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Grant Pontifex – 2018 Nuffield Scholar

Grant Pontifex from Paskeville in South Australia received a 2018 Nuffield Scholarship supported by Nufarm Australia. He investigated improving soil health using animal manure and/ or cover cropping as a mechanism to substitute synthetic inputs in cropping systems.

Jointly owned and operated, Grant manages the family’s mixed grain enterprise in Paskeville, whilst his brother manages another property on Kangaroo Island.

His research focused on the opportunity to reduce the use of insecticides, pesticides and fungicides in farming systems with continued use of manure and cover cropping, while still maintaining soil organic carbon and water-holding capacity.

Grant aimed to decipher whether cover crops are beneficial every year or only as an opportunity crop in a wet summer. He also wanted to determine if they promote an increase in soil biology, nitrogen fixation, nutrient cycling and mineralisation.

“As chicken becomes more popular as an economical versatile meal, the poultry industry will continue to grow, hence there will be more manure available to utilise in broadacre cropping fields,” Grant said.

“A real opportunity exists to value add this waste product and to benefit our soils and the environment, we just need to know more and develop a best management practice for the use of chicken manure in broadacre grain production.”

Grant hopes to continue improving soil health through reducing the amount of synthetic chemicals growers handle and use in their soils. He travelled to the UK, France, USA and Canada.

Scholarship report: click to download
Verbal presentation: watch video
Media profile: click to view

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