Feature Interviews Latest Northern Australia & Land Care

Stephen Frost – Stonemeal Farm

Stephen Frost - Stonemeal Farm

Key Points

  • Soil is a dwelling entity and have to be treated as such
  • Potential antagonistic effects on soil biology of fertilizers and chemical compounds are unintentional. These have to be taken under consideration when figuring out the sort and velocity of soil chemical inputs
  • Remineralization utilizing natural mineral minerals with soluble mineral fertilizers improves the soil's organic health and resilience, enhancing stock productiveness and well being.
  • There isn’t a one-cease shop that may provide all of the scientific info farmers need on soil chemistry, biology, geology and associated fields.


Just lately, FDI interviewed Stephen Frost, a producer of wool and prime lamb made in Narrikupe, a big western a part of western Australia, with a organic strategy to his spouse Kerry and his cultivation at Stonemeal. Frosts believes that figuring out and understanding the importance of dwelling soils is the important thing to sustainable agricultural production. They consider that participation in conservation practices and growing biodiversity in the whole farm management system will enhance productivity and produce more worthwhile agriculture.


Overseas Direct Funding – What’s the strategy to agriculture and what do you assume farmers should do?

Stephen Frost – From the agricultural perspective, an important asset is soil. As well as, we must emphasize the dwelling part of the soil. We now have beforehand believed that soil is just a software for lifting the plant, and we will, via science, provide all the vitamin we’d like, and we will deal with dangerous pathogens (bacterial illnesses) and different things externally

The traditional strategy does not cope with the soil as a dwelling entity, Whereas on the Stonemeal farm, we see our land as our property, and it is a dwelling a part of our country that generates farm revenue. Farmers profit from free photosynthesis (a chemical reaction that occurs inside crops that produce meals for survival), in addition to soil fungi and bacteria. By taking good care of these soil elements and treating them as a precedence, we get the good thing about production – it's in cultivation.

If we intend to deal with the soil solely as a medium, we must add all the required to grow healthy crops – vitamins, minerals and biology. Crops growing in healthy soil are a traditional pure system; it means cultivation might be rather more profitable because we use and work with this natural system.

For us, remineralization has been a key part of building and sustaining healthy soil. If somebody requested me what my major farm property was, I might say that it isn’t gear or chopping crops, however soil. So I feel the soil is the first precedence. I feel our farm exhibits how we prioritize the soil for every thing else, although not so much, especially concerning the organic points of the soil. Within the educational sense, soil chemical knowledge are recognized somewhat bit, because agriculture is at this time, I consider that the primary perform of soil biological exercise

I’ve stated that the soil is a dwelling entity and that it have to be treated as such. While that is fairly difficult, we truly promote or help the natural system. Here, our agricultural rules are what we do and we have no idea that we are working to enhance the functioning of present pure techniques. Once we contemplate the inputs of soil, corresponding to fertilizers and lime and different chemical compounds, we try to find out what the web impact is and what is the potential hostile impact on the dwelling aspect of the soil? We make selections based mostly on these issues. For example, if we’re to make use of a pesticide, we’ll contemplate the recognized hostile results of soil biology, similar to injury to fungi or soil micro organism, which is absolutely essential for the functioning of the soil. Our philosophy is to attempt to make as little injury as attainable to soil inputs and to think about the principle that soil is alive – this is the power that drives our farm's revenue.

FDI – Would you wish to define what you imply by "living function". Is it simply microbiology, or is it extra?

Stephen Frost – definitely its crops. There’s cultivated rhizosphere, necessary in dwelling crops, root methods and its interplay with minerals, soil fungi, micro organism, algae and other microorganisms. It also applies to insects in soil; Earthworms are an apparent dwelling organism. I call green nations "elephant in the room" as a result of they’re very visible. Nevertheless, there are lots of spirits of many more organisms that can’t be seen. Sadly, individuals assume that if you don’t see them (microscopic organisms), they don’t seem to be necessary or don’t exist. But they exist, and their perform is an integral a part of good soil well being. The interaction between the rhizosphere, the crops, its roots, microorganisms, bugs, greens and every thing else is what we domesticate. It additionally promotes the efficient use of nutrients in agricultural manufacturing. On the finish of the day, it’s an power source, an influence plant that grows good pasture land and good crops which are immune to the illness and enhance water use. A very lively rhizosphere with a whole lot of totally different bacteria and plenty of biodiversity means a posh system that thinks about it and actually takes care of it. We take a look at our soil's contribution to productiveness if we help dwelling soil. So, we domesticate the rhizosphere, and all the things comes here.

FDI – What elements in soil exercise lead to a choice to improve efficiency? How does a farmer know what to do?

Stephen Frost – To start with, farmers need to acknowledge that there is a rhizosphere and that it will be important. Natural methods have advanced for tens of millions of years. They have been successful and you may see it in pure vegetation everywhere in the world. Risosphere is a natural system that we have to improve and nurture by taking a look at our inputs and trying to find out which ones produce a constructive or unfavorable impact. Farmers need advice on this and not simply on chemistry. it can be biology or some other issue. We’ve advised geologists who perceive the bedrock, mineral elements and their values ​​within the soil. I find it troublesome as a result of no one can integrate all these features. For example, you’ll be able to speak to the soil chemist about sure elements and give you info on soil chemistry, however they’re typically not related to the soil biology. Nor does the chemist provide the info it’s essential perceive and make selections about mineral content material and interplay within the soil.

On our farm I tried to speak with all the individuals and others who tried to know the farm's soil. To assist farmers, I consider that, while specialists and scientists characterize totally different disciplines, the perfect factor that would occur is that each one disciplines in biology, chemistry, minerals, and so on. come collectively in an open and open dialogue. This might give an enormous change, and I feel that farmers be given good advice

Actually, I consider that the farmers are prejudices which are doing issues in a different way and successfully, especially when it does not go well with the current educational considering. Practical software on the farm must be as nice as educational science.

Secondly, we should avoid the tendency in earth science to scale back the whole lot to a very small level. Soil health is far more complicated. For us, the answer was fairly simple. It had to perceive that the soil was alive and what we would have liked to deal with or in any other case enhance the well being of the soil. For example, as a sheep farmer, I’ve sure practices that result in good vitamin, good productivity, and lambing percentages that emphasize our success: the best way you’ll want to apply this type of considering to the soil. Soil isn’t an instrument – it’s a dwelling entity, and if we will grow crops and the way they work, we should apply the same considering to the soil. As soon as you assume so, you’re open to more questions and a survey of soil well being and productiveness.

I consider that present cultivation is lively and is consistently responding to a problem that provides little room for preventive research.

Overseas Direct Investment – Is the only source of scientific info that farmers can strategy to get the knowledge they want about their property?

Stephen Frost – I'm unsure if anyone who can however not the bodily well being features of soil health needs to consider the related restrictions. Rain is one such statement, and others are. Although the important thing biological points of soil have been thought, the primary focus is on the chemical viewpoint, and soil health is usually decreased to some elements. For example, proper now in our circle, the measurement of soil acidity or pH, which dominate soil well being. It has been found that pH is a key think about productive soil, and this leads to big amounts of money being used by farmers to right soil pH; I feel tons of of hundreds of tons of western Australian soil have been set annually to right pH ranges. This, in fact, only occurred in my district.

Concentrating on one thing, resembling pH, is the one driver of vitamin and soil well being, I feel, is the place farmers start to run into issues. Personally, I tend to maneuver in the direction of biological info as a result of I feel it’s crucial driver of productiveness and has the power to buffer and assist control different soil constraints. For example, our farm has pH ranges which are very small, but we’ve very high production levels whereas sustaining a secure pH (our manufacturing not provides acidity)

We have now succeeded on the Stonemeal farm, I consider we aren’t taking a look at particular person soil well being points. We’re in search of broader 'drivers' (for soil well being) and the way they work collectively.


Concerning the interviewee:

Stephen Frost was the first forest supervisor within the then WA forest department and worked extensively within the great south of western Australia

In 1979, Stephen and his spouse Kerry cultivated about 35 miles north of Albany WA. Their farm enterprise consists of 100% wool and lamb.

Stephen has lengthy been concerned in land administration at each the river basin and the regional degree. His efforts and his information of cultivation and sheep manufacturing in his space have been acknowledged by the 2017 Western Australian Landcare Awards, which rewarded Australia's excellence in sustainable agriculture.