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Ecological News

Newsletter of the
Ecological Agriculture Australia Association

No. 19 | March, 2014
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  • President's Editorial
  • News from the pillars
  • Community rights & CSG
  • SAFE
  • Mythbusting soil organisms
  • Mulloon Institute
  • Social ecology: where from & where to?
  • The man has something to say | Glenn Morris
  • Melliodora
  • Congratulations Pip Job
  • Farmer Endorsement Scheme
  • Membership
  • Join us!
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From all of us at EAAA


Australian Carbon Cooperative
Rahamim Ecological Learning Community
Erin Earth


Thich Nhat Hanh,The Practice of Looking Deeply

“Traditional agriculture was labour intensive, industrial agriculture is energy intensive, and permaculture-designed systems are information and design intensive.” 
― David Holmgren

~ David Holmgren ~





There are two big issues to capture our attention at the moment: the hot dry conditions takes primary position but vying for headlines is the current court case where the ‘David’ of Australia (Steve Marsh of WA) is taking on the ‘Goliath’ of America (Monsanto).

First to the climate. It is hard not to associate the current dry spell with climate change. Is this the new norm? Is this the new trend line? Can it get worse? If so by what extent? These questions cannot be answered with any degree of confidence so in effect we have to make a judgement.

The expected worst case scenario about 4 years ago was one of an increase in temperature of around 2 degrees Celsius. This was based on a CO2 level of around 400 ppm. We have since passed that level and heading north of 400. Pundits now are talking of an increase of 4 degrees, with some going as high as expecting an increase of 6 degrees.

The expectation of a 6 degrees increase is not widely canvassed but nor was 4 degrees as little as 4 years ago. What would a 6 degree increase do to the planet? Well according to respected spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh - writing in a recent book (Spiritual Ecology: The cry of the Earth) he stated: If six degrees of global warming takes place, 95% of species will die out, including Homo Sapiens. Mass extinction has already happened five times and this is the sixth……so you have to breathe very deeply in order to acknowledge the fact that we humans may disappear from this Earth in just one hundred years!

What judgement do we make then? First we have to agree that climate is indeed a serious issue and as it stands there are many in the Australia and the world community who don’t see it in this light. Secondly, we have to agree that the word ecology comes first, second and third in any decision making, and that other matters such as placing the $ as our primary consideration needs to play a supporting role (only). Third we need to start doing something. The something in this cases goes much much further than the extremely soft options that represents the stance of the Federal Government. Even the recent G20 meeting’s decision to aim for a 3% increase in growth over normal expectations flies in the face of a need to consider CO2 emissions and the temperature of the planet. In fact, on the surface it seems none of G20 economists take climate change seriously otherwise it would have appeared in their final communique.

It would appear that a 2 degrees increase is a definite, a 4 degrees increase is a possibility, and a 6 degrees increase in not a figment of our imagination. It is possible, and certainly if nothing happens soon to reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, then it is likely.

The issue here is essentially this. The focus of our energies is not the economics of our economy, it is in fact the ecology of our ecosystem. We need to put it first in all that we do which means a drastic change to our source of energy. Natural energy needs to take centre stage NOW and carbon sources needs to stay (wherever possible) in their natural state (i.e. not processed).

What we find however is a different matter? Coal is being mined at a frenetic pace with new coal mines opening up almost on a daily basis; Electric cars are appearing but they hardly make a dent in the level of consumption of petroleum; newspapers and news reports contain few messages regarding the severity of the climate issue; and, governments seems preoccupied with the short term news cycle and how to create saleable messages to ensure their re-election. Essentially leadership is absent.  

Speaking of leadership Steve Marsh versus Monsanto continues in WA and the outcomes are summarised by Julie Newman at the following link: Go to the True Food Network or google Steve Marsh.

One of the interesting asides from the hearing is the fact that “GM canola has been released for over a decade in Canada and no organic canola is currently grown in Canada.” In other words there cannot be two systems existing where GM is concerned. If it is the right of Australian farmers to grow food in accordance with their values (i.e. grow organics or grow food ecologically or grow GM, in the belief that it produces the best gross margins)  then obviously this right cannot exist. It has to be either traditional plant breeding to produce new canola varieties or we accept GM. It’s one or the other (based on the Canadian experience). The overarching question, therefore, is whether a crop like GM canola can be of sufficient merit to warrant denying organic farmers the right to grow crops in accordance with their values. How we define merit is the issue!

President | Editor

Farming pillar wordle

News from the pillars

Ethics pillar wordle

Ethics Pillar


This could be a story about Farming and in a way it is but in essence it resides in the moral/ethical domain. It concerns the rights of the individual and the community and whether coal seam gas should be given the green light or not.

This issues arose after the former Howard Government minister Peter Reith challenge to farmers to take a risk and to permit drilling on their country. Reith suggests that there is no evidence to link CSG fracturing with contamination of aquifers.

This view was challenged this week by visiting Wyoming farmer John Fenton whose concerns were expressed in the Sydney Morning Herald.

It is compulsory reading: Gas industry solution to underground pollution is to bury the proof 
Farming pillar wordle

Farming Pillar

Kerry Cochrane, President, EAAA, Helen Disler of Farming Secrets & Gerhard Grasser, Agrisolutions

Kerry Cochrane, President, EAAA, Helen Disler of Farming Secrets & Gerhard Grasser, Agrisolutions

EAAA present at the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo in February 2014

The Seymour Alternative Farming Expo is a three day extravaganza of all things happening on the farm and in the community. While many exhibits didn’t fit neatly into the sustainability label many did. Four of the people we came across were certainly good ambassadors for sustainability and alternative agriculture. Helen Disler is the person behind the camera of the high profile Farming Secrets business. Helen combs the countryside providing coverage of good stories about sustainability and alternative farming techniques which she then markets to the broader community. For details go to Farming Secrets.

Lyn Stephenson is President of the Industrial Hemp Association of Victoria and her story about growing hemp for industrial use was a popular presentation (details at Hemp Victoria).

Dr Mary Cole is well known to many in the agriculture fraternity through her work with soil biology. As a consultant mycologist Dr Cole's skills are greatly appreciated today as we begin to learn more about the importance of fungi in the soil (Agpath). The final representative was Gerhard Grasser and his agrisolutions farming concept. Details at: AgriSolutions.

Helen Disler, Farming Secrets & Dr Mary Cole,  Author & Research Scientist, Agpath

Helen Disler, Farming Secrets & Dr Mary Cole,  Author & Research Scientist, Agpath

Lyn Stephenson, President, Industrial Hemp Association of Victoria

Lyn Stephenson - President, Industrial Hemp Association Victoria
Education pillar wordle

Ecology Pillar

Soil Ecology


The following report was produced by the BHU Future Farming Centre 

Make Soil Organisms Work for You: Mythbusting practices that do and don’t work

By Molly Shaw and Charles Merfield

Soils are quite literally the foundation of the farm so ensuring they are well managed is a fundamental task for farmers and growers. For decades now we have been good at measuring and managing the chemical properties of the soil-pH, NPK levels etc.,-all the things that show up on a standard nutrient test, but soil biology has been largely ignored.

However, more recently, there has been increased interest in managing soil organisms and soil “health” in general. With all that interest also come some questionable theories and sales claims about products and methodologies that boost soil microbial activity, soil ‘health’ and/or plant productivity. To sort through the hard science and separate it from the myths and marketing hype, Natural England, part of the UK Government, commissioned a broad review of over 200 scientific studies related to the functioning of soil organisms in agricultural systems. Along with the literature review, they consulted with producers to work out which techniques were the most practical to implement in real-world farming [3].

The report can be downloaded from

Boiled down to the nitty gritty, here’s what they found:

Soil organisms give us these benefits:
  • Nutrient cycling and holding capacity (creating a fertile soil);
  • Good soil structure, with benefits such as reduce need for tillage, improved water infiltration and retention (well-aggregated, spongy, drought-resistant soil);
  • Promotion of crop growth/ health (e.g. rhizobacteria fixing N with legumes, mycorrhizal fungi).

You improve the work of soil organisms by:
  • Feeding the soil a diverse diet. This entails increasing the variety and overall amount of organic matter adding to the soil (e.g., having a range of crop residue types and using green manures);
          and / or
  • Reducing tillage, both the total amount and also intensity (e.g., surface working vs. ploughing);
          and / or
  • Diversifying cropping systems (having a wider range of crops and/or pasture).

In essence, bacteria, fungi, amoebas and all the other organisms in soil need food (organic matter) to live and reproduce, and they do best with a varied and abundant diet. Soil microbes also need a stable environment to set up house, and tillage disrupts this. Tillage also aerates the soil, and the influx of oxygen speeds the decomposition of organic matter, reducing the food source for the microbes in the long term.

Farms that grow a wide range of crops and/or pasture types have the most success meeting the needs of the soil organisms. The biggest benefits are found when all three of these approaches are used together. “The sum is greater than the parts” in this case -- a system level effect. However, implementing at least one is much better than nothing.

Just as instructive as these tried and true principles of soil health were two types of claims that the review found to lack supporting evidence:
  1. Point interventions to boost soil microbes (“magic pills”);
  2. Withdrawal of insecticides and fungicides from the farming system.

For details of these two points refer to the full report via the link above.


Soils for LIfe

Soils for Life organisation continues its good work into improving Australia’s soils.

This week some of the world's best agricultural minds will come together at the Mulloon Institute near Canberra to discuss the challenges of sustainable farming. 

For more information on this event, the Mulloon Institute and the Nuffield International Contemporary Scholars Conference visit the SoilsForLife update here.



Social Ecology


Where is agriculture coming from and where is it going? 

That is a question that intrigued Cooma wool producer Charlie Massy and led him to complete his PhD’s on the topic which was submitted for assessment last year. In what is an exciting piece of research, which will be released as a book in the not too distant future,

Charlie explores the topic and arrives at a conclusion that suggests that the next phase will be what he called a post-organic phase.  Aspects of his thesis were recently paraphrased on the Crikey website by Marie McInerny  with a focus on Boorowa farmer David Marsh and Col Seis from Wellington.

Read on:

An “underground insurgency”
that is transforming agriculture and health


"The 'after photo tells as much about the capacity of land to regenerate" (Src: Marie McInerney)

EAAA Farmer Endorsement Scheme

The EAAA Farmer Endorsement Scheme serves to help farmers “climb the ladder“ from conventional industrial agriculture to an ecologically driven farming system.

The EAAA producer endorsement is creating a "community of ecological farmers" who, through peer review, self development and mutual assistance, create a brand that will give consumers confidence that the produce they buy was grown under an ecological paradigm.

3 levels | EAAA Farmer Endorsement Scheme

To find out more, visit our website: EAAA Farmer Endorsement Scheme

or drop us an email
Education pillar wordle

Education Pillar

Introducing two people who have a keen interest in ecological farming practices: graduate of the Masters of Sustainable Agriculture course Glen Morris and current Bachelor of Ecological Agricultural student Kate Marsh.

Glen Morris

The following comes courtesy of the SoilCare Website:

He surveys the sky, looks down at the dense, waving pasture and as he slowly raises his eyes to meet your gaze, a slow and deliberate grin sends a strong signal to take note because this man has something important to say.
Meet Glenn Morris, General Manager of FigTrees Organic Farms, producers and marketers of award winning organic beef from the award winning properties ‘Wilton Park’ at Grafton & ‘Billabong’ at Inverell in New South Wales, Australia.
Glenn has spent more than two decades observing, studying and thoughtfully managing the diverse ecosystems in his care. His keen eye led him to question traditional management practices, search for sustainable solutions and put them into practice.
Not only has he earned a Masters in Sustainable Farming but more importantly he is on the ground ‘walking the talk’ with a blend of biological and organic farming principles combined with Holistic Management practices.

For Glen Morris’ views on ecological systems in farming read on: Glenn Morris, the man has something to say, including a 7 minutes talk on the topic.

 FigTrees Organic Farms | Healthy ecosystem

Healthy ecosystem (Img Src: FigTrees Organic Farms)

Kate’s story

Meilliodora permaculture garden is one of the best documented and well known permaculture demonstration sites in Australia. The passive solar house, mixed food gardens, orchareds, dams and livestock, and creek revegetation show how permaculture design can help to restore and improve land, provide for residents' needs and enjoyment in a cool inland climate.

The property was purchased in 1985 .... continue reading Kate's story.

David Holmgren | Melliodora (Img Src:
Our thanks to Glen & Kate


Pip Job | 2014 Rural Women's Awards Finalist

EAAA congratulates Pip Job on her outstanding success. Named as a finalist in the 2014 RIRDC NSW-ACT Rural Women's Award announced on 3 March, 2014, Pip's leadership in natural resource management, embracing an ecological philosophy and her natural ability to overcome adversity, enable and enhance community collaboration and enjoy a laugh as she leads, is inspirational.

The RIRDC Rural Women's Award will be announced later in the year.

For further information visit RIRDC and stories about the finalists.

Pip Job | 2014 Rural Women's Award Finalist


Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture (BEAS)

The EAAA is happy to provide advice on the strengths and weaknesses of the Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture (BEAS) course at CSU should you or someone you know be interested. Contact us here. For details of the course refer to the link below: 

Ecological Agriculture: Course Structure

Stories for the April edition

We would love to hear your story. 

Please send stories or tips to the editor Kerry Cochrane by email.

Additional stories are available from our website EAAA ( and from our Facebook page and Twitter stream


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