Free nitrogen – land managers learn how to maximise legume health

Jo Powells discussing pasture legumes at the Moss Vale workshop

The process of biological fixation of nitrogen in soils through the use of pasture legumes has been in focus over the past month with over 120 land managers and agricultural advisors participating in the South East Local Land Services’ “Knowing Your Nodules” workshops.

The workshops provided information to land managers about the role of legumes in pasture systems, how legume nodules are formed, what influences nodule health, how to assess nodules in the field and how to improve nodulation and biological nitrogen fixation.

“These workshops have been focusing on legume nodulation because that’s where the process of nitrogen fixation happens,” said Local Land Services Senior Agriculture Advisor and workshop developer, Jo Powells.

“Well nodulated legumes can provide a biologically sustainable source of soil nitrogen that can be used to promote the growth of our pastures, consequently providing more feed of higher quality for our livestock.”

“As land managers we strongly influence how well our legumes nodulate and by maintaining sufficient soil phosphorus and sulphur levels and by managing soil acidity we can significantly improve nitrogen fixation rates.”

“Good soil organic matter and soil carbon are also important for supporting the survival of the important rhizobia over the summer period when our traditional annual legumes are absent from our pasture systems.”

The workshops provided a mix of theory and hands–on learning allowing participants to practice their newly learnt nodule health scoring skills on fresh legume samples collected from the paddock.

“The workshop was really useful, as someone wanting to make the most of my pasture” said Robertson grazier, Brad Fleming.

“I now know all about the value of legumes in my pastures and how to make the most of their nitrogen fixing capabilities.”

“Washing the legumes from the soil, finding the different nodules and scoring them was really fascinating” he said.

The “Knowing Your Nodules” workshops were supported by Local Land Services through funding provided by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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