Winner 2011 Plasback Sustainability Award
The inaugural Plasback Sustainability Award has been presented at this year’s Australian Fodder Industry Association (AFIA) conference on the Sunshine Coast. The Plasback Sustainability Award recognises excellence in sustainable farming practises, with a particular emphasis on innovations that will benefit the fodder industry.
The winning entry this year is G & RJ Ballard. They were presented their Plasback award by Philip Rossi, Managing Director of Tapex Industries at the AFIA gala dinner.
Roger Ballard (L), Ed George and Philip Rossi, Tapex
AFIA guest speaker, Kerry O’Keefe (L) with Jason Amos, Tapex National Sales Manager
Plasback is a product stewardship program, started by Tapex in 2010, to provide farmers with a cost effective system to recycle farm plastics. The Plasback service is currently available in Victoria and NSW with plans to expand into other states in 2012. Tapex is Australia’s leading supplier of crop protection plastics.
The entries were judged by Helen Millicer, PACIA Sustainability Program Manager, Sonja Duncan, SD Environmental and Ed George, Tapex Environmental Manager.
This year’s winners run a mixed cropping and livestock farm at Wagin in South West WA. The majority of the crop is export quality oaten hay, which they press and process themselves for export.
In recent years Geoff and Roger Ballard have found their fertiliser inputs had been increasing each year, just to maintain the same cropping yields. In addition to this, soil health and salinity were becoming an increasing issue. Throw into this mix poor rainfall in recent years and you have a very challenging business environment.
Three years ago the Ballard’s started experimenting with composting, using straw waste from their own cropping operation, combined with effluent waste from a nearby feedlot. The result has been a high quality humidified compost, which they have spread on their own pastures at a rate of 1.5 tonne to the hectare. The results to date have been remarkable. Their vastly improved soil structure is evident from their crop health, but also through increases in soil microbial and worm activity. The improved soil health and productivity, has allowed a significant reduction in fertiliser use, with application rates nearly halving. The resultant savings have been $54,000 per annum across the 1,800 hectares the compost has been applied to so far.
The Ballard’s farm has become a focus of attention in the South West, as other farmers have asked about the secrets behind their green fields and healthy crops. The secret? A lot of hard work and compost!
Turning the compost windrows
Monitoring temperature to ensure a high quality compost
Spreading finished compost