For the first in our winter series of ‘Fireside Chats’ hosted by the Torbay Catchment Group, we had the wonderful privilege to be joined by Professor Lyn Abbott, Murray Gomm and Sylvia Leighton along with 26 attendees keen to learn more about soil health and enjoy the warmth and delicious food provided by the Elleker General Store and Tavern.

Professor Lyn Abbott chatted about Mycorrhiza and the Soil Health Ap, Murray Gomm told us about his journey developing soil health on his Oranje Tractor property in Marbelup and Sylvia Leighton shared her experiences as a botanist and regenerative farmer in the great southern of WA and her masters research on soil bacterial populations.

The word ‘Mycorrhiza’ has been derived from the Greek words ‘mushroom’ and ‘root’ – and refers to the association between the fungal hyphae of mycelium with plant roots in a non-parasitic relationship.

Prof Lyn Abbott shared how mycorrhiza are ubiquitous and grow in almost all plants and talked about techniques you can do at home in order to see them.

These fungi occur in most soils and most crop and all pasture species. Mycorrhiza:

  • Form networks in soil outside the root, but connected to the root
  • Have a role in Phosphorus transport into the root
  • Acquire soil carbon (C) from the root
  • Can help in soil aggregation
  • Fungi can help in soil carbon (C) sequestration through binding
  • Can help in drought resistance- fungi can get into smaller pockets
  • Fungi help plant nutrition and this helps with disease resistance
  • Creates connections between roots of different plants
  • Help in chemical, physical, and biological processes for plants

Lyn Abbott commenced her research career in soil biology at UWA in 1974. Her research has focused on the role of soil biological processes linked to nutrient acquisition by plants and includes bio-chemical and bio-physical interactions with soil amendments and plant-microbe interactions, especially arbuscular mycorrhizas. Her teaching focused on soil and land management with an emphasis on soil biological fertility, and she has a long history of presentation of workshops and seminars on soil health within the agricultural community. Lyn ‘retired’ in 2013 and as an Emerita Professor continues her research collaborations and extension in soil biology. She was awarded the inaugural General Jeffery Soil Health Award in 2021 and is a Fellow of Soil Science Australia and AgInstitute Australia.

Soil Health Award Winner 2020 | Lynette Abbott

Sylvia Leighton 2022 National Landcare Award winner, Sylvia Leighton is the co-steward of her and her partners 1214ha property ‘Wilyun Pools’, where they are dedicated to using regenerative farming methods to create a more sustainable system.

“On the farm it is a core philosophy to try and grow nearly all our own food- so we know what we are eating from soil to plate. It does give us a bit of a thrill when we look at our dinner plates and 100% is home-grown. Our commercial sheep farm is run on holisitic/regenerative philosophies and some of TCG’s past workshops on worm farms, compost teas and composting soils have dramatically CHANGED our kitchen garden!”

Sylvia’s masters study investigated soil physico-chemical properties and bacterial communities in twenty-year old Eucalyptus globulus labill. (Blue gum) plantation sites and compared them to bacterial communities under native bushland.

Murray Gomm is the mastermind behind Oranje Tractor, the award winning organic, regenerative and carbon negative winery/small farm holding near Albany.

The farm operates according to the principles of no synthetic inputs, cover the soil, minimal till, livestock, maximise diversity and maintain living roots.

Useful soil health apps as part of the fireside chat:

SOILHEALTH – Apps on Google Play

SOILHEALTH on the App Store (

Nutrient calculator for high rainfall pastures in Western Australia | Agriculture and Food

Saltland Genie


This project is supported by funding from the Western Australian Government’s State NRM Program, the Western Australian Landcare Network and our project partners.