Soil science a focus of New Acland's grazing trials
THE science behind New Hope's promise to rehabilitate mined land to an equal or better condition than its original state has entered a new phase.
Cattle grazing trials are now in their second year and a focus on soil and cattle condition has been intensified through a partnership with a University of Southern Queensland soil scientist and agricultural consultant Outcross.
Acland Pastoral Company manager Ben Muirhead said the cattle trials had been refined for the second year.
"We have expanded our testing program on the both the soil and pasture to gain a more in-depth understanding of the rehabilitated areas," Mr Muirhead said.
University of Southern Queensland senior lecturer in soil science Dr John McLean Bennett said his team had been engaged by Outcross to undertake the soils component of the rehabilitated lands assessment.
"Our major role is looking at the soil water, soil structure and therefore the nutrient movement throughout the soils and then coming back and comparing that to soils from within the region immediate to the mine that haven't been mined," Dr McLean Bennett said.
Samples from rehabilitated land are compared to control samples from 18 benchmark sites.
"Realistically what it is saying is how different is the land they have put back and how well it is functioning."
Efforts so far have been to open pits to do structural analysis on the soil.
"We've found that the roots are making it into the rehabilitated sites to the same depths as the benchmark soils, which is encouraging."
He said there was no pressure from New Hope Group to reach a particular result.
"We've got a very good understanding now of what the program should be and it's been informed scientifically as opposed to politically which is important and indeed the university wouldn't be involved if it was a political pressure rather than a scientific one."