazing animals on wet ground in winter has on the soil – breaking up the soil structure and leading to muddy pugging.

“Animals treading on wet ground can restrict root growth and development and leads to surface run off,” she said.

Trish Fraser demonstrating different drainage properties

Trish Fraser from Plant and Food demonstrates the difference drainage properties of well-structured soil (left) and highly-cultivated soil (right)

Andrew Barber, Director of Agrilink consultancy service, then presented on erosion and soil loss mitigation measures that are good for the environment and for top soil retention. Due to South Canterbury’s topography and soil types, sediment and phosphorous loss to water are contributors to declining water quality.

Andrew Barber talking about soil best practice

Andrew Barber Director of Agrilink talking on mitigating sediment loss

Andrew’s field research, as part of the nationwide Don’t Muddy the Water project, has proven that sediment traps are very effective for capturing sediment loss run off from farms to waterways and are relatively easy to implement.

The Waihao Wainono Community Catchment Group hosts regular field days and information evenings with topical science-focused speakers. If you are keen to find out more or you would like to come along to the Group’s next event, contact the Waihao Wainono Community Catchment Group at waihaowainonogroup@gmail.com.

More guidance on soil best practice is available at Canterbury Water Farm.

For further information and resources on sediment control read Environment Canterbury's erosion and sediment control guidelines.