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Comparing irrigated biodynamic and conventionally managed dairy farms. 1. Soil and pasture properties

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Burkitt, LL and Small, DR and McDonald, JW and Wales, WJ and Jenkin, ML (2007) Comparing irrigated biodynamic and conventionally managed dairy farms. 1. Soil and pasture properties. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 47 (5). pp. 479-488. ISSN 0816-1089

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Abstract

Ten paired irrigated dairy farms under biodynamic (BD) and conventional (CV) management were compared
over a 4-year period (1991–94). The paired farms were located in the irrigation districts of northern Victoria and southern
New South Wales and were matched for soil type, climate, cattle breed and farm area. Farms had been practising BD
principles for an average of 16 years before the commencement of the study and had not received phosphorus (P) fertiliser
for an average of 17 years. The effects of farm management on soil chemical and biological properties and the nutritive
properties and botanical composition of pasture were examined at varying sampling times during the study.
Soil Olsen extractable P concentrations were consistently 2–3 times higher under CV management at various sampling
depths (mean = 22 mg/kg, 0–10 cm), and were generally marginal under BD management in the surface 10 cm
(mean = 8.5 mg/kg). Low soil extractable P concentrations were also reflected in consistently lower mean pasture
P concentrations under BD management (0.25 compared with 0.35% on CV farms). Lower soil and pasture
P concentrations under BD management were the result of a large negative P balance across BD farms (–17 kg P/ha.year).
A mean negative P balance under BD management was a result of low P imports (2 kg P/ha.year) in comparison with large
quantities of P (19 kg P/ha.year) effectively lost from the farming system through animal products, estimated losses in
water runoff and slowly reversible soil P reactions. These results suggest that greater P imports are required to ensure the
future sustainability of BD dairy pasture farming systems. There were few differences in soil biological properties, with
earthworm weights significantly higher under CV management, but no difference in soil organic carbon, humus
concentration, the weight of the organic mat or microbial biomass, between the two management systems.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Page Range: pp. 479-488
ISSN: 0816-1089
Identification Number - DOI: 10.1071/EA05196
Additional Information:

© CSIRO 2007

Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2008 14:10
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 03:33
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