Farmers learn DIY fertiliser recipes
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.