Beechwood farmers help scientists develop climate change solutions

Cathy Eggert and Jeremy Bradley.
Cathy Eggert and Jeremy Bradley.

Award-winning Beechwood farmers are helping university students and scientists to develop a genuine climate change solution.

Today is World Soil Day, Thursday December 5, and Cathy Eggert and Jeremy Bradley from Beechwood Biological Solutions have been delivering cutting edge research in microbial technology that improves land management and drives delivery of new microbial tools for best practice.

From their small farm at Beechwood, the couple are applying their unique skills to the world via the not-for-profit organisation SoilCQuest. Doubling the world's soil carbon by 2031 is SoilCQuest's aim, and Jeremy and Cathy are working with beneficial soil fungus to make it possible.

Cathy and Jeremy have used naturally occurring local organisms in their quest to store carbon in the soil. In response to current research, they sourced the type of fungi that originally built their soil.

They have pioneered the use of Nigraspora spp fungi for the specific management of Giant Parramatta grass, designing, trialling and manufacturing and making available the first inoculum to Australian farmers from their farm laboratory at Beechwood.

SoilCQuest, an Australian research institute, is working on a new technology that could be a breakthrough climate change solution. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but the excess of it in the atmosphere holds a valuable resource to improve farmers' soils.

"The 'Climate Resilient Soils Network', a collaborative project between Australian National University and SoilCQuest, will be trialling a new microbial biotechnology that significantly increases plants' capability to draw down excess carbon and store it in agricultural soils," said Guy Webb of SoilCQuest.

Increasing soil organic carbon has well-documented benefits that include increased water efficiency, on-farm productivity, and contribution to sequestration and reduction of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Trials are being planned on NSW farms.

"This is the voluntary work for which Jeremy and I recently received the Carbon Cocky award and the Australian Government Landcare award for innovation in agriculture. We've been doing the groundwork, so to speak," said Cathy.

In September, the Beechwood couple were awarded Outstanding Performance in New Product and Management Process, recognising their world-first method of growing and introducing beneficial fungi to the soil. Their popular product, Soil Trooper, is a native fungus that decomposes dead plant material to build topsoil and cycle nutrients.

"We were honoured to share the results we've achieved on our farm with 400 people from all over the world", Cathy said about the Albury conference.

"By improving grazing management and reintroducing local soil biology, we've increased our soil carbon by 45% in a decade. Much more water and nutrients are available to our plants now and subsoil acidity is not a problem anymore. We've traced the roots of our pasture down to two metres and they're still going", she said.

Last month, the couple won a major Landcare award scooping the Agriculture Land Management Award.

Cathy Eggert said they were very excited, as there was pretty hot competition.

"It's nice to get recognised for the work that we are doing because it is world-first. We will be heading out all over new south wales looking for soil fungus," she said.

Jeremy Bradley said it was fantastically important work.

"Carbon is the sponge of the soil and regulates the ability of the soil to produce food into the future. It's very exciting," he said.