A key change in 2022 in the orchard this year was the introduction of a diverse cover crop onto the orchard floor and the paddocks above the orchard.
Biodiversity on the floor to encourage “the livestock within the topsoil and below to increase levels of activity was a major objective in the first part of our first year of ownership. Knowledge share from other Pecan farmers assisted Kootingal in initiating this change within this mature orchard. Having been inspired by Nicole Masters book “For the love of Soil” a disc drill was brought onto the Orchard floor in late June to sow a cover crop.
Our objectives where to increase micro-biological activity within the soil to at least 1 metre, improve water retention, lowering evaporation rates on the orchard floor with a dense cover and improving diversity of observed insect life within the orchard. Whilst we do not know the number of butterflies or ladybirds that where present historically, they are in abundance as well as bees and beetles and ants. We are also now seeing worms when we dig…. finally. By late October Black Cockatoos where abundant in the orchard feeding on insects and grubs.
There will be no mowing of the orchard floor until sometime next year, once the wheat, peas, oats, chicory, clovers and more have gone to seed and we check in for what has worked well and improved the condition of the soil and tree health through the testing and monitoring program. A benefit of not mowing means the plants grow as intended with larger leaf mass and a larger more intricate root structure, providing more food material for micro organisms which provides more organic material in the soil.
As you can see, by September the transition as we wait for bud break has been a success as the mustard and the peas have flowered.
As spring develops, Kootingal will be watching how the orchard floor develops over the coming months.It has been a treat to wander around the orchard munching on fresh peas…
The introduction of a cover crop is anticipated to also increase soil fertility by adding organic matter and water infiltration. Commentators note that the greater the biodiversity of plant material then the greater the diversity of insect and wildlife as well and microbiological material in the soil. The result in time is a healthier tree and less stress, and we expect a healthier better tasting crop of pecans.