Farm VSA Informer Series

    Taumarunui Golf Club

    165 Golf Rd, Taumarunui 3920
    Tuesday 21st May, 2019
    Morning Tea & Lunch

    Paterangi Hall

    1326 Paterangi Rd, Paterangi 3883
    Wednesday 22nd May, 2019
    Morning Tea & Lunch


    The Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) method provides lay people with a simple system to quickly and effectively assess the condition of the soil (your underground economy) and the related performance of the pasture or crop. It’s the only system that allows the plant to have its say about the soil it’s growing in. Normally the performance of the plant will follow the condition of the soil. If it doesn’t, apart from the weather, the reason is invariably because of farm management practices. We want to know if the pasture/crop is in sync with the soil and if not, what management options need to be considered to improve the soil and the performance of the plant. Putting the spotlight on the condition of the soil and the performance of the plant in relation to management practices is the first step in improving production and reducing costs.

    The soil can be read like the pages of a book once you know what you’re looking at. One of the purposes of the VSA is to train the untrained eye to read and interpret what you’re seeing.

    To this end, the VSA takes you through the assessment of 10 key indicators of soil condition and 10 indicators of plant performance and discusses their significance and implications. The system is very good at identifying any issues that may be occurring on a farm and draws your attention to those areas where the soil and plant performance could be improved through more appropriate management.

    One of the indicators of plant performance is the susceptibility to drought stress. This is of particular relevance at the present time including what fundamental management practices can be implemented to improve the drought resistance of a farm.

    Given that the spotlight is also very much on the environmental footprint of farms, the VSA provides simple to use Scorecards for Nutrient Loss, GHG Emissions and Carbon Sequestration. The completion of the Soil & Plant Performance Scorecards provides most of the information required to quickly complete the three Environmental Scorecards.

    The Scorecards for Nutrient Loss and GHG Emissions enable you to quickly assess whether a field or farm is potentially a low, moderate or high emitter of nutrients into the groundwater and waterways and GHG’s into the atmosphere. The Scorecard for Carbon Sequestration enables you to quickly assess whether a field or farm is potentially C positive (sequestering soil C), C neutral (where C is in a steady state and unchanging), or C negative where soil C is being lost.

    Pick up a spade and have a go!

    About Graham Shepherd

    Graham Shepherd is a soil scientist, agricultural consultant and director ofBioAgriNomics. BioAgriNomics is an independent agricultural and fertiliser advisory company focussing on linking soil conditioning, soil function, plant nutrition, animal health, farm productivity and a farms environmental footprint with smart fertilisers and smart farm management practices. Graham has worked as a soil scientist for 27 years in a government research institute in New Zealand and as an independent consultant since 2004. He also has considerable experience working with agricultural organisations, research institutes and universities overseas including Australia, North America, Chile, UK, Italy, France, Denmark, Germany, Holland and Fiji.

    Graham is one of the foremost authorities in NZ on the dynamics of soil organic carbon under pastoral and cropping systems, and the interrelationships between the physical, chemical and biological quality of soils and farm performance and profitability. His research has significantly improved our understanding of the impact of farming and sustainable land management practices on soil quality, and has been incorporated into national, regional, and district schemes and policy statements by regulatory authorities,

    View full Resume –

    Subject matter of the seminar

    • Background to the Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) and why it was developed
    • The current ‘reality tree’ for farmers
    • Are the results of the public good science funding reaching the farm gate and beyond?
    • Structure and format of the VSA, the science that underpins it, and its correlation to dry matter production and crop yield
    • Key features about the VSA and its ability as a quick and simple tool to assess and monitor the condition of the soil and the performance of the pasture/crop
    • The care that must be taken in the interpretation of analytical data citing physical, chemical and biological examples. The VSA is not subject to the difficulties of interpretation
    • The need for good quantitative measurements of soil/plant/animal/production and environmental performance, and how visual assessments can bring clarity to the interpretation of the data
    • Soil fertility and smart farming – it’s more than NPKS.

    –   Do you use fertilisers to grow the plant, or do you use fertilisers to feed the soil to grow the plant?

    • Are you farming for production or profit?
    • Soil life – the ‘engine room’ of the farm. How to keep the engine well-oiled including the use of ‘smart’ fertilisers
    • Pasture quality and its implications

    –   we need to use our grey matter to think more about what’s in the dry matter. For example, nutrient content, pasture species diversity (presenting the animal with a ‘salad’), Brix vs ME, energy levels in the rumen, feed conversion efficiency

    –  are your clovers nitrogen fixers or nitrogen feeders?

    –  five natural supply pathways of free N

    –  Implications of crude protein/nitrate rich pasture

    • Measures to increase the drought resistance of your farm
    • Measures to assess the environmental footprint of a farm in terms of nutrient loss, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions.

    – The implications of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for farmers.

    • Key performance indicators (KPI’s) – an integral part of assessing and monitoring how you as consultants and the farm are performing.