Five with a farmer group – Southern Farming Systems

Posted Feb 05,2020

The Soil CRC’s Communications Manager caught up for a five-minute chat with Bret Ryan, Business Services Manager at Southern Farming Systems.

Tell us about Southern Farming Systems

Southern Farming Systems was founded in 1995 by a group of farmers who came together to find ways of making cropping in the high rainfall zone (HRZ) of Victoria more profitable by introducing raised beds to minimise waterlogging.

We are now a farmer driven, non-profit organisation helping higher rainfall farmers with practical research and information that produces sustainable results. The organisation has around 600 members, partners and associates and provides a network for its members to share ideas and experiences. Strong partnerships have been established with research and extension agencies, and with agribusiness. 

Southern Farming Systems (SFS) is one of the largest farming system groups in Victoria, and is recognised as a premier source of grower driven independent research.

What area and type of farming do you cover?

SFS has five branches across two states covering south-west Victoria, Gippsland and Tasmania. We cover both cropping and grazing broadacre farming.

SFS has multiple cropping projects and an extensive trials research program across the HRZ which are accompanied by seasonal crop walks, technical workshops and field days throughout the season. The major field day, AgriFocus, is considered a ‘must attend’ technical event for the HRZ cropping region.

Our soils, pasture and livestock projects see us researching and extending information on soil acidity and nutrient management, pasture and cover crops, and livestock management with a range of new projects focused on the development of tools to enhance agriculture services for SFS members.

What type of soil do you have?

Primarily Sodosol and Dermasol soil classes. Southern Farming Systems (SFS) vast area covers many soil types, which is why we are also partnering in the Soil CRC Visualising Australasia’s Soils project being led by Federation University. 

We are lucky to have a good level of organic content and water holding capacity in our soils.

Historically waterlogging, sodicity and erosion have been primary challenges. However, soil acidification is currently being addressed as a priority.

Why did Southern Farming Systems become a participant in the Soil CRC?

Our vision is to see diverse integrated farming systems in the high rainfall zone driven by innovative practices and people. Southern Farming Systems is committed to designing and creating profitable future farming systems for the high rainfall zone which aligns with the strategy of the Soil CRC and its other participants.

What is exciting about working with the Soil CRC?

The links and partnerships that have come about from our involvement with the Soil CRC give us the opportunity to increase our investment in research, development and extension that is directed towards new technologies, data and insights that ultimately help farm profitability. 

Soil CRC projects are SFS directly involved in?

Smelling Soil (2.1.004) – led by Dr Shane Powell, University of Tasmania

A soil health pasture morning is being held on 28 February with Dr Shane Powell from the University of Tasmania to present about the project. Dr Powell will present on soil biology and the ‘eNnose’ project and will have a discussion with growers about the prototype and what information farmers would like to obtain from the ’eNose machine’.

Visualising Australasia’s soilsled by Associate Professor Peter Dahlhaus, Federation University.