Marian mixed grower Simon Mattsson.
Marian mixed grower Simon Mattsson.

Farmer advocates green approach to agriculture

BY FIGHTING against mother nature - rather than working with her - Marian mixed farmer Simon Mattsson believes landowners are farming themselves into a dust bowl.

"We haven't taken full advantage of biological function," Mr Mattsson said during a three-day soil symposium in Mackay last week.

The annual Reef Catchments conference featured internationally renowned soil ecologist Christine Jones who discussed the connection between soil health, plant and animal health - and finally human health.

Reef Catchments guest speaker Dr Christine Jones
Reef Catchments guest speaker Dr Christine Jones

Reef Catchments landcare facilitator Julia Kasiske said just as people required a range of food groups in their diet, so too did plants and animals.

In the eighth Reef Catchments conference, Ms Kasiske said, she had noticed an increased interest in regenerative agriculture, with 200 people expected to take part in the conference and two farm tours, at Marian and Proserpine.

Julia Kasiske from Reef Catchments.
Julia Kasiske from Reef Catchments.

Mr Mattsson said he had also noticed a blossoming interest in the green farming practice.

"That's how mother nature did it for millions of years before us," he said.

"While we can't do things exactly as mother nature would … (regenerative agriculture) gets us as close as possible."

This did not mean stopping all synthetic fertilisers, herbicides and fungicides, Mr Mattsson said.

"Our overarching ethos is encouraging the farmers to think about the underlying issues … and ask 'is there a more natural way to do that?'".

After 10 years of working with these methods, Mr Mattsson said he was ahead of many farmers in the region.

"Cane growers are catching on quick, but the cane growing industry is falling way behind," he said.

Every year, 10,000 hectares of land in the Mackay region was left fallow, Mr Mattsson said.

Rather than plant non-cane plants, like legumes, Mr Mattsson said 70 per cent of the land was left bare.

"That's the worst possible thing you can do to your soil," he said.

"It's not biologically active … (and) it's killing biological function as well."

Even with a trash blanket left on the field, Mr Mattsson said, the inactive soil meant the green mulch just oxidised - releasing the carbon into the atmosphere.

While he recommended planting a legume crop - like soybean - Mr Mattsson advised farmers to look for even greater crop diversity.

"You're replacing a monoculture of sugar cane with a monoculture of soy bean," he said.

For the first time this year, Mr Mattsson said, he would be planting three fallow crops together - sorghum, soy and millet.