Soil Quality for Sustainable Pasture Production

Farmers, agricultural researchers and conservationists realize the importance of managing soil as a non-renewable, natural resource that needs to be conserved and maintained to ensure ecological and economical sustainability.

Soil Quality for Sustainable Pasture Production

Farmers, agricultural researchers and conservationists realize the importance of managing soil as a non-renewable, natural resource that needs to be conserved and maintained to ensure ecological and economical sustainability.

Soil quality is of utmost importance for the future focus on conservation agriculture, conservation of our natural resources and acceptability of agricultural products on international markets, and it is imperative that soil conservation be achieved while the system remains profitable. These factors have increased the interest of farmers in assessing the quality of their soils and in implementing sustainable soil management practices. The session is dedicated to introducing novel research and future research trends in the field of soil quality (soil health) for sustainable pasture production systems.

Download the final programme for this session here.

Workshop Programme

Keynote Address: Dr Anthony Mills

Peering beneath carbon offsets and soil surfaces

There is a lot of vocal opposition to carbon offsets in the news. One of the frequently cited complaints is that carbon offsets give society an excuse to continue emitting carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. In this presentation I discuss how carbon markets can potentially be a powerful force promoting conservation and enhancing agricultural productivity in a wide variety of landscapes across the Earth. However, there are many potentially pitfalls that need to be navigated before realizing such benefits. These pitfalls are also presented.

Prof Schalk Louw

The essence of mesofaunal diversity in soils

When attempting to decipher the ecological function of an ecosystem, it is necessary to qualify and quantify the species assemblages of the ecosystem first of all and to then use this as a springboard for further research. Obviously this will also apply to soil systems. Different in terms of soil organisms is that they function in a ‘closed system’ which restricts their mobility and which results in localized impacts. With this as background, the contribution of soil arthropods to the ecological integrity of soils will be discussed by concentrating on aspects such as niche occupation, trophic webs, interaction strength, succession and biological complexity.

Prof Wijnand Swart

The microbial ecology of pasture soils

An ecological perspective of soils with reference to the biotic and abiotic interactions that contribute to decomposition, nutrient cycling, and soil aggregation, with specific reference to pasture soils, is provided. The focus is on the utilization of the functional and structural diversity of soil microbes as a bio-indicator of soil health. In this regard, biochemical and molecular-based techniques for assessing the biodiversity of microbial communities in soil is discussed.

Ms Sheila Storey

Nematodes as bio-indicators of soil health with special reference to pastures

A brief introduction will be given of the use of nematodes as bio-indicators of soil health. Particular reference will be made to the various types of beneficial nematodes and how they make up the commmunity structure in the soil. Various indices (maturity, structure and channel) will be explained and how they can be used as a measurement of the condition of the soil.

Mr Pieter Swanepoel

Establishing baseline values for soil quality indicators in the southern Cape

Development of a soil quality assessment framework specific for Southern Cape soils necessitates establishing baseline values and critical limits for soil quality indicators. Results from assessing physical, chemical and biological indicators on a permanent no-till kikuyu-ryegrass pasture system will be compared to those of a conserved virgin soil in close proximity. Outcomes, hypotheses and future research needs of dairy-pasture farmers in the Southern Cape will be discussed.

Speaker Profiles

Keynote Address: Dr Anthony Mills

Dr Anthony Mills is an ecologist and soil scientist. His academic background includes a BSc Zoology (University of Cape Town), MSc Environmental Geochemistry (University of Cape Town), MPhil Environment and Development (University of Cambridge) and a PhD in Soil Science (Stellenbosch University). Anthony consults on adaptation and mitigation and undertakes ecological research with a soil science focus. His consulting focuses on innovative, evidence-based solutions for adapting to climate change, conserving and restoring ecosystems, mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration, and capacity building in developing countries. He also conducts primary research on soil-plant relationships and ecosystem functioning through the Department of Soil Science at Stellenbosch University and is the primary author on 24 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Anthony’s work within his company C4 EcoSolutions includes: i) design and implementation of adaptation projects for a range of clients (predominantly, the IFC, UNDP and UNEP) in more than twenty countries across Asia and Africa, and ii) the development of CDM/Verified Carbon Standard and REDD+ afforestation/reforestation projects in Africa. He has also established AfriCarbon (Pty) Ltd, a company which facilitates ecosystem-based adaptation investments, specifically the restoration of degraded landscapes in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, through the international carbon market.

Prof Schalk Louw

Schalk Louw was born and completed his schooling in Windhoek in the erstwhile South West Africa (Namibia). All his degrees from BSc through to DSc were obtained from the University of Pretoria, with his post-graduate studies focussing on the ecology and systematics of terrestrial Coleoptera (beetles) of the Afrotropical Region. His first appointment was in 1976 as Curator of Invertebrates at the State Museum in Windhoek, followed by him accepting the position of Head of the Department of Entomology at the National Museum in Bloemfontein in 1981. In 1991 he was appointed Senior Lecturer in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of the Free State (UFS). His written scientific contributions encompass 83 publications in accredited journals, 50 semi-popular articles, 35 scientific reports, 4 chapters in books and two books as editor, whilst his international and national scientific presentations consist of 125 congress papers and posters, 35 semi-popular and scientific local guest lectures and 15 international scientific guest lectures. He has also organized 2 international and 4 national congresses. In terms of post-graduate student training he has delivered 24 MSc and 5 PhD students and of these two MSc students were recipients of the Junior Captain Scott Medal of the South African Academy for Science and Art for the best dissertation in zoological and botanical sciences in South Africa. He has acted as external examiner for 16 Masters and PhD students from tertiary institutions both locally and abroad and he serves on the external moderator panels of numerous South African universities. He has also served as vice-president of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa (2003–2005) and deputy chairperson of the Management Committee of International Congresses of Entomology (2004–2008). He was co-founder of the Southern African New Crop Research Association, the Centre for Plant Health Management and the Cactus Pear Working Group, the latter two both a the UFS. Schalk Louw’s research addresses the ecological function and integrity of natural and agricultural landscapes and soils, with emphasis on above ground – below ground multirophic interactions of the meso- and macrofauna of cropping systems. His current position is that of Section Head and Professor of Entomology in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the UFS.

Prof Wijnand Swart

Wijnand J. Swart was born and schooled in Johannesburg where-after he studied at the University of Stellenbosch obtaining a B.Sc. degree in Forestry/Nature Conservation in 1980 and a M.Sc. Agric. (cum laude) degree in Plant Pathology in 1986. In 1988, he was appointed lecturer in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of the Free State where he obtained his Ph.D. degree in 1991. He has authored or co-authored more than 98 scientific publications in accredited scientific journals and presented more than 160 papers at national and international congresses. He has supervised or co-supervised 20 M.Sc., 10 Ph.D. candidates and hosted 4 post-doctoral students in his lab. He has acted as referee for scientific articles in numerous international scientific journals and also as external examiner for master’s and doctoral students from numerous South African and international universities. During 1996, he spent a 9-month sabbatical at the Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin, USA and in 2001 a 5-month sabbatical at the Kearney Agricultural Center, University of California. He is a member of various national and international scientific societies, among which is the American Phytopathological Society and the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology where he was vice-President from 2003-2006. Wijnand co-founded the Southern African New Crop Research Association (SANCRA) and served as its president from 1998-2001. In 2005, he also co-founded the Centre for Plant Health Management (CePHMa) at the UFS. The main aim of his research programme is to adopt a “systems approach” to the cultivation of crops in semi-arid regions by utilizing the taxonomic and functional diversity of microorganisms, above- and below ground, as bio-indicators of soil and plant health. He is currently Professor of Plant Pathology in the Department of Plant Sciences at the UFS and Director of the UFS Strategic Academic Cluster: Technologies for Sustainable Crop Industries in Semi-arid Regions.

Ms Sheila Storey

Sheila Storey is the owner of Nemlab, a nematode diagnostic laboratory. She obtained her BSc (Agric) in 1981 majoring in Entomology and Plant Pathology. She then obtained a MSc (Agric) in Nematology. After a sojourn as researcher in Potchefstroom and Elsenburg as well as lecturing at UWC she established Nemlab in 1987. The past twenty odd years have resulted in an in-depth knowledge of nematode diagnostics, problems relating to nematodes and an holistic approach to recommendations made to producers. Sheila registered with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions in 1987 and has been a member of the Nematological Society of Southern Africa since 1981. With 85% of the lab’s samples coming from the deciduous fruit industry, Sheila has gained a fair insight into the problems nematodes cause in the fruit industry. In the last few years her interest has turned to soil health with particular reference to the role beneficial nematodes play in soil health. Nemlab is a dynamic firm which is committed to excellence. This excellence is sought, in the service offered to clients, through updated knowledge and the latest laboratory extraction procedures.

Mr Pieter Swanepoel

Pieter Swanepoel has completed his MSc(Agric) in Pasture Science within two years (2009 – 2011) on Outeniqua Research Farm near George. Here he has shown to have the ability to identify and address holistic and multidisciplinary problems and needs in the agricultural industry. He conducts high quality and accurate research based on scientific methods. His research is supported by a number of publications he produced which include three scientific publications, 15 congress contributions, six semi-scientific articles and numerous popular articles in different newspapers, information booklets and reports. He also gave 17 formal presentations by invitation relating to his field of study. Apart from this, he has the ability to translate difficult and complex scientific principles to a popular form to extend the work performed to farmers and others in the agricultural industry. As a result he was dually invited by the Department of Agriculture Western Cape and the University of the Free State to enrol a PhD in the difficult and controversial field of soil quality and health.The relevant project is pioneer work in South Africa and the need by agriculturalists for research in this field of study is urgent and highly commendable. The project proposal was presented at the 46th Annual Congress of the Grassland Society of Southern Africa for where he received the award for this best research proposal for his PhD protocol. The project is currently conducted by him as part of his duties as a Scientist at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. Mr Swanepoel serves on the founding and organizing committee for Conservation Agriculture Western Cape (CAWC). His people-skills and leadership characteristics is highly commendable.

Please note that this is a workshop session which will encourage discussion amongst the audience following each platform presentation. No further platform or poster presentations will be accepted for this workshop, although if enough submissions are made, a separate session will be included on an alternate day during the Congress, and mention of this session made in the programme of abstracts and introduction to the workshop.

 

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