In the poo: dung beetles improve soil health

PASTURE BENEFIT: Adam Tran, Winie Yiu, John Feehan and Cassie Wright release dung beetles at Loch.

A TINY wonder of nature is transforming soil quality to benefit farmers.

The humble dung beetle makes soil healthier and more productive by interrupting parasite life cycles, aerating soil, cleaning paddocks and reducing fertiliser requirements.

Dung beetles dig tunnels up to 30cm deep which they line with dung, fertilising the paddock and enabling water to percolate into the soil, and grass roots to access nutrients. This also improves habitat for earthworms.

These were the benefits of dung beetles heard by more than 70 people at a dung beetle workshop hosted by South Gippsland Landcare Network at Kernot Community Centre recently.

World renowned expert John Feehan spoke about how people can care for beetles on their property through measures such as the best practice management of pesticides and herbicides.

“It is important that farmers ensure the chemicals they use, particularly drenches, don’t harm beetles, as the wrong drench can kill eggs and juvenile beetles, decimating colonies which then take years to recover,” he said.

“Research reveals that Moxidectin is the molecule that is friendliest for beetles.”

Following a soup lunch at the hall, attendees moved to landholder Adam Tran’s farm in the hills south of Loch to release a winter-active colony of dung beetles.

Participants placed handfuls of beetles in fresh cow dung, where the beetles will feed and then pair off, dig a tunnel and breed.

In three years’ time, the colony should be well established and spread to neighbouring properties. 

Mr Tran has seen the success of dung beetles first hand.

“I had success with my old farm introducing dung beetles and allowing them to bury all waste where it’s needed a foot underground,” he said.

“This was done for environmental and production reasons.

“I highlight the production aspect because the average cow produces nearly 20kg of manure a day and 25kg for dairy animals.

“On my property this equates to one tonne of manure left behind daily by the 50 mature cows, not counting the 50 calves.”

Mr Tran said dung beetles bury the dung before bush flies can breed, which reduces pink eye, feeds the pasture at the root zone, increases aeration/water infiltration and reduces intestinal worm burden.

For information about upcoming Landcare events, visit sgln.net.au

Short URL: https://thestar.com.au/?p=29361

Posted by on Jul 9 2019. Filed under Rural News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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