Christine Jones - Resilience through diversity
This week I headed down to visit Murray and Raquel at Galloway Springs near Bridgetown, for two days of exciting and engaging regenerative action - to sign their daughter Emily up as a new chicken supplier, and to attend Dr Christine Jones’ seminar on resilience through diversity.
Dr Christine Jones is an internationally renowned and highly respected groundcover and soil ecologist. She has been working with innovative landholders to implement regenerative land management practices that enhance biodiversity, increase biological activity, sequester carbon, activate soil nutrient cycles, restore water balance, improve productivity and create new topsoil.
Christine has organised and participated in workshops, field days, seminars and conferences throughout Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Western Europe, Central America, USA and Canada.
She is in Western Australia this week and next week hosting regenerative farming workshops and masterclasses across the south west. These workshops are exploring soil biology and offer practical advice for farmers to increase their profit and productivity by implementing regenerative agriculture practices.
Murray and Raquel hosted Dr Christine Jones at their farm for a morning field walk, then we headed to Bridgetown Gardens Function Centre for Christine’s seminar on Resilience through Diversity. Raquel provided a lovely home cooked breakfast bursting with local regenerative produce, then we looked at Murray’s trial seeding of a multi species summer cover crop using his yeomans plough.
The trial wasn’t as successful as Murray had hoped, and Christine explained that by seeding the cover crop in late spring, WA’s south west doesn’t always get enough follow up rain for the summer cover crop to establish. She suggested that an early autumn seeding of a diverse mix of summer and winter species together, with a focus on forbes over grasses, would be a good way to establish a perennial base, with the summer species becoming dormant over winter, but then taking off again in spring.
The majority of the day was at the Bridgetown Gardens Function center, where Christine presented how diversity creates resilience in a landscape. We learnt how a single healthy seed has its own microbiome that can host 9 billion bacteria, archaea and fungi, and that the relationship between this seed and its microbiome can determine the health and resilience of a plant for its entire life cycle. The health of all living systems is influenced by their microbiome, and most importantly by the diversity of their microbiome.
My biggest takeaway from this seminar is just how much diversity - growing different plants together - really does increase resilience in a landscape. For example, whether it be in a pasture or in your veggie patch, if you can grow a minimum of 4 different plant species together from 4 different plant families, the microbes associated with each of these plants then work together to form a food supply chain network for the plants - decreasing or in some cases eliminating the need for any additional nitrogen to be added for plant growth. If you can quadruple that to 16 different species from a minimum of 4 different plant families, the effect is even greater! The challenge is to get these species established in soil that has in many cases become used to supporting a monoculture. Transitioning takes time, and plenty of microbial support in the form of fish hydrolysate, vermi liquid and cold water compost extracts - bio stimulants which stimulate microbial function in the soil.
It was a great day full of like minded people passionate about regenerating their landscapes, a big thanks to Raquel and Murray for having us there, and to Christine for sharing her wisdom with us!
If you’re interested in attending one of Christine’s events, jump onto the RegenWA website and see if you can find some last minute tickets!