News & Events

Biochar Sheep Sheep Feeding Trail and Dung Beetle Project

Posted on: 26 August 2019

By Kate Joseph South West Prime Lamb Research Officer

South West Prime Lamb Group (SWPLG) is a group of prime lamb producers based between the coast and as far north as Cavendish. To maintain productivity producers are applying high rates of fertiliser to their pastures. As well as being a very high input cost, there are also issues of increasing soil acidity necessitating the addition of lime. Without compromising productivity producers are seeking methods to improve soil structure and fertility that complement and possibly reduce applications of traditional fertilisers.

SWPLG has commenced a project with, GHCMA, DJPR (Agriculture Victoria) and MLA working in parallel with the Federal Dung Beetle Project (RR& DfP). The objectives of the project are:

  • Give producers a good understanding of the role of dung beetles and how populations can be managed
  • Investigate what species of dung beetles currently exist in South West Victoria and are active at different times of the year, through monitoring and trapping
  • Run a demonstration site to show the impact that dung beetles have on pasture production and soil health and fertility through the burial of sheep manure and sheep dung inoculated with biochar.

 In June, monitoring for dung beetles commenced at three sites at Cashmore, Heywood and Strathkellar.  These sites will monitor beetle activity monthly for a 12 month period. To date there has been little activity with small numbers of native dung beetles collected (Onthophagus australis and Onthophagus mniszechi). However, it is expected that numbers will increase as we move into spring.

A demonstration site was established in July aimed at demonstrating soil benefits from the incorporation of both plain sheep dung and biochar laden sheep dung into the soil profile using  introduced dung beetles (Bubus bison).

There are 5 replicates of the following treatments:

  • sheep dung + biochar+ beetles
  • sheep dung + biochar no beetles
  • control
  • Additional 5 plots of sheep dung + beetles set up for demonstration purposes e.g. digging to observe dung beetle tunnels- 2 with and without biochar & 1 dung only

Prior to establishing the site soil tests were taken at 0-10cm, 10-30cm and 30-60cm and these were analysed for soil nutrients as well as C fractionation at all depths.

Soil tests will be taken from each treatment in July 2020 and possibly 2021 to observe the nutrient changes due to the activity of the dung beetles and to see if there is any extra improvement from the addition of biochar.

For further information contact Kate Joseph (SWPLG) 0428 541158 or Bindi Hunter (Agriculture Victoria) 0428 589 016

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