A pair of passionate young Elsmore farmers will soon represent Australia in an international science competition after coming second in the Investigations category of the 2019 BHP Foundation National High School Science and Engineering Awards.
Danthonia’s Tiarra Meier and Anne Zimmerman were stunned by the success of their ‘Soil Biology: The Missing Link in Pasture Production?’ project, which explored the use of chemical and biological amendments in improving soil health.
“I didn’t know what to think when they said our names. I was really happy, but I couldn’t even believe it was true. It was an amazing feeling,” Tiarra said.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Anne said. She said it was satisfying to receive recognition for their many months of hard work.
The girls will now represent Australia on the international stage in Phoenix, Arizona on May 12, where they will join thousands of young scientists in presenting their project.
The idea was first sparked two years ago when Tiarra wondered if the missing link in Danthonia’s pasture production could be soil biology. The community had already worked towards regenerative agriculture, but Tiarra wanted to investigate the paddocks that still struggled despite good rainfall and grazing management.
She invited Anne to take part, and the two began five month trials with chemical and biological amendments to soil. The biological amendments proved the best, with one combination proving particularly successful.
“I learnt that working with nature is the only way that we’re going to be able to live, and if we try and do it our own way then eventually the earth or whatever is going to retaliate and we’re not going to be able to live,” Anne said. She said working with a partner was a great way to split to workload and spark new ideas.
It was a challenging project, and Anne and Tiarra went to every effort to make sure their results were accurate.
“For pasture production testing, we made sure we labelled each bag before we put the grass in and carefully cut all the grass the same length, dried it all the same amount of time and weighed it," Tiarra explained.
“For the biology testing we used a core sampler, so we made sure all the samples were down to the right height and pushing down evenly on the sampler to get the most accurate result.”
Anne said the community will take the duo’s investigations into account as they move forward with their farming techniques.
“We’re now going to be more into the biology and perhaps applying some of the biological amendments that we saw had the best improvement.”
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