Article •  22/2/2023

Holistic approach helping profitability of Manjimup enterprise

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An holistic approach to farming has helped the Ryan family, of Manjimup, some 300 kilometres south of Perth, in Western Australia, with their profitability.

Farmer Jake Ryan said the enterprise took a well-rounded view of farming and implemented a wide range of strategies looking at the big picture.

“We're all big on the idea of stacking enterprises,” he said.  “We run a four-year rotation, so one-year vegetables and three to four years as a pasture phase and soil building and then we go back to the veggies. It's all very diverse to help keep us profitable."

He said during the season, a vegetable crop is planted each week and after harvest, sheep will go in and graze the stubble.

The three-year period, post vegetable production could be a cereal crop, or mixed species perennial pastures with livestock grazing.

2023 Jake Ryan
Jake Ryan, of Manjimup, WA, said an holistic approach is helping the profitability on their vegetable and livestock enterprise.
2023 Jake Ryan
Jake Ryan, of Manjimup, WA, said an holistic approach is helping the profitability on their vegetable and livestock enterprise.

“We'll seed it down to mixed perennial pasture species - up to 10 species - establish it for a year, then we'll graze it and then the following two to three years,” Mr Ryan said.

We'll seed annuals into it, so we'll go from 10 species to 20 species aiming for that maximum diversity.  The more variety, the more sheep will eat, and the more they eat, the more they gain.”

“We're trying to stay diverse so that if a price of something drops, hopefully something else is up or is going to remain profitable.  It leaves our business more open to flexibility, and less, I suppose, susceptible to different demands and supply chain issues."

The rotation has allowed them to increase the sheep on the property from 700 to 1000 and double the cattle numbers from 20 to 40.

“At the same time, we've got that mass diversity, we're really stimulating the biology in the soil to sequester carbon.  It helps to compete with any diseases that will come in our cash crop.

“In terms of the brassicas, club root is one of our biggest diseases, and we haven't had much of an issue with that. It's all been working quite well."

Soil tests are conducted in each paddock every three to four years and inputs provided using the William Albrecht method as a base.


“It is all about trying to get the five major cations in the right balance - calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and hydrogen,” Mr Ryan said.

“We work out what the base saturation points are, and then adjust our fertility.

“We'll work it out at the start of the year, apply it before we start doing the vegetable phase and then we'll maintain that through the pasture phase as well to try to keep those soils in as good condition as possible."

The method has helped them increase organic carbon in a leased block, from six per cent to ten per cent, in three to four years of cropping.

An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is also run across the enterprise which includes planting species to attract beneficial insects.

“We started mixing things like sunflower and buckwheat to our base fertilizer when we are transplanting,” Mr Ryan said.  “Sunflowers and buckwheat will pop up through the crops.  We're trying to bring in our beneficial insects.”

He said insects such as ladybugs, diadegma, and lacewings are used to help control Diamondback moth, aphids, and other pests that can be quite troublesome for their crops.

“At the same time, we're bringing more diversity so you're going to feed more biology in the soil.”


Jake Ryan and Dan Cornally
Jake Ryan and Dan Cornally
Jake Ryan and Dan Cornally
Jake Ryan and Dan Cornally

They are also releasing diadegma species into the fields to provide a base of predators to keep pest numbers down.

“We go through, and we use soft chemistry, as soft as possible, but still strong enough to help keep that pest pressure down.”

The enterprise also runs pasture raised chickens, with 2500 across the property sleeping in re-purposed caravans and supplying eggs.

“They go across the pastures spreading out manure and helping me to control bugs.”

“We're trying to be as profitable as possible.  We are also trying to farm as environmentally friendly as possible.”

“This involves sequestering carbon, plant diversity, beneficial insects and getting the soil microbes working. We're trying to be profitable but do it in a way that's going to benefit the environment around us."

Jake Ryan took out the Global Climate Positive Leader for Australia in the 2021 Climate Positive Leader Awards from Corteva Agriscience.

“It's been good,” he said.  “We joined the global farmer network and met farmers from all around the world. It’s nice to highlight the positive things we're trying to do.”

He said the interaction with Corteva Agriscience had also been beneficial, as it gave him the opportunity to look at some of the new innovative products in their pipeline.

“It’s been great working with Corteva.  They've got some exciting new products coming out in the biological and environmentally friendly area.  I think chemistry is a tool that you can use just to help steer things in the right direction. We're looking forward to working with Corteva more into the future."


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