Roger Groocock has spent more than 40 years pioneering ways that help improve the health and productivity of soils across the country.
Now, he is a finalist in the 2022 General Jeffery Soil Health Award, which recognises the work of people who care for soil health and who are educating or inspiring others to do likewise. The awards will be announced on August 24.
Roger and his wife Sue Groocock own Clendon Farm, located 16km north of Bordertown, South Australia. They have 1200ha of cleared land and 400ha native heritage-listed scrub land, owning a total of 1600ha.
They grow wheat, barley, canola, faba beans and lupins in rotation on 700-750ha, with the remaining land being clover or lucerne-based pasture for a flock of 1200 Merino ewe sheep operation.
Roger's work has involved designing, testing and measuring the long-term effects of a range of soil amelioration techniques, including clay spreading, deep ripping, delving, inversion and spading, plus a range of amendments including soil conditioners, organic substrates and nutrient mixes.
He defined soil amelioration as a way to modify soil to overcome natural constraints to profitably and sustainably farm an area of land.
For their property, the Groococks change the water repellent nature of their sandy soil by adding some subsoil clay and mixing it into the topsoil 300mm deep.
"This gives us a reduction in compaction, brings nutrients back up to the plant root zone (from out of the clay), and improves water retention in the root zone," he said.
"Using soil testing we can then add other nutrient requirements, for example trace elements, lime, gypsum or compost for biological benefit."
Roger has hosted numerous on-farm research trials, crop walks, assisted in organising extension activities and contributed to publications that assisted the widespread adoption of retained stubble and minimum tillage, which has reduced erosion and delivered additional benefits such as improved soil structure and reduced the decline in soil organic carbon.
In 2007, Roger won a Churchill Fellowship, which took him to Europe and America to explore innovative practices to improve soil health and drive sustainable production increases, including the use of machinery. Impressed by one of the spading machines he saw, Roger decided to bring one home and test it out on his property. Roger and Sue Groocock established Groocock Soil Improvement Pty Ltd in January 2009, which sells spaders.
Always experimenting on his own farm and passionate about sharing knowledge, Roger has developed a diverse network, including research, development and extension specialists from a range of disciplines and organisations, agronomists and farmers from across Australia and overseas. This has built a community of practice that shares the latest knowledge, new ideas and inspires and encourages other farmers to become involved in advocacy and RD&E to ensure on- ground change to water repellent sandy soils.
The award was established by the Office of the National Soils Advocate in 2020 to honour and perpetuate the memory of Australia's first National Soils Advocate, Major General the Honourable Michael Jeffery, AC, AO (Mil), CVO, MC (Retd).
The General Jeffery Soil Health Award is presented biennially alongside the National Landcare Awards. The Award includes a trophy and a $20,000 cash prize for recipients to continue their work.
The 2022 Award will be presented at the Awards Gala Dinner during the National Landcare Conference in Sydney on Wednesday, August 24, 2022.
The other finalists are Oliver Knox from New South Wales, a researcher in cotton farming and soil health, and Prof John McLean Bennett from Queensland, a soil health advocate and educator.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.