Farm­ers learn DIY fer­tiliser recipes

Central and North Burnett Times - - RURAL UPDATE - ❏ Sue Har­ris

THE Cen­tral Bur­nett Land­care group, based at Mun­dub­bera, held a suc­cess­ful field day re­cently.

It was at­tended by farm­ers from around the re­gion who were in­ter­ested in learn­ing how to make three dif­fer­ent plant fer­tilis­ers.

Chair­man David Rolfe and sec­re­tary Mar­ion Den­holm pre­vi­ously at­tended a field day on the Sun­shine Coast to learn about brew­ing up the fer­tilis­ers.

An or­gan­i­sa­tion of sci­en­tists and ex­ten­sion of­fi­cers called Mas Hu­mus (More Hu­mus) have been de­vel­op­ing and teach­ing th­ese tech­niques to farm­ers in South Amer­i­can coun­tries.

Many farm­ers there are un­able to af­ford the cost of chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers and ar­ti­fi­cial in­sec­ti­cides. There is also a grow­ing body of ev­i­dence to show the con­stant use of chem­i­cals can have detri­men­tal long-term ef­fects.

At­ten­dees at the demon­stra­tion day be­gan by help­ing to make Bio-Fert.

Ms Den­holm placed 40L of fresh cow ma­nure into a 205L plas­tic drum and mo­lasses, raw milk, baker’s yeast and wood ash were added to com­plete the ba­sic brew.

Mr Rolfe said a va­ri­ety of ad­di­tives such as boron, iron sul­phate or basalt dust could be added to cus­tomise the brew, de­pend­ing on the de­fi­cien­cies of the soil or crop.

Water was added to the in­gre­di­ents to al­most fill the drum.

The lid of the drum was then sealed on tight.

Ms Den­holm said it was an anaer­o­bic brew, which means the mi­crobes and fungi mul- tiply and fer­ment the con­tents of the drum with­out oxy­gen.

“A space is left at the top of the drum for gas pro­duced by the fer­men­ta­tion and a tube fixed through the lid al­lows gas to es­cape into a wa­ter­filled con­tainer,” she said.

“The gas can come out, but air can­not get in.”

The drum is left in a shaded place, out of di­rect sun­light and al­lowed to stand undis­turbed for be­tween one and six months.

The re­sult­ing fer­mented liq­uid is used as a fo­liar spray on crops or pas­tures.

The mi­crobes in the brew help to keep bad bugs at bay and the nu­tri­ents are ab­sorbed by the plants to keep them healthy and grow­ing.

Af­ter lunch, cat­tle bones were burned with tim­ber in a hot fire - the first stage in mak­ing Phos­phi­tos.

“Burn­ing the bones re­leases the phos­pho­rus and cal­cium in them,” Mr Rolfe said.

Some of the par­tic­i­pants then crushed the burnt bone and sieved it to pro­duce a fine pow­der.

In the sec­ond stage, this pow­der is burned again with rice husks, which are high in sil­ica.

The re­sult­ing ash is a mix­ture of phos­pho­rus, cal­cium and sil­ica which can be dis­solved in water and sprayed onto crops and pas­tures.

The third mix­ture in­volves tak­ing builder’s lime and el­e­men­tal sul­phur and boil­ing them to­gether with water.

Dur­ing the boil­ing process, the two el­e­ments com­bine and the liq­uid turns from yel­low-green to a deep red.

This liq­uid is then di­luted and sprayed onto plant leaves and stems. Lime-sul­phur is an in­sect re­pel­lent and fungi­cide which also en­sures a sup­ply of sol­u­ble cal­cium and sul­phur to the plant.

“Farm­ers in Aus­tralia are find­ing it in­creas­ingly hard to make ends meet,” Mr Rolfe said. “Th­ese are all ideas that we can use to im­prove the health of our soils and plants and im­prove our profit mar­gin as well.”

The group plans to hold an­other work­shop in early 2013 to demon­strate how to make a pa­per chro­mato­graph.

COST-EF­FEC­TIVE AL­TER­NA­TIVES: Chair­man of the Cen­tral Bur­nett Land­care group David Rolfe adds rice husks to the fire con­tain­ing the pow­der of burned bones. Bernie Carl­ton stirs lime-sul­phur in the back­ground.

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