Gabe Brown - regenerative farmer, North Dakota, USA
Gabe is a pioneer of the current soil health movement that focusses on regenerating our resources. His diversified 5,000 acre farm and ranch near Bismarck, North Dakota, USA focuses on farming and ranching in nature’s image with holistic integration of his grazing and no-till cropping system. A diversity of cash crops and multi-species cover crops, and all-natural, grass-fed beef, poultry and sheep has regenerated the natural resources on the ranch without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides. View Gabe's opening presentation here
Geraldine grows native rainforest fruits of the neighbouring Wet Tropics World Heritage area on the Atherton Tablelands. Using sustainable organic farming methods, she simultaneously restores the landscape with these plantations for rare indigenous wildlife including the endangered southern cassowary. The fruits are made into premium condiments in traditional artisanal recipes and sold through top outlets, including Noma in Sydney. Geraldine hosted lunch on a pre-conference tours at her cooking school and also spoke on the value of "clean" food. Geraldine's company, Sustainable Solutions Global, was a conference sponsor.
Dr Nancy Schellhorn - leader, Pest Suppressive Landscapes Team, CSIRO
To view Nancy's 2016 conference address - click here
Nancy Schellhorn uses ecological concepts to address pest management problems at multiple spatial scales in agricultural and urban landscapes. She and her collaborators have developed and advanced the concept of "pest suppressive landscapes", which is a way of measuring, designing and managing agricultural landscapes for productivity and biodiversity. Dr Schellhorn joined CSIRO in Brisbane in 2005 where she is a Principal Research Scientist and leads the Pest Suppressive Landscapes Team.
Dr Dean Metcalf - BioControl Australia, Tasmania
Dean is a plant pathologist with over twenty-five years’ experience in crop disease management. Dean has successfully researched, developed and manufactured biological control agents to treat crop disease in numerous industries, including: cherries, raspberries, stonefruit, grapes, onions and macadamias. We heard from him about how inoculated composts can help with soil-borne disease suppression. www.biocontrol.net.au
Some highlights from the 2016 conference!
Gabe Brown's keynote speechAnika Molesworth, Young Farmer 2015Xander Davis and Nicole Masters Gudjugudju Welcome to Country
Copyright@2016 - National Biological Farming Conference. Website design by Jacqui Richards.
Dan Papacek - Bugs for Bugs, Queensland
Dan is an entomologist and director of Bugs for Bugs, one of Australia’s leading suppliers of biological control agents. He has been involved in integrated pest management (IPM) and has managed beneficial insect mass rearing projects since 1978. Dan conducts ongoing research and development into biological control and fruit fly management and provides contract research in the field of integrated pest management. Bugs for Bugs offers a crop monitoring service to assist growers in achieving good IPM, and has worked in Australia, Thailand, Jordan and Morocco.
John Attard - sugar cane farmer, Mackay, Queensland
John Attard shared the story of how he and his brother Michael have reduced inorganic nitrogen to zero in their sugar production through the application of bio-fertilisers made on the farm. They have created a range of different inputs and modified equipment to apply them. Combined with retaining crop residues and monitoring mineral levels closely, they are showing promising yield results, and have saved considerably on pumping costs. Here's John's story.
Marcus Bulstrode - Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, South Johnstone
Marcus works to improve on-farm weed control by encouraging natural regeneration of riparian zones in the Wet Tropics region where the landscape is deeply incised with many rivers and creeks amongst farm land. “By providing conditions [on farms] suitable for natural regeneration, we can re-establish ecosystem functions and develop greater resilience to disturbance and reduce the need for on-farm weed control.” Marcus has also pioneered the use of drones in weed detection and management. He has helped a local farmer to use drone technology to minimise herbicide use in sugar cane.
Alan Coates - Coates Horticulture/TAFE instructor, Wollongbar, NSW
Alan has taught sustainable agriculture at NSW TAFE Wollongbar for over 30 years and growing up on a dairy farm, is also a farmer. In recent years he has focussed on the macadamia industry as a farmer, consultant and collaborator in research trials for bio-control of insect pests. We welcome Alan's broad experience as both an educator and a farmer in non-chemical weed and pest control methods. Alan and Dave Hardwick presented on different types of composting.
Anika Molesworth - Young Farmer of the Year 2015, Broken Hill, NSW
To view Anika's 2016 conference address, click here
Young Farmer of the Year 2015, Anika, is a global campaigner for equity for farmers in Australia and developing countries and a passionate advocate for Climate Change action. “Gen Y is an exciting generation— we have entrepreneurial flair, innovative spirit, and a desire to better the lives of those around us and across the globe. We have the capabilities and energy to revolutionize the face of food and fibre production to ensure a thriving sustainable future.”
Steve Peterson - Niffty Ag, Illinois, USA
Steven Peterson, a fourth generation farmer from Galesburg, Illinois, founded NifftyAg Strip-till Solutions, designing and supplying a range of uniquely designed strip-till equipment. Steve shared his extensive knowledge and passion for strip tillage and explaining equipment that includes innovative solutions for sugar cane at the expo. He also explain how broad acre cropping and cotton producers how they can farm more efficiently and take care of their soil in the concurrent session on broad acre cropping and tillage systems.
Dr Bernard Doube - Dung Beetle Solutions Australia, South Australia
Bernard is a favourite for his passion and extensive research experience with dung beetles in South Africa and Australia. He is an international expert on ticks, dung-breeding flies, earthworms and the biological basis of soil health and offers workshops on soil health as well as soil macrofauna. Bernard has co-edited the books Soil biota: management in sustainable farming systems and Biological indicators of soil health. His recent book Dung down under has sold over 2000 copies.
Ian and Di Haggerty - sheep and wheat, Wyalkatchem, WA
Join Ian and Dianne for their story of diversified pasture management. With son James, they run a holistic and integrated program of cropping and grazing over 8,000ha. The program is underpinned by their shared deep commitment to the regeneration of the fertility of the marginal soils of their area. This is achieved through using biological fertilisers, zero tillage and the consequent growth of healthy cereal plants to deliver high tonnages of premium grain per hectare. The healthy ground cover of the cropping and pasture is also key to maintaining high soil moisture levels and ensuring weed control.
Dave Hardwick - agro-ecologist and educator, Albury, NSW
Dave Hardwick is an agro-ecologist and educator with an extensive background in helping farmers and farmer groups (such as Landcare) to develop objective soil assessment tools to match their production goals. He has a gift for connecting with his audience on many levels, from turning them into microbes in his role play games to help them understand the soil food web to running extended programs for soil health with groups. Dave is also a NSW TAFE instructor. Dave has spent considerable time in the Wet Tropics and brought his expertise to a composting session, pre-conference tour down the coast and a workshop on understanding your soil.
Dr Vic Galea - Associate Professor in Plant Pathology, University of Queensland
Vic Galea specialises in researching beneficial fungi and diseases of vegetables, fruit, field crops and native plants. His team has developed Australia’s first ‘home-grown’ commercial bio-herbicide, utilising native fungi, that promises to be a sustainable and long-term solution for invasive woody weeds such as parkinsonia, prickly acacia, mimosa and athel pine. Vic says: “Sustainable and environmentally effective solutions in nature will enhance agricultural productivity.”
Graeme Hand - groundcover management and pasture cropping educator, Victoria
Graeme Hand is one of Australia’s foremost holistic management certified educators. He was taught by Alan Savory and has learnt much about how to use grazing to regenerate grasslands to full function, through observation and experience on his own and other people’s farms. You might have seen him in workshops with Colin Seis.
Jamie Jurgens opened the conference with his story of five generations of his family tending crops on about 150ha, producing tomatoes, chillis and capsicums, as well as sugar cane. The Jurgens have gone to lengths to incorporate biological farming practices into their operation and learn about soils and their properties, motivated through the need to lower input costs and to be a good member of the community. Jurgens Produce is an active participant in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Reef Guardian program.
Jamie says, ‘Don’t be afraid to believe in something natural.’
St. John Kent - grain farmer, Jimbour Plains, Queensland
St. John has been growing grain on the Jimbour Plains near Dalby on the northern Darling Downs for 37 years. He is a leader in the local Landcare movement and a driving force with the Jimbour Plains Growers Group. This farming group is purported to be the oldest continuous farming group in the country and is renowned for its leading role in adopting zero till and three-metre controlled traffic in the grain and cotton industry.
John and Lorraine Kalleske - Kalleske Wines, Barossa, South Australia
In the Barossa Valley, the Kalleske family have been farming and growing grapes since 1853 near the village of Greenock. While the main enterprise is grape growing, they also farm oats, Lowline Angus cattle and Dorper lambs and have a commercial chaff mill. John and Lorraine began biological farming in the mid-80s and, with son Kym, have progressed to completely organic-biodynamic. Sons Tony and Troy established the Kalleske winery and made the first Kalleske wine. The Kalleske family are active practitioners of sustainable farming and caretakers of the land and not only want to maintain the environment but improve it for future.
Graham Lancaster - Environmental Analysis Laboratory (EAL), Lismore, NSW
Graham moved from environmental science into analytical chemistry in the early 1990s, setting up EAL at Southern Cross University in Lismore, NSW. In the mid-90s Graham guided EAL into specialised agricultural analysis primarily related to organic and biological farming. Soil, leaf and compost analysis is designed to enhance soil management and encourage reduced and targeted application of inorganic fertilisers. Graham spoke about the latest soil biology and micronutrient testing techniques and capabilities.
Richard Llewellyn - BioResources, Queensland
Richard has been developing biological control agents and biological control mass rearing systems for horticultural use for 30 years. He is currently developing a mass rearing system and conducting field trials with Anastatus wasps, an egg parasitoid of fruitspotting bug. Richard shared his experience in biological controls together with Barrie Mackay and Shane Fitzgerald. www.bioresources.com.au
Dr Ashley Martin - Microbiology Laboratories Australia, Adelaide, South Australia
Ash is managing director of Microbe Labs, a world leader in commercial microbiology analysis of soil, fertilisers and compost for agriculture, forestry and the environment. Ash’s broad experience gives him a unique practical skills: from orchard worker as a boy to his PhD in applied soil microbiology (Adelaide), Ash has worked as an experimental scientist (CSIRO), postdoctoral researcher (Monash), technical officer (NSW Agriculture & CSR), agronomist, farmer and nurseryman. Ash enjoys helping to make soil management more sustainable by providing tests and expertise to help manage soil microbiology - and is also a conference sponsor.
Dr Brajesh Singh - professor in soil microbial biology, University of Western Sydney
Braj is providing key information about the link between soil health and ecosystem functions, including farm productivity, nutrient cycling, soil fertility and greenhouse gas emissions. He has led or co-led a number of national and international initiatives including the establishment of the Global Centre for Land-Based Innovation. He serves on steering committees of two EU initiatives, currently serves on the editorial boards of six international journals, including as a senior editor, and holds honorary positions in the UK and China. Braj put our efforts in soil health management into an international context in his address.
Lynne Strong - dairy farmer and "climate champion", Illawarra, New South Wales
To view Lynne's 2016 conference address, click here
Lynne manages two dairy farms at Jamberoo by leasing land where the influx of lifestyle farmers has pushed values to $70,000/ha. Their business is a partnership between cows, landscape and community and their decisions have to be flexible to accommodate all three. Lynne mitigates against climate change by improving farm efficiency and pasture productivity and investing in enhancing natural areas which she expects to increase both productivity and profit in years to come. She says: Farmers can’t control the weather but we can control how we prepare for it.
Rob Watson & Michelle Bell-Turner - biodynamic dairy and bio eggs, Millaa Millaa, Queensland
We met Rob and Michelle on a pre-conference tour and heard them speak at the conference about Mungalli Creek Biodynamic Dairy, a boutique producer of organic/biodynamic and gourmet dairy products, and one of just a few A-grade certified biodynamic dairy farms in Australia. Rob represents generations of dairy farming and says working with nature is the key to producing top quality milk, cheeses and yoghurt. Michelle is marketing manager and excels at promoting "clean" food. Mungalli Creek Biodynamic Dairy had a popular stand at the expo and were also a generous sponsor.
Graeme Sait - Nutri-Tech Solutions, Queensland
Graeme Sait is an internationally acclaimed author, educator and co-founder of Nutri-Tech Solutions (NTS) 16 years ago. He publishes prolifically and has produced a popular book "Nutrition Rules!" Graeme has formulated many of the soil health and human health products for which NTS is renowned and he has developed all the nutrition programs that are the keystones of their proactive management approach. His inspiring presentations are often described as "life changing".
Ben Grear - Rise Above Custom Drone Solutions
Ben is operations manager for Rise Above Custom Drone Solutions, one of the leaders in industry of commercial drone innovation, customisation and sales of Ready-to-Fly (RTF) systems in Australia. Ben has a solid background in IT and drone technology and works with customers to offer integrated and customised drone solutions. He engages with numerous industries and applications including photography, film, Security, mining, surveying and the agricultural sector to provide pragmatic drone solutions to solve client problems.
Bob Shaffer - SoilCulture, USA
Bob has been consulting and training farmers in sustainable, science based farming systems in sub-tropical and temperate environments for 35 years. He helps develop and manage cover crop and compost systems for farms, orchards and vineyards from a whole-farm perspective including soil biology, soil physics and how the cover crop relates to food production and quality. He has worked in taro, coffee, ginger, avocados, macadamias, pineapples, herbs, tea, vegetables, mangoes, nursery crops, spices.
Jo Doolan - organic dairy farmer, Kyabram, Victoria
When Simon and Jo Doolan moved onto their farm near Kyabram, Northern Victoria with their two young children in 2010, it was the realisation of a long held ambition to farm the land first operated by Simon's grandfather in the early 40's. Jo's work in natural resource management and Simon's interest in the environment led them to the decision to farm organically. Their ambition is not to develop a big farm, but a sustainable farm. They have fenced off rare remnant greybox and have plans to create a natural vegetation corridor through their land.
Shane Fitzgerald - Total Grower Services
Shane is a leader in integrating biological solutions into mainstream agriculture. Through advanced agronomy and systematic application of biological products, he has helped growers to achieve substantial improvements in crop performance, reducing fertiliser and pesticide use while improving yield, quality and profit. Shane has published landmark findings about the relationship between soil chemical balance and plant health.
John and Wendy Graham - orchardists, Alstonville, NSW
John and Wendy Graham have been farming an orchard of custard apples and Tahitian limes for 23 years near Alstonville northern NSW. They were keen to explore more sustainable farming methods producing fruit quality competitive with conventional systems. This initially led to integrated pest management (IPM). They released predators, grew groundcovers and habitats. Through TAFE and SoilCare they explored how to improve their soil health, and grow sustainably. Now they are also fully committed to making compost to enhance their soil.
Peter Prentice - Agripower, Queensland
Peter has a background in engineering science, minerals research and mineral bioavailability. He founded Agripower, a Queensland-based company that focuses on silicon fertilisers for agriculture and environmental application. Peter has been at the forefront of the studies, research, development and trials to implement Agripower’s products and establish an international marketing network for trials and sales. Agripower now operates in twelve countries and is about to enter the US. A representative from Agripower added to the conversation on silica.
Matt Abbott - organic banana farmer/Nuffield Scholar, Mena Creek, Queensland
Matt, his father Robert and brother Ben have been in organic banana production for the past 10 years, making a swap from 20 years of conventionally-grown bananas. Matt has been awarded a Nuffield Scholarship to research organic farming across Asia and South America, looking at banana varieties and systems to manage Panama disease Tropical Race 4, potential export markets for organic bananas and splitting bananas into categories for product branding and consumer marketing. Matt says: “I would like to be exporting organic bananas by 2020, with strong demand driving our increased production.”
Mark Savina - cane farmer, Barron Delta, Queensland
Mark generously hosted both a pre-conference tour and a workshop at his farm and spoke at the conference.
Dr Lukas van Zwieten - Dept Primary Industries, NSW
Lukas is Senior Principal Research Scientist, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and is also Adjunct Professor at Southern Cross Plant Science (Southern Cross University). He has over 75 publications in the field of soil science, with many focusing on understanding the role of biochar in agricultural systems. His more recent research focuses on N and C cycling, and impacts of herbicides on soil function. Lukas is also a fig, cattle, garlic and soon to be custard apple producer.
"Biochar is a recognised soil amendment and it's recognised as being able to sequester carbon in soil as well as providing a lot of other potential benefits - especially to crop growth."
Nicole Masters - Integrity Soils, NZ
To view Nicole's conference-closing address, along with Xander Davis' views of the future, from a seven-year old's perspective - click here
Nicole is an independent agro-ecologist, systems thinker and educator, providing agricultural extension services and consulting throughout Australia, North America and New Zealand since 2003. Nicole is passionate about empowering farmers, growers and consultants to make positive shifts in their operations. She is one of a growing number of people who are facilitating a rapidly expanding world of quality food production and biological economies.
Dianne Sciacca - Ecoganics, Innisfail, Queensland
Dianne is the managing director of Pacific Coast Eco Bananas and Ecoganic Foods, marketing Ecoganic produce nationally. Dianne’s passion for connecting like-minded farmers who choose to grow food in a safe healthy ecosystem has been instrumental in establishing a sustainable marketing strategy that built the Ecoganic category for the red tip banana, now recognised in Woolworths and Coles supermarkets. Eco Bananas were global leaders in developing an easily recognisable colour trademark for fresh produce.
Michael Rocca - farmer and biochar manufacturer, Mareeba, Queensland
Michael Rocca is building his third “prototype” biochar machine after trialling biochar on his cane, peanuts and maize crops for the last five years with great results. “It has proven to be a highly effective addition to my soil for both increasing yields and stabilising nitrogen. Its wider use has been limited by both supply and cost, so I thought I’d make my own.”
His latest machine will allow him to produce 700kg of biochar per hour. We enjoyed hear from Michael and Dr Lukas van Zwieten.
Don Murray - Nature's Haven, organic producer, Qld and NSW
Don has a passion for agriculture, particularly food production. Tertiary qualifications in agriculture gave him an excellent grounding and experience for establishing Nature’s Haven in 2002. The business has expanded rapidly in the last 14 years and Don is now one of the largest certified organic growers in Australia with three properties in NSW and four in far north Queensland. Don has extensive experience with a wide range of vegetable crops and as a regional agronomist and spoke about the value and challenges of marketing organic vegetables.
Barrie Mackay - Mackays, Tully, Qld
Mackays grows bananas, sugar cane, papaya and beef cattle in the wet tropics. Barrie works closely with his advisors to implement sustainable integrated crop management practices on a large scale. Their soil health program has completely removed synthetic phosphorus inputs and dramatically reduced fungicide usage. They have also successfully introduced integrated pest management (IPM) into their system using a predatory mite, Neoseiulus californicus, for control of spider mite.
Bill and Rhonda Daly - sheep and cropping, 'MiIgadara', Young, NSW
Fourth generation farmers Bill and Rhonda Daly saw that their family farm’s soils were becoming lifeless despite ‘good district practices’. They looked for solutions to restore soil balance and return life to the land. Bill and Rhonda now use ‘Milgadara’ as a model farm to demonstrate the benefits of the biological/humus farming approach. Rhonda is widely respected for her agronomic knowledge of soil and plant dynamics, and assists farmers globally to return their soil to a living ecosystem.
Barry O'Sullivan - holistic management grazier, Glenalpine Station, Collinsville, QLD
Over two decades the O’Sullivans have dedicated themselves to continual personal and business improvement on their 23,700 ha breeder property. With NQ Dry Tropics’ support, they recently used holistic management principles to fix a severely eroded black soil gully. Barry confined a mob of 1200 head of cattle for several nights at the head of the erosion site, which has resulted in a remarkable biological carpeting allowing natural regeneration of pasture and reshaping of the gully.
Our local speakers A-Z
Dr Denise Manker - Director, Global Agronomic Development, Bayer CropScience
Denise spoke about the future of the global biologics market and detailed some of the science behind biological product development. She joined Bayer CropScience with the acquisition of AgraQuest, Inc. in 2012. She is responsible for oversight of worldwide field testing of biologics for BCS.
Denise’s doctoral work was in oceanography, identifying novel natural products from marine invertebrates and investigating their bioactivity and biosynthetic origin. Hear her conference presentation here.
Karen Thomas, Regional Landcare Facilitator, Port Phillip and Westernport CMA, Victoria
In this peri-urban region, Karen works chiefly with horticulture and cropping enterprises with a focus on innovative practices that challenge status quo in complex production landscapes within the region. Karen came across native vegetation insectariums when she was looking to link minimising farm inputs with diversification and biodiversity outcomes. She hopes that by sharing her project information, it can be easily replicated by other farmers pursuing similar visions for their farm
Dr Graham Stirling, Biological Crop Protection, Queensland
Graham is a plant pathologist/nematologist/soil ecologist, providing research and disease diagnostic services to our rural industries. He has always been interested in beneficial soil organisms, and his books on biological control of plant-parasitic nematodes are widely used to help use sustainable methods to manage nematode pests. As well as being on hand to introduce a new CSIRO publication where he is the lead author, Graham provided valuable insights into soil-borne disease control in a concurrent session with Graham Lancaster and Dean Metcalf.
Mark Gallagher - Wadda Bananas, East Palmerston, QLD
Wadda Plantation, in a bend of the North Johnstone River south of Cairns, is among the largest banana plantations in Australia. Mark says: "At Wadda we see the banana is a product of our environment and that is where we focus our effort in a holistic approach."
From their earliest days, they have experimented with and quickly adopted new techniques for soil health and integrated pest management, and put resources into protecting and enhancing native vegetation, especially in the riparian zone.
Joan and David Cook - organic beef producers,
The Cook family has farmed the rolling hills of the Dandaragan region for over 100 years. Their entire 7,300 acres is dedicated to producing cattle for Dandaragan Organic Beef. David believes their holistic approach, without pesticides, artificial fertilisers, hormones or antibiotics and using grazing methods that mimic those of wild herding animals, perennial pastures and low stress stock handling methods has returned his land to optimum fertility and his cattle herd to peak health.
Dr Geoff Garrett - Queensland Chief Scientist
Geoff Garrett was appointed Chief Scientist to the State Government of Queensland in January 2011. He is accountable for science policy, providing strategic guidance across a range of government departments, and has also been involved with or led a number of reviews and enquiries. He is currently leading the Water Quality Science Taskforce for water quality improvement in the Great Barrier Reef. Geoff addressed the delegates on Day One: Click here to hear his speech