Sustainable Farmers of Australia is an initiative of Buckwheat Enterprises, Parkes NSW.
After 23 years experience in providing high quality bakers flour from organic and non organic farmers located across eastern Australia we have experienced many different farming practices.
Over time farming practices can have a negative or positive impact on soil health and soil structure. Much of Australia's broad acre cereal crop production is on ancient, relatively infertile soil that receives little rainfall and experiences high summer temperatures. Soil microbes are vital for soil health and soil structure. They require moist soil rich in organic matter. Soil microbes break down organic matter for food, providing valuable nutrients for healthy plant growth.
It is vital that we protect our ancient soils and with current technology and no-till machinery it is possible to increase organic matter and soil fertility while producing high protein ancient grains.
Sustainable Farming Cereal Cropping Guidelines
We have been testing our Sustainably grown spelt grain for chemical residues for a number of years now and have not detected any chemical residues. The test we use is an independent AT7 test that looks for 150 chemicals. We also test separately for glyphosate (Roundup) residue.
All flour sold under the Sustainable Farmers of Australia brand is tested chemical residue free.
No-till means no tillage (no cultivation).
Traditional wheat farming methods involve ploughing the soil. Wheat is harvested in early summer (November/December in most areas) and planted in early autumn (May/June). The period between December and May is called “fallow” because traditionally this is when the soil is cultivated (fallowed) to control weeds. Weeds take precious moisture and nutrients from the soil and must be removed.
Each summer storm germinates weed seeds. It can be common for soil to be cultivated 3 or more times during each fallow period. Each cultivation opens the soil and increases moisture loss in our extreme summer temperatures, making life difficult for the vitally important soil microbes.
No-till means the soil is not cultivated during the fallow period. Instead the crop stubble (dry stalks and leaves from the previous crop) or pasture is allowed to remain on the soil surface. Weeds germinating from summer storms are controlled with herbicide, mainly glyphosate (Roundup), and the soil below is allowed to remain intact.
The layer of crop stubble (organic matter) on the soil surface protects the soil microbes from extreme summer temperatures. It also protects the soil from “sheet erosion”. Summer storms can be intense and bare soil is prone to widespread erosion from heavy storm runoff. Several centimetres of soil can be lost over very large areas in just one storm. Wind erosion is also a problem on bare cultivated soil. No-till farming protects the soil surface from sheet and wind erosion.
Modern “direct drill” planting equipment allows crops to be planted (directly drilled) into stubble. Traditional planting machines (combines) were not designed for direct drilling and could only plant into cultivated soil. Occasionally the stubble can be too thick for direct drilling, in this case the stubble is slashed with a “stubble mulcher”, chopping up the stubble and leaving it lying on the soil surface in a protective layer.
During years of drought we will not import organic or conventionally grown flour. Many times in the last 23 years we have imported organic spelt flour during drought. While imported organic flour is “better than nothing” it nevers compares favourably with our Australian grown chemical residue free flour, according to our bakers.
Once the crop is planted all chemical use ceases.
Ancient wheats are relatively easy to grow without the use of chemicals being applied to the crop itself.
In the USA it is common practice to blanket spray wheat crops with glyphosate (Roundup) just prior to harvest. They have a short growing season and use glyphosate to kill the wheat plant so that they can harvest. In modern wheat the grain is visible as it sits in the wheat heads in the fields, any spray applied would land directly on the grain itself. Glyphosate would be on the wheat seed as it’s being milled into flour. Even organic wheat in the USA needs to be tested for glyphosate residue because of spray drift.
In Australia we have a long hot growing season and our wheat crops naturally dry in the hot summer sun, no need for spraying with anything.
Stubble burning removes stubble to allow easy planting of the next crop. It also reduces crop diseases and viruses. However, stubble burning removes precious organic matter and leaves the soil surface bare and exposed during the fallow period.
With modern no-till farming equipment most stubble is not a problem for sowing into and thick stubble can be stubble mulched. Crop diseases can be managed by crop rotation (crops from different species are planted alternatively) breaking the disease cycle.
Our Australian soils are ancient. Our rainfall is relatively low and our summers are long, hot and dry, under these conditions organic matter is difficult to produce. Most broad acre cereal crops are produced on soil that needs all the organic matter it can get. You can’t mulch a 1000 acre paddock with lucerne hay like you can your vegetable garden.
It is vital that stubble is preserved to protect the soil surface and feed the soil microbes.
Our Australian soils are ancient and often very low in many important nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus. When did the last volcano erupt covering the landscape in rich basalt soil?
Plants need nutrients to support themselves and provide nutritious grain for human health.
Here is page 2 of a soil test from a sandy loam soil that has been grazed and lightly cropped for the last 40 years with little or no fertiliser added. Soil Test
The nitrogen level of 2 is well below the sufficiency range of 20-30mg/kg and nitrogen is a vital element for healthy plant growth. Phosphorus and sulphur are also low and well below the required level. Crops grown on this soil are poor and low yielding. Heavy metal free fertilisers will be used to correct the deficiencies. Organic matter produced from subsequent, healthier crops will be retained on the soil surface to be gradually broken down by soil microbes, further enhancing the soil health.
The ancient wheats grown by Sustainable Farmers of Australia (Spelt, Khorasan and Emmer) have not been breed or modernised in any way, they are in their original ancient form.
Our original forms of ancient wheats are prized by bakers for their baking qualities, flavour and colour.
Ancient wheats have a protein structure that is more easily digested than modern wheats and many sufferers of wheat intolerances and IBS symptoms are able to tolerate the Spelt, Khorasan and Emmer grown by Sustainable Farmers of Australia.