During the day it was suggested that lack of legumes may be contributing to a perceived lack of productivity or that perhaps there may be some mineral or trace mineral deficiencies that also were responsible for the same & it led me to further ponder where I sit in relation to this as a concept.
As a young person I would have subscribed fully to the notion that soil tests or leaf analysis could identify mineral deficiencies that were perceived to be limiting productivity and that with the simple addition of the lacking nutrients we could rectify this and so enjoy greater economic or productivity returns.
However over the last twenty years my attitude towards this notion has been changing and so this Pondering is merely designed to promote thought, and hopefully, discussion. I also enjoy playing devil’s advocate as I stated on that day but when one wishes to be prepared to question all things then I believe we are able to arrive at a truth that serves us much more surely than the conventional line we have been fed by others with their own vested interests. Having said that we also must be interested in re-visiting these same truth’s we hold from time to time to see whether they are merely a dogma we are entrenched in or whether they still serve our growth and learning. But, I digress…
Back to the first paragraph and the topic I wish to throw wide open to contemplation! Our lack of legumes is definitely due in part to identified mineral deficiencies – one of which is Boron. However I was pleased to hear that native pastures, which is what our pastures are, are not as dependent upon legumes fixing Nitrogen as perhaps are introduced pastures. May I also point out that introduced pastures dominated in season by legume activity are often goitragenic and thus create their own dramas at those times of year!
Ignoring the thought that native pastures do not require legumes to the same extent as introduced pastures though, would adding ‘missing’ minerals improve our soil health and productivity?
In the conventional way of looking at things – absolutely! But here is the rub … what becomes the next limiting factor – is it merely the next least available (quantitively) mineral, or least amenable aspect of soil biology? And if so – when I have addressed all of these limiting aspects what then becomes my limit?
Ultimately it must become the ability of the climate – of the integrated whole of which I believe we are merely a part of – and not THE dominant part of, to support the expected levels of productivity we in our insolent lack of wisdom have come to expect. As a civilisation we have pursued chemical farming in a belief that it was our right to exploit our environment for short-term financial gain – only to discover that in doing so we have destroyed the very fabric of a very complex environment that was admirably designed to continually accrue energy that is now exhausted to the extent that the “more-on” (moron) mentality that created it is very slowly awakening to the realisation that we may need to work with biological processes to rejuvenate our soils.
Whilst I would much rather witness this approach than the chemical alternative I wonder whether we are still missing the point – which must necessarily be that we work in harmony with Mother Nature and our environment to produce what we can WITHIN THE LIMITATIONS OF OUR ENVIRONMENT. What if our soils have limiting factors in place that mean the production from them occurs in harmony with the vagaries of climate and it’s influences upon the area concerned. Our native pastures had responded magnificently after approximately 75mm of rain just 10 days before the field day. As an aside I had witnessed no such response in any improved pastures at that time.
If luxury levels of all minerals and trace elements had been available would we have had a greater response? Perhaps – or perhaps because our pastures had been ‘trying’ to produce more than our environment seemed prepared to support with rainfall they may have in actual fact been weaker going into the dry spell that preceded the rain and may have been slower to recover. And if we had had a greater response would the pastures have withstood the following dry spell as well as they have as we have received minimal rain in the interim? My feeling is that they probably would not have.
But what if we had received all this extra growth? We would then in a conventional sense need extra livestock to manage it – both to cover the costs in applying the required inputs, and to try to maintain our pastures in a maximally productive potential state. So what happens then when it gets hot and does not rain? We would now have created soft northern tablelands productive potential in an environment with harsh northwest slopes temperatures and rainfall vagaries! A sure way to maximise our stress, productive stress on our animals and land, and ultimately leading to a lowering of productive potential of high quality produce from the very environment we should be nurturing to optimise health of soil, of plants, and of animals including ourselves.
My feeling is that respect for ourselves demands respect for our environment that supports and envelopes us. I do not believe we can merely bring in at great expense from vast distances away, with all the attendant environmental costs, remedial elements that encourage extravagant levels of production – but only if we are lucky and it rains just so for us J - and if not we have merely added to our debt burden that drives our need to lift production – at what cost? – yet again to service this increased debt load which may require yet more inputs and yet more timely rain and so on ad infinitum.
My thoughts are that we need to learn to live within the productive capability of our land and our climate. Yes – manipulate productivity through grazing management or crop rotation with a view to no bare or devoid of life soil, ever – but manage the land within the bounds of productive capability – not productive potential achieved by JUST correcting all limiting deficiencies and having it rain just when and as ordered. That is an arrogance we are paying dearly for now – in many ways – not the least of which is the stupid price we pay for land and the unreasonable levels of production required to service the debt loads that go with that.
Many people are trapped – trying to support debt burdens beyond the productive capability of their places to support. This has come about because we have for decades valued places upon productive potential - not productive reality. The reality of production has nothing to do with being able to crop all of your country each year, nor of expecting pasture growth year round and then expecting prices to be equal to your costs of production – let alone the amazing dream that is seldom realised that prices received should actually be profitable!
I discovered something some thirty years ago that has been a guiding philosophy for me ever since, and has assisted me in increasing productive potential on all land that I have had stewardship of in whatever guise since then. This simple truth was that there is no such thing as drought – at least not in the parts of Australia that I have lived!!
I say this tongue in cheek – because what I learned was that in nearly every year the majority of the year is drought – even in years that achieved or exceeded average rainfall! This is because the timing of rainfall is seldom equitable, and seldom supportive of growth evenly throughout the year. I believe the key to successfully nurturing the productive potential is to work within the limitations of productive capability determined by the climate – and that is what land values should be based upon – not productive potential that is only achieved if by some strange happenstance all the stars and planets align and give us a great year with ideal rainfall distribution and temperatures.
I am open to any interaction and or reaction that these ponderings may induce – for I value the opinions of all who care to voice their carefully considered opinions – it can only broaden my perception and add to my growth. If no responses are elicited I hope sincerely that this Pondering may promote further thought or provide insight to you. Take care and enjoy the process.