On the farm: PPS soil probe network
Our region is lucky to have a very active pasture group called Perennial Pasture Systems. For anyone who is not too familiar with this group, it was formed in 2007 to address a lack of research and extension regarding perennial pastures in the Upper Wimmera and Central Highlands regions of Victoria. Their goal is to ensure high quality research is conducted in our area, to keep members up to date with the best management advice for productive pastures. You can learn more at their website here.
One of PPS’s major projects is a long term and ongoing pasture growth prediction project, the “Soil Probe Cross-Region Partnership Project“. This project collects local temperature and soil moisture data, which is sent to Agriculture Victoria, who then pairs it with their own data and, using the CSIRO’s “GrassGro” computer simulation program, predicts pasture growth.
AgVic reports those predictions back to PPS, who shares them in an easily understood visual format with our farmers to assist them in their grazing system decision making.
A very large part of what makes this project possible is the network of soil moisture and temperature probes which PPS members have installed on farms across our region, which provide daily readings of soil conditions. The other essential component is the “GrassGro” model which was developed by CSIRO. It uses physical equations to convert from weather data, to soil conditions, to grass growth, to stock health. Here’s what it looks like all put together:
The long story short is that this project gives farmers an ability to predict what pasture supply will look like over the next few months, as well as predict how our pastures will change into the future. This means farmers can make proactive stocking decisions that improve the sustainability of their operation by avoiding overstocking and overgrazing, thus ensuring the long term health and productivity of our soil and perrenial pastures.
PPS has just shared the Spring pasture report. As Rob put it, “No surprises; it is wet & feed is growing at a great rate.” There is of course quite a bit more detail in the report itself, and you can find it here. If you aren’t already part of that group and would like to benefit from the large scale monitoring project, you can join them here.