Full Organic Certification

Tiliaris has been fully certified by NASAA (National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia) I believe this is the first, complete accreditation by an Finger Lime grower in the world. (there are other growers who are part way through or ‘in-conversion’ but I believe Tiliaris is the first. (if there is another grower who has previously been certified, please contact me directly and I will happily revoke this status…)

Organic Certification – In Conversion

The Annual inspection was conducted on Monday afternoon, as usual it was a very thorough examination on Organic principles, paperwork, accountability and visual inspection of farming practices and farming principles. The inspector was very happy with the methodologies that are employed in our production cycle. I had no “non-compliance” at all. Hopefully in the next few weeks, we will be “In-Conversion” certified.

Green Manuring 2

Because of the failure of the early summer green manure crop of Millet in late October, I decided to plant another crop and do it correct this time. I miscalculated the seed volume by a factor of ten, and in turn had a very lousy outcome. In essence it just meant I could wipe out one more generation of weeds without much effort, and there was little rain in that period so no erosion!

I chose to put another crop of Japanese Millet in late February, it is advisable not to sow until the soil temperature is above 14°C, which in February is no issue, Millet does not tolerate frost, and the frosts will not be here until late June/July, last year we only had two or three mild occurrences.

The recommended sowing rates vary according to the situation – as a guide, 12 kg/ha for lighter/poorer soils and up to 20-25 kg/ha for heavier, more fertile soils. These are the suggested rates from the NSW DPI. I put in the higher rate as I am after bulk, green matter. It will also allow me to slash, have regrowth and then plant the winter crop with legumes.

Regrowth of millet following slashing is very good if soil moisture and nitrogen levels are sufficient. I have been watering regularly and put 100Kg/1000m2 of certified Terra Firma pellets. The growth has been outstanding and goes to show that weed supression, good growth and positive outcomes can be attained without Glyphosate or DAP.

Autumn Pests

As Autumn approaches the pests start to multiply, being organic, the control of these pests has to be carefully controlled and only the use of certified methods can be adopted to control the pests.

The Citrus Swallowtail Butterfly is probably the main issue, they thrive on new growth and eat the new sprouts just as they form. I can control them with a combination of hand picking and BT. You can see the small white eggs in the picture below. There is also a pic of a small Citrus Caterpillar not on the plant. (Good!)

If they are controlled from the start, the population does not get too out of control and I can get away with two well timed sprays of BT.

Ants, Scale and mould are also an issue, not as prevallant, they still cause and issue. I have been trialling a tree guard made from some foam taped to the tree with some agricultural glue to act as as barrier. It seems to be working in stopping the ants climbing the tree and hoarding the scale.

Certification Acceptance

I received the information I had been eagerly awaiting for 4 weeks…

The hard work, the OMP (Organic Management Plan), the intensive soil test, inspection and record keeping practices that have been pursued over the years had been accepted by the board and I had completed the first official step to full certification. The real work now begins.

There where a few “Minor Non-Compliance’s” and no “Major Non-Compliance’s”.

I am trying to source certified green manuring seeds: – Millet, Dunn Peas and Oats (If anyone knows of a supplier of these… please, please let me know!)

There was a few chemicals/fertilisers in the shed from previous owner of property (Insecticides, Superphosphate, and some Glyphosate) I have since removed them.

The Certificate of Analysis for pesticides in the soil shows Nil for all tested chemicals, basically the soil is in excellent condition, with no pesticides or chemicals present. The hard work in this area is paying off.

The next 12 months will see a consolidation, a better record keeping practise and a refining of what I know about the healthy soil/healthy farm principle.

Pre Certification

Organic certification is a confirmation of the processes and practices that have been employed on our property, and the road to certification is a long term commitment to these principles.

These principles consist of three elements, which are inextricably linked in the certification process: People, Land and Product. It is the combination of the three, linking into an organic management plan, that signifies the legal bounds of the certified operation.

In Early 2008 I started devising the Organic Management Plan and started on the road to certification, which is a three year process.

Year 1 ( 2008 ) – Pre Certification – Following an initial farm inspection, there is a pre certification period of one year, in which we will be under a contract agreement to operate according to the certifying organisation standards.

Years 2 and 3 (2009-2010) – In Conversion Certification – A subsequent inspection will be arranged towards the end of our initial 12 months under pre certification to ascertain the degree to which we have met the standards requirements. Certification as ‘in-conversion’ may be achieved at this point, following a second review and the signing of a license agreement.

The ‘in-conversion’ period generally takes two years to reach full certification. During this phase, we may be able to label our produce as organic ‘in-conversion’.

Until then I will keep learning and developing the processes which seem to be a natural extension of the living farm and helthy soil / healthy plant concept.

Orchard Weed Management

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
Oh let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wildness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

What is a weed?

There are many reasons why certain plants are or become weeds in orchards or organic farming operations.

Conventional methods of broad scale systemic or selective weed suppression can have many undesirable effects on soil microbes and healthy soils.

Plants are commonly defined as ‘weeds’ if they exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

• compete with plants for water (most plants);
• compete with plants for nutrients (most plants, especially non-legumes);
• interfere with water distribution from low-level sprinklers (most plants);
• poison livestock;
• harbour or encourage non-beneficial pests;
• produce spiky seeds/thorns that may injure workers or contaminate produce;
• interfere with harvest or other orchard operations;
• compete with more desirable cover crops;
• have the potential to invade neighbouring properties where they can exert their undesirable qualities;
• Are noxious or declared by the local Rural Lands Board / Council

When weeds are not weeds…

The real vs. perceived status of a weed can vary from grower to grower. Many agricultural weeds have been defined as such because of their negative impact in pasture and grain cropping systems and/or livestock, the dominant form of agriculture in Australia. E.g., grasses are often encouraged in cool climate orchards/vineyards on fertile soils where their competition for nitrogen is used to reduce excess vigour. On naturally poor soils of some hot, dry regions however, summer grasses tend to be discouraged, because they compete for water and nutrients – major issues for some regions. Summer ground cover does however help reduce soil temperatures and dust.

Beneficial ‘weeds’

Some ‘weeds’ provide benefits of value to organic systems, and these benefits need to be weighed against any negative characteristics of the weeds. Some benefits of weeds are listed below:

• Soil protection – Most plants protect otherwise bare soil from the effects of sun, wind and rain (erosion).
• Food source for beneficial insects – Many flowering plants produce pollen or nectar that is a useful food source for beneficial insects such as hover flies and lacewing insects (predators of mealybugs, scales and other pests) and predatory mites. They also provide a haven for bees and other pollen spreading insects, which is particularly important in an orchard setting.
• Other plants, like thistles, support aphids which provide a food source for beneficial insects and help maintain populations of those beneficial species.
• Nutrient recycling – Deep-rooted plants play a useful role in nutrient recycling by absorbing nutrients from lower in the soil profile and redistributing them when the plants decompose.
• Weed suppression – heavy growth of some ‘weeds’ like grasses, can suppress the establishment and growth of less desirable weeds.

Next I will look at weed control methods that i have used in the orchard, and some trialing of a certified weed supressant.

References:

Organic Farming: Vineyard Weed Management (2007), David Madge,
Department Of Primary Industries, Victoria, ISSN – 1329-8062
web site: http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/notes

Soil Management for Orchards and Vineyards (1993), G O’Conner, J Strawhorn, K Orr, AGMEDIA – Department Of Agriculture, Victoria, ISBN – 0 7306 3018 8