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Mallee Farmer FOR FA RM E R S I N T H E M A L L E E REGION

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An insight into biodynamic farming in Murrayville

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Weed management strategies to address herbicide resistance

ISSUE 09 • Winter 2015

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New ideas the key to farming in Werrimull

Using harvest weed seed management to win the fight against brome grass p2 This publication is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from theAustralian Government’s National Landcare Programme.


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Mallee Farmer Contents Mallee seasonal update

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Can harvest weed seed management help to win the fight against brome grass?

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Break crops controlling brome grass

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Upcoming events

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Biodynamic farming in Murrayville

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Digging deep to strengthen core supply

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Prestigious honour for Mallee man

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Looking at Landcare in the Mallee

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Watering a waterhole at Watchupga

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Upcoming events

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Weed management strategies to address 16 herbicide resistance in the southern Mallee Testing the Controlled Traffic Technical Manual

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Importance of managing the risks to bees 19 New ideas the key to farming in Werrimull 20 Upcoming events

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Aerial shoot reduces grazing pressure on 22 parks Understanding snail management

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New incentives for Mallee Farmers

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Innovations in cropping systems a project update

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Partnerships underpin Mallee farming article on using harvest weed seed management to tackle brome grass draws on the results of a collaborative project undertaken by a number of organisations, in co-operation with landholders, through funding provided by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme and the Grains Research and Development Corporation. Other articles, such as the story with Nullawil farmer Donald Cooper, show the importance of partnerships within a farming community and among local Landcare groups; while the article on local farmer Barry Edwards emphasises the value of strong family partnerships in farming.

Welcome to the ninth edition of the Mallee Farmer, which is once again full of a wide range of important information on research, projects and events across the region. Reading through the articles in this edition, I’m once again humbled by the strong partnerships that exist across the farming sector in the region. Whether it’s partnerships between neighbours; or between farmers and agronomists; or between organisations, agencies and investors, these partnerships are vital and must be recognised for the vital part they play in farming in the Mallee. One of the great values of the Mallee Farmer is that it shows the many different ways partnerships are at work in the region, and how these partnerships stretch across local, state and federal networks. For example, the feature

DISCLAIMER The information in this document has been published in good faith by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA).

ISSN: 1839 - 2229

Cover Image Farmers at brome grass fielday. Photo: Mallee Sustainable Farming

This publication and the information contained within may be of assistance to you but the Mallee CMA Board and staff do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purpose and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence that may arise from you relying on any information in this publication. You should obtain specialist

In recognising the value of partnerships, I would like to acknowledge the funding provided through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme for the production of the Mallee Farmer. This support makes it possible to produce the Mallee Famer and continue to provide a valuable resource to farmers across our region. Thank you, also, to all organisations and individuals who have contributed to this edition of the Mallee Farmer. Without your support, and that provided through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, it would be extremely difficult to continue to provide relevant, up to date information to the broader Mallee farming community. On behalf of the Mallee CMA Board, I hope you enjoy this edition of the Mallee Farmer. Sharyon Peart Chairperson Mallee CMA Board

advice on the applicability or otherwise of the information in this document. Neither the Mallee CMA nor any of the agencies/organisations/people who have supplied information published in the Mallee Farmer endorse the information contained in this document, nor do they endorse any products identified by trade name. The information in this document is made available on the understanding that neither the Mallee CMA, nor any the people who have supplied information published in the Mallee Farmer will have any liability arising from any reliance upon any information in this document.


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Mallee seasonal update The crops are all in and the spread of their growth stages has never been greater …. to have crops within the region almost eight weeks apart in establishment is very unusual. By

By Rob Sonogan, AGRIvision Consultants and GRDC Southern Panel Member

2015 seasonal conditions The crops are all in and the spread of their growth stages has never been greater. From the Mallee’s north to south we observe crops in the former fully tillered and the odd canola paddock in flower, whereas in the south we see some crops on heavy soils only recently germinated following the much needed rainfall event that finally favoured the whole Mallee on 15 June 2015. To have crops within the region almost eight weeks apart in establishment is very unusual. North of the Mallee Highway we generally have a season on an average outlook with reasonable subsoil moisture, but in the south soil moisture sits very near the surface and by late July, unless more rainfall occurs, we will again see this area’s crops reflecting moisture stress. In these areas that had such a tough start there can exist a wide range of both crop and weed growth stages that are highly dependent upon soil type. Decisions for weed management will be both difficult to make and complex to carry out. The one standout this season compared with 2014 has been the relative lack of insect pressures. Touch wood this continues, but remember that regular monitoring for these and other agronomic issues is always critical; early control and/or remedial actions are most economic when timely decisions are made.

Test strips I am a great advocate for the creation of test strips when carrying a practice where uncertainty exists regarding cost effectiveness. Your own paddock is where you can fine tune the economics of agronomic actions; consider leaving a strip untreated or in the case of nitrogen application, maybe an untreated plus

Bean crop in the Mallee. Photo: AGRIvision

a doubling up. Fungicide test strips are another good idea. Remember to mark the strip with something permanent, as memory can sometimes be an issue (it certainly can be for me at times!!).

Sandy soil issues Many have mentioned to me over the past couple of years of their frustration with the decreasing productivity from their sandier soils. Is it a root disease, nutrition limitations, inability of low organic carbon soils to adequately mineralise, decreasing soil organic carbon levels, or something else? Maybe a combination of a number of these factors? To date nothing stands out, but a number of projects, both planned and underway, will attempt to get to the bottom of this important issue.

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application rates today are vastly lower); Average seeding rate was 50kg/ha (this remains indicative of seeding rates today); Average barley grain protein at harvest was 12.4% (protein levels today would generally be a lot less); 96% of crops were sown into a mechanically prepared long fallow , including two that were sown into a cultivated lupin stubble (today most sowing is done by direct drilling, reflecting significant changes in soil conservation practices); Average added Nitrogen was 8kg/ ha. # GSR was 180mm (nitrogen input is much higher these days).

I am extremely interested in this sandy soils problem and would welcome any thoughts you may have.

History lesson In 1998, a study undertaken at Speed looked at the experiences of 12 farmers and their 27 barley paddocks. This study found: • 65% were Schooner, then Arapiles and Sloop (almost none of these varieties are grown today); • The average phosphorous applied was 13.2kg/ha (phosphorous

For more information Contact Rob Sonogan at AGRIvision Consultants Pty Ltd Swan Hill Vic.3585 Mob: 0407 359 982 Ph: 5032 3377

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Creating narrow windrows at harvest. Photo: Mallee Sustainable Farming.

Can harvest weed seed management help to win the fight against brome grass?

Creating narrow windrows at harvest. Photo: Mallee Sustainable Farming.

Harvest Weed Seed Control (HWSC) methods such as windrow burning, and chaff carts which collect weed seeds for them to be destroyed either during or after the harvest process, are gaining popularity with Mallee farmers. By Michael Moodie and Todd McDonald (Mallee Sustainable Farming); Mick Brady and Chris Davies (Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Training and Resources). For any HWSC method to be successful, first you must be able to collect the weed seed during the harvest operation. Ryegrass, for example, is known to have good seed retention and therefore HWSC methods have proven to be very successful. However, brome grass matures earlier than ryegrass and is thought to more rapidly shed its seed, which potentially minimises the effectiveness of HWSC to control this weed. During the 2014 harvest we measured the seed retention of brome grass (Bromus diandrus) population in a Hindmarsh barley crop near Ouyen. The research involved measuring brome grass seed retention on three occasions, when barley was ready for harvest and 14 and 28 days later (7 November, 21

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Figure 1: The percentage of Brome grass seed (Bromus diandrus) retained above harvest height (15cm) over the harvest period at Ouyen in 2014.

November, 5 December 2014). On each harvest date the number of brome grass seeds above 15 cm from the soil surface (above harvest height), 0-15 cm from the soil surface (below harvest height), and seed on the soil surface (on ground) was measured. The average number of brome plants at the trial site was 12 plants per m2. These generated over 1000 brome grass seeds per m2 which equated to 88 seeds per brome plant. At the earliest

harvest date (7 November) only 59% of the weed seeds were still attached to the brome plant at a height where they could be collected by the harvester. Over the following month, the amount of brome grass seed that could have been collected by a harvester fell to 38% by 21 November and 30% by 5 December. Therefore, harvesting the crop on these dates, combined with HWSC, would potentially result in 30-60% control of brome grass weed seeds (Figure 1).


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Acknowledgement

Burning narrow windrows to destroy weed seeds. Photo: Mallee Sustainable Farming.

These measurements indicate insufficient brome grass seed is retained above harvest height, especially with later harvests, to expect HWSC techniques such as windrow burning to be effective on their own. However, when used as part of an integrated weed management program, these techniques will undoubtedly assist in achieving brome grass control. For example, in a moderate brome grass population of 12 plants/m2, 60% control depletes the weed seed bank by 600 seeds/m2. That is a large number of weed seeds that herbicides do not need to deal with in future years and can delay the onset of herbicide resistance. To assess the long term benefit of HWSC, we used the Land Use Sequence Optimiser (LUSO) to model the change in a brome grass weed seed bank over an eight year period. The model compared two scenarios: 1. A Lupin – Wheat – Clearfield Wheat – Barley rotation with no HWSC implemented 2. The same rotation as above but with HWSC used in the Wheat and Barley phases of the rotation. HWSC destroyed 60% of the weed seeds at harvest. The starting weed population was set at 10 plants/m2. In the without HWSC scenario, the weed seed bank was never eliminated and weed numbers increased over time. However, when the same rotation was employed with the addition of HWSC every second year of the rotation (wheat and barley phase), the weed seed bank declined over time and after eight years the weed seed bank

was constantly maintained at a low level. This analysis shows that HWSC tactics have the potential to be an effective management tool to manage brome grass when used in conjunction with other effective control methods such as break crops and Clearfield herbicides.

For more information Further information on the brome grass seed retention study can be found at: http://msfp.org.au/wpcontent/uploads/2015/02/Korte_ Bromegrass-seed-retention.pdf For more information on brome grass integrated weed management in the central Mallee keep in touch with MSF or contact Michael Moodie at Michael.moodie@msfp.org.au or on 0448 612 892.

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Is HWSC worth the effort?

The information in this article draws on a collaborative project into brome grass management delivered by Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR). This project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

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Without HWSC

With HWSC

Figure 2. Comparison using the Land Use Sequence Optimiser (LUSO) model of the change in weed seed bank population over a Lupin – Wheat – Clearfield Wheat - Barley rotation where Harvest Weed Seed Control is either not employed (Without HWSC) or employed every second year in the wheat and barley phase of the rotation (With HWSC).

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Waikerie grower Tim Paschke has successfully reduced brome grass populations by incorporating breaks into his cropping sequence. Photo: Rebecca Barr

Break crops controlling brome grass Waikerie grower Tim Paschke shares his insights into reducing brome grass populations by incorporating breaks into crop sequencing.

By Rebecca Barr, GRDC Southern Science Writer Waikerie grower Tim Paschke started his transition into crop sequencing after visiting a field trial run by Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) as part of the GRDC low-rainfall crop sequencing project in 2012. “We saw some great results from break crops at the MSF trial, and it made me sit down and think. I realised we had to decide – are we farming for now, or farming for the future?” Mr Paschke said. The family farm, which Mr Paschke runs with his wife, Bec, both of their fathers and a full time worker, was previously a continuous cropping property with a piggery enterprise.

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“We used to run a wheat-wheat-barleybarley rotation, with direct drilling into stubble, and would work up the soil after the four years,” Mr Paschke said. “We were finding that we just couldn’t get rid of the brome grass, which really took off after the high rainfall year in 2010. In that year we had to cut the stubble high, which left brome grass undisturbed and it really took off after that. “We were trying to control it using Clearfield wheat, but I didn’t want to spray again and again when we had brome grass density of 800-1000 plants per square metre. If only five per cent of the weeds survive, that’s still a huge number of weeds each time, and it’s probably selecting for resistance. “One of the main things that made me want to change what we were doing was looking at the Western Australian

experience, the amount they have to spend on controlling the resistant weeds, we just can’t afford to get to that point.” It wasn’t only the weeds that lead the Paschke family to look into crop sequencing. Wheat-on-wheat rotations were resulting in a gradual yield loss, as well as an increase in diseases such as crown rot and rhizoctonia. As well as rotating crops, the Paschke’s have also added sheep into their operation – 1000 Dorper ewes – to increase the profitability of the break year. This means they are in a position where the vetch rotation is about costneutral. “That’s not considering the nitrogen fixation though, and the improved performance the following year, which can add up to big bucks. I haven’t been using the break crops long enough yet


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Mallee Farmer to add that benefit into the payback,” Mr Paschke said. “I can’t say it’s been easy so far, having so many different crops is a lot of work, but with all the benefits in weed control and setting up the farm for the future, I’m convinced it’s the way to go.” Growing a wider variety of crops means Tim and his family spend more time on the sprayer than they used to, with a wider variety of herbicides used and different pests to control. While they use different seeding systems for the different crops, it is more about optimising performance than a necessity.

With the new six-year rotation still in progress, farm-wide results are not yet available; however, the addition of breaks into the rotation has significantly reduced brome grass populations. Following a Lowbank Agricultural Bureau legume trial on their property, Tim has seen wheat after vetch produce 0.5t/ ha higher than wheat after wheat in the same paddock. With the first large-scale wheat-on-vetch growing in 2015, Tim says the crop is looking great.

“We use a disc seeder for the vetch and canola. It causes less soil disturbance which is better for reducing erosion potential and means we can get sheep on earlier. But with the wheat and barley, especially when going into a cereal stubble, we swap to tynes. Tynes allow us to seed through the stubble, meaning we can incorporate trifluralin, and reduces our rhizoctonia risk,” he said.

Snapshot Owners: Tim and Bec Paschke Location: 20km south-east of Waikerie, South Australia Farm size: 4000 hectares Average annual rainfall: 250 millimetres Enterprises: Cropping, Sheep Previous Rotation: Wheat-WheatBarley-Barley Current Rotation: Canola-WheatVetch -Wheat-Barley-Wheat

For More Information Contact Tim Paschke on 08 8541 2739 or visit the GRDC website to learn more about the MSF Crop Sequencing Project: www.grdc.com.au/GC111SCropSequence

Upcoming events Event: Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) Mildura Field Day Date: 02.09.2015 Venue: Mildura TBC This field day will combine presentations with a field walk in the Millewa region. The event will run for half a day (times TBC) and free registration includes morning tea and a bbq lunch. For more details head to the MSF website: www.msfp.org.au/ events

Event: MSF Loxton Field Day Date: 07.10.2015 Venue: Loxton TBC The Loxton field walk day will showcase MSF trials as well as those of our key research partners such as CSIRO. Topics will include break crops (SAGIT), canola management, pastures, sowing strategies, controlled traffic farming, among others.

This field walk day will also include MSF’s Annual General Meeting. Registration is free and includes morning tea and lunch. For more details head to the MSF website: www.msfp.org.au/ events Contact Website: www.msfp.org.au/ events

Contact Website: www.msfp.org.au/events

Farming in Mildura South Photos: Jacinta Gange

Farming in Mildura South Photos: Jacinta Gange

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Mallee Farmer Blake and Barry Edwards at their Murrayville property.

Biodynamic farming in Murrayville By Jacinta Gange, for the Mallee CMA.

Since returning to the family farm in 1980, Barry has seen biodynamic farming move from fringe farming to a strong and profitable niche, with huge opportunity for growth.

With the huge growth in demand for organic and biodynamic produce, Murrayville farmer Barry Edwards is surprised there is not more interest in the sector from farmers in the Mallee. The Edwards’ property was fully-certified for organics and biodynamics in 1986.

“I am surprised more people aren’t trying it, particularly with rising fertilizer and chemical costs and concern about conventional grain prices,” Barry said.

“Organic growing wasn’t something my father saw as an opportunity. He just didn’t like using chemicals – some of our property hasn’t ever had chemical on it,” Barry said.

“Yes, there is a four-year process to get certified, and that does hold people back. But you still generate income in the interim and at the end there is the opportunity for higher and less volatile pricing.”

“It presented me with an opportunity to farm organically, and about that time I saw an ABC television program about Alex Podolinsky (bio-dynamics pioneer). I did some research and felt that was the way to go.”

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Barry has expanded from the original 500 hectares to 2250 and his son, Blake, has now joined him on the farm. They say the organic and biodynamic farming philosophy is about farming with nature and complementing natural cycles, rather than using chemicals to drive productivity and solve problems. “People have preconceived ideas about mobs of lousy sheep and crops full of weeds, but it really couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the same as any farming system – if you do it well, it works,” Barry said.


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Mallee Farmer “It’s really about trusting what nature does and the natural soil partners. “Plants and weeds grow to address a particular deficiency in the soil by absorbing those elements from the atmosphere and sub soil. So you are maintaining the soil health by returning those elements to the soil through the plant or through green manure.” Barry and Blake sowed 1600 hectares of cereals, legumes, vetch and medic this year. Their annual rotations have moved from cereal-pasture-fallow, to incorporating more legumes and vetch to naturally maintain nitrogen levels. They have downsized their involvement with sheep, cutting back from a peak of 800 ewes to about 300. “We want just enough sheep to help us control weeds over summer, but not to dictate our cropping,” Barry said. “When you are doing both, you are always compromising. Fewer sheep means we have bigger green manure crops and therefore more organic matter to plough in.” Fallow is a critical element of the production system, but Barry emphasises the fallow on a well-run organic operation creates little opportunity for erosion. “We don’t use chemicals, so we can’t grow cereals without cultivation. We have to have two germinations of weeds before we feel safe to sow, so we are often later sowing than our neighbors,” Barry said. “We primarily use an offset disc. It buries the green manure and creates clods, whereas tynes tend to bring finer soil to the surface. The extent of the organic matter in our soil means it is cloddy and well-held most of the time. “In the first few years of implementing organics our soil tests showed we went from one third of one percent organic matter to 2.75 percent.” Barry says the evolution of the organics industry has been gratifying as well as providing a positive result for the farm’s bottom line. “In the first seven years, financially we weren’t making as much as our neighbors were because we never had the markup we needed. We weren’t competitive with our neighbors on yield and we were only receiving around $50 extra per tonne on some of our grain,” Barry said. He estimates his farm’s yields in most years are now about 75% of those on conventional properties. “Serious farmers who are doing organics properly are making a good living. Our input costs are half those of our

Barry Edwards examines some grain produced on his family’s property. Photo: Mallee CMA

neighbors, and our price per tonne is excellent,” he said. “You have to keep that in perspective, though, because our neighbors take a crop every year from their paddocks – we grow a crop every second year and run some sheep in between. We may have to go over a paddock up to seven times (from first cultivation to harvest) so our diesel and labor component is much higher, but that is offset in that we don’t spend any money at all on chemicals. “I think organics and biodynamics needs to be seen as a serious alternative to conventional agriculture. But it can’t be just for the lifestyle or the ideals – you have to be making a dollar because there certainly is more risk.”

Snapshot Barry, Fionna and Blake Edwards Location: Murrayville Property size: 2250 hectares Annual rainfall: 326 mm Growing season average rainfall: 216 mm Soil types: Clay-loam/sandy-loam some free lime Enterprises: Biodynamic-organic grain/sheep Crops grown: Wheat, triticale, barley, rye, peas, vetch.

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Mallee Farmer The team from DEDJTR in Horsham using a truck-mounted crane, barrel augur and PVC pipes to collect large, intact soil cores for a very different cropping study.

Digging deep to strengthen core supply Work is continuing on the Soil, Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (SoilFACE) project to assess how crops grown in soils collected from the Wimmera, Mallee, and Western District will respond to future elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (eCO2). By Simone Dalton, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR).

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Getting soil ready for the cropping season has taken on a whole new meaning for the soils research team at Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) Horsham. As well as routine soil sampling and testing and field trial establishment the

team has used a truck-mounted crane, barrel augur and PVC pipes to collect large, intact soil cores for a very different cropping study. The study is part of the six-year-old Soil, Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (SoilFACE) project which is assessing how crops grown in soils collected from


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The team from DEDJTR in Horsham using a truck-mounted crane, barrel augur and PVC pipes to collect large, intact soil cores for a very different cropping study. Photo: DEDJTR.

the Wimmera, Mallee, and Western District will respond to future elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (eCO2). Soils are collected as 105 cm deep, 30 cm diameter cores, weighing up to 150 kg each. These are placed into a series of specially designed bunkers sunk into the ground in a paddock at the SoilFACE project site near Horsham. DEDJTR technical officer Mel Munn said the team had devised a system where intact soil profiles are collected from the ground in PVC sleeves using a crane and barrel augur. “Scientists have an idea and it is up to us technical staff to make it a reality. Being the only experiment of its kind in Australia (and probably the world) when we first extracted the cores back in 2009, it was a case of refining the process though careful planning and a little trial and error,” she said. “Back then we had trouble with the soil not completely filling the pipe and leaving air gaps in the middle that we could not see. We’ve also learned that the soil has to be at the right soil moisture level. “It also took a while to work out how to extract a 1.05 metre deep core and we finally settled on the barrel augur.” Ms Munn said the SoilFACE project had eight bunkers, each with 43 individual cores and this year about 128 cores had been replaced, with 48 from the Mallee soil, 32 from Hamilton and 48 from Horsham. “Some of the caps on the bottom of the old cores had cracked with age and we also collected a few extras to have some

spares ready in case we need them from year to year,” she said. Initially the soil was sourced from Walpeup (Mallee), Horsham (Wimmera) and Hamilton (Western District) but this year the Mallee soil came from Warracknabeal. Ms Munn said it had proven to be an interesting project over the years. “We have gained new insights into how soil and the plants will interact under future climates with high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and what we need to do now to adapt to these changes,” she said.

important in future cropping systems in order to supply extra N needed for succeeding cereal crops but will only be able to fulfil this role if sufficient P is available for N fixation. • Future eCO2 can reduce grain quality (especially protein) but the response depends on the crop type and agronomic management. • Future levels of eCO2 may change soil carbon dynamics (and therefore carbon sequestration) as well as increasing the rate of soil emissions of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas.

What is SoilFACE? SoilFACE is a series of 344 large intact soil cores exposed to both ambient (current) CO2 levels (400 parts per million) and 2050 levels (550 parts per million). SoilFACE aims to better understand how changes in plant growth resulting from elevated CO2 also affects soil properties, such as soil carbon, and phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon cycling and how the eCO2 response changes with different soil types.

Major findings over past six years: • Increased above and below-ground crop biomass requires more N and P inputs for crops to take advantage of the ‘CO2 fertilisation’ effect. • This increased requirement for N must be met by increased rates of fertiliser as fertiliser N use efficiency is not changed under eCO2. • Legumes may also become

Acknowledgements SoilFACE is part of joint Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and DEDJTR research on the impact of future CO2.

Find out more

Contact the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) in Horsham on 5381 2762.

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Prestigious honour for Mallee man Long-serving soil health advocate, Dr John Cooke, has been awarded the most prestigious honour La Trobe University can bestow on an individual. By Lauren Murphy, Mallee CMA. Dr Cooke has been awarded an honorary doctorate of science in recognition of his contribution and leadership in the fields of the environment, water and salinity, and his contribution to the community. “This award is recognition of what we – government agencies and the community – have achieved by working together in bringing about change in agricultural practices, in areas such as conservation tillage and salinity,” Dr Cooke said. “When you look back and see what has been achieved, there’s no better example than earlier this year – it was a very dry year and there was very little dust arising from cultivated paddocks. “The changes in soil management across our region are significant and, importantly, the community ownership of soil conservation means there remains strong community support for the sensible management of the natural resources in northern Victoria.” Born and raised in Ouyen, Dr Cooke was encouraged to set his sights on attending university by the local Member of Parliament, Milton Whiting OAM. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Melbourne University in 1972 with a major in botany and genetics. Dr Cooke joined the Soil Conservation Authority in 1973 and it was then that his life’s work in natural resource management began. Based in Charlton and then Bendigo, Dr Cooke commenced working on soils

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The February 1986 edition of Land Link included an article with Dr John Cooke about the importance of stubble retention on fallow.


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Dr John Cooke and La Trobe University’s Dr Deb Neal, Head of Campus at Mildura, at the award presentation. Photo: Mallee CMA

conservation throughout central and north west Victoria. He completed his Doctor of Philosophy thesis titled Relationship Between Soil Management and Long-term Productivity of Cropping Soils at La Trobe University’s School of Agriculture in 1985. Throughout his career of nearly 40 years with the Victorian Public Service, Dr Cooke continued to undertake research, publish papers and present at conferences. He has put his name to over thirty conference proceedings and published articles on topics as diverse as opportunities to reduce dryland salting in south eastern Australia; the control of a pest animal (rabbit) in an arid environment; and sustainable irrigation development in the Mallee. Dr Cooke has held senior management positions and been a leader in the fields of environmental land and water management, salinity and irrigation, where he led change in efficient water management in the southern Murray Darling Basin. His success has been driven by the strategic linkages he developed with key stakeholders, including rural water authorities, local, state and federal government, private

developers and Catchment Management Authorities. Dr Cooke was a member of the South Australia-Victoria Border Groundwater Advisory Review Committee from 20052013 and has been a board member of the Mallee Catchment Management Authority since 2013. Looking back on the years he has spent working in the Mallee, Dr Cooke says the advances in soil management practices have been considerable. “When the floods went through Charlton in 2010/11, the water that came of those hills was clean; we didn’t lose the topsoil like we would have in 1973 and that was due to the way people had adopted conservation tillage methods,” he said. “This is true across the region -- the cropping soils of the Mallee and the redbrown earth of northern Victoria are now protected from the erosive forces of wind and water respectively. “The yields from the wheat crops on the sand hills of the Mallee, are now comparable or better than those of the intervening swales. “The yields of crops on the red-brown

earths of the northern slopes and plains are much improved. Salinity processes are understood and are being well managed.” Dr Cooke also lists the installation of the Northern and Southern Mallee Pipelines, together with other smaller pipelines across the region, among the highlights of his career. “These pipelines have delivered better water quality, greater water use efficiency and made it possible to get rid of old channels to allow larger areas to be cultivated,” he said. Dr Cooke, who has been a member of La Trobe University’s Mildura Regional Advisory Board since its inception in 1995, remains committed to education in rural communities. “I’ve always recognised the importance of trying to recruit the best, smartest, young people and encourage them to use science to address a range of key questions central to the future of our region,” he said. Dr Cooke was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) by the Deputy Chancellor of La Trobe University Mr Andrew Eddy on 23 April 2015.

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Looking at Landcare in the Mallee To Donald Cooper there is little separation between agriculture, Landcare and community and it’s a conviction that apparently resonates with many in the south eastern Mallee. By Terry Gange, for Mallee CMA. Donald Cooper farms at Nullawil and has spent nearly 20 years as the secretary and treasurer of his local Landcare group, which, despite the area’s declining population base, is one of the Mallee’s most active. He’s also on the historical society, the progress association and the footy club, as “pretty much everyone is”. “I think everyone here understands that conservation practices flow into farming practices and vice-versa – and all of the principles that underpin that flow through to the whole community,” Donald said. “Every farmer in the district is an active member of Landcare and the level of cooperation and support is really high. We have junior Landcare, community plantings, vermin control and every farmer has done tree plantings and fencing of remnant vegetation. “I think in a practical sense you really come to understand how it all fits when we have seasons like we had last year.” Although much of north-west Victoria enjoyed a reasonable 2014 season, for areas around Nullawil, it was a grim year, with virtually no rain after the Autumn break. “The costs are the same whether you are growing two bags to the acre or two tonnes to the acre, and unfortunately last year it was at the two bags end,” Donald said. “But you have to front up and do it all again and that’s when it’s so important that you have that sense of all being in it together as a community.”

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Donald Cooper of Nullawil.

Donald Cooper of Nullawil. Photo: Jacinta Gange.

Donald runs a combination of conventional and no till farming methods depending on the season, his weed loading, prices and input costs. He grows wheat, barley, vetch and canola (when he has soil moisture in December) and fattens sheep on stubble over summer when the opportunity presents. He also plants no-till vetch as a nitrogen fixing crop to diversify his opportunities for a return, grazing ewes and lambs if there is insufficient rain to finish the crop. His own farming operation is evidence of his deep belief in Landcare and his optimism for the future of farming in the Mallee. There are large areas of fenced remnant vegetation and mass plantings of native trees, from new seedlings to 15 year old trees, along fencelines and as extensive wildlife corridors. His property forms part of one of the major undertakings of the south eastern Mallee Landcare groups – a bio-link connecting the Tyrrell Creek to the Lalbert Creek

to protect endangered species including the Regent Parrot, Plains Wanderer and Bushstone Curlew. “I am very positive about the future – I’m a born optimist – but you have to approach it with a view to being sustainable in your rotations, inputs and decisions,” Donald said. Sustainability is something the local Landcare groups have also grappled with. Now with a population of around 150, four years ago Nullawil banded with five other district groups to form the South Eastern Mallee Landcare Network. Nullawil, Birchip, Lalbert, Culgoa and Berriwillock groups combined forces to retain the ongoing services of one full-time Landcare Facilitator. They’ve now evolved that concept further and pioneered a unique privatised Landcare model to adapt again to changing needs and circumstances.


The

Mallee Farmer

Donald Cooper of Nullawil. Photo: Jacinta Gange.

“As a network, from this financial year we would have been funded for a Landcare Facilitator for two days a week, which we felt we couldn’t do enough with,” Donald says. “So we have teamed with a local company, TMC Enviro, which works in the environmental services field, doing fencing, pest control and land rehabilitation,” he says.

“TMC will fund the position for three days a week, and through Landcare, we pick up the other two days. We think it’s a good fit that will give a great outcome for the community. “It’s a community-focused and communitydriven outcome that we think will certainly be a model that groups elsewhere will be able to take up.”

Find out more

To find out more about Landcare in the Victorian Mallee, contact Regional Landcare Coordinator Kevin Chaplin at the Mallee CMA on 0428 370 175.

Snapshot The Cooper property Owners: Cooper family Location: Nullawil Annual Rainfall: 373 mm Growing Season Average Rainfall: 216 mm Soil types: Sandy/clay loam Enterprises: Grain production/sheep fattening Crops grown: Wheat, barley, peas, vetch, canola

13


The

Mallee Farmer

Pied Butcherbird. Photo courtesy Ian J Muirhead.

Watering a waterhole at Watchupga By Susan Saris, Mallee CMA.

Glenys is a retired dryland farmer who has a strong connection with the local landscape and she is passionate about the restoration of a waterhole on her land, situated 30 kilometres north of Birchip at Watchupga. During the 2010/2011 flood, Glenys had a chance to fly over her property and the waterhole. She says what she saw

14

A waterhole at Watchupga is proving to be a beautiful and restorative sanctuary for native birds and local resident Glenys Rickard. “proved to me what adding water could do to rejuvenate a landscape.”

Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH).

Glenys’ waterhole is connected to the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline and it is one of six in the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) region to receive environmental water during 2014-15. This water was provided through entitlements held by the

Glenys says the waterhole’s transformation has been extraordinary. Black Box saplings are emerging and many birds are foraging for food and breeding at the site. Survey work undertaken at Glenys’ waterhole has revealed the site attracts a diverse range


The

Mallee Farmer of waterbirds and has recorded the presence of the near threatened Brown Treecreeper. Glenys said she finds the waterhole a peaceful place, which she enjoys visiting and taking the time to sit and listen to the birds. In particular she enjoys listening to the beautiful flute-like song of the Pied Butcherbird. Glenys finds the combination of the birds singing and the physical landscape come together to create moments which are utterly magical. She said it makes her feels good about the effort put into restoring

this small patch of habitat and she feel that it is as Mother Nature intended. Glenys said the environmental watering and tree planting on nearby land has generated some really interesting conversations with her neighbours. “We are all interested in looking after remnants of land that may not be productive farm land, but can be restored to provide valuable refuge habitat for local animals,� she said. The waterhole is currently drying out but has been included for consideration in the 2015-16 VEWH Seasonal Plan, for a spring allocation.

Acknowledgements In the Mallee CMA region, the delivery of environmental water to wetlands connected to the Southern Mallee Pipeline is coordinated by the Mallee CMA in partnership with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water.

Find out more Contact Louise Searle at the Mallee CMA on 03 5051 4377.

Waterhole at Watchupga. Photo courtesy Brian Lea.

Upcoming events Event: BCG Main Field Day Date: 09.09.2015 Start Time: 09:00 End Time: 17:00 Venue: BCG main research site, Berriwillock-Springfield Road, Berriwillock The BCG Main Field Day is a signature event which encourages growers to

visit the research trials and discuss the treatments and visual differences with key BCG staff and leading agricultural professionals. The event is held in spring time as this is when the research trials are at their peak condition, making the visual effects most dominant. The day also allows growers and consultants to learn about new strategies and discuss options for in-season issues, and ways to best manage and optimise crop yield and harvest.

Contact Name: Ciara Cullen Contact Email Address: ciara@bcg.org. au Contact Phone: 03 5492 2787 Contact Website: http://www.bcg.org.au/ cb_pages/bcg_main_field_day_general_ information.php Members: 0.00 Non-members: 50.00

15


The

Mallee Farmer

Weed management strategies to address herbicide resistance in the southern Mallee A study conducted at Yaapeet to evaluate control of herbicide resistant weeds presents some interesting findings. By Roy Latta, Dodgshun Medlin

There are progressive increases in herbicide resistance associated with the use of both selective and non-selective herbicides. With this in mind a research project was established at Yaapeet in 2014 to evaluate and demonstrate chemical options to control wild radish in field peas and annual grasses in canola. There was an identified level of chemical groups B, C and I resistance in the wild radish population, groups A, B and M in the annual rye grass.

Wild radish control in field peas Sown on 15 May 2014 the treatments applied were a comparison of no herbicide with three pre-emergent herbicide treatments described as: • District practice: Trifluralin @ 1.5 L/ ha + Lexone @ 180 ml/ha, • Best practice: Trifluralin @ 1.5 L/ha + Terbyne @ 1 kg/ha and • Alternative: Edge @ 1 L/ha + Trifluralin @ 1 L/ha + Terbyne @ 1 kg/ha

Emerging annual ryegrass within monitoring zone. Photo: Roy Latta

All pre-emergent treatments had a postemergent herbicide, Brodal @180 ml/ha + MCPA 750 @ 100 ml/ha, AMS 1% + Select @ 500 ml/ha + Verdict @ 35 ml/ ha + Uptake @ 0.5% applied on 2 July. All pre-emergent herbicide treatments reduced wild radish populations in 2014 and increased the field pea grain yield. Regenerated wild radish plants established in 2015 were generally lower as a result of 2014 pre-emergent herbicides and brown manuring.

Annual grass control in canola Sown on 15 May 2014 with 3 canola lines, TT, Imi and Roundup Ready (RR). Apart from 1 TT line that had no herbicide applied all 3 canola lines had each of three pre-emergent herbicides applied: • Trifluralin @ 1.5 L/ha, (treatments 2, 5, 7 and 10) • Trifluralin @1.5 L/ha + Avadex @ 2 l/ha (treatments 3, 6, 8 and 11) and • Trifluralin @ 1.0 L/ha + Edge @ 1 L/ha (treatments 4, 9 and 12).

Table 1 In response to 2014 pre-emergent herbicide applications wild radish (plants/m2) on 7 August 2014, 2014 field pea grain yields (t/ha) and regenerated (plants/m2) in crop on 2 July 2015 following both the 2014 herbicide applications and spring 2014 desiccation (brown manuring)

Treatments Nil Herbicide + brown manured District practise + brown manured Best practise + brown manured Alternative

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Wild radish 2014 25

Grain yield 0.28

5

0.52

4

0.55

4

0.47

Wild radish 2015 124 84 77 52 61 51 58


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Mallee Farmer Table 2 Annual grass (ryegrass and brome) plant numbers (plants/m2) on 7 August 2014, in crop on 2 July 2015 and 2014 canola grain yields (t/ha) in response to 2014 pre- and post-emergent herbicide applications

Line TT TT Imi Imi RR

Treatment 1 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 7 8, 9 10, 11, 12

Rye grass 2014 Brome grass 2014 29 12 <1 <1 6 2.6 <1 <1 1 0

Grain yield 0.7 1 0.7 0.9 1.1

Rye grass 2015 Brome grass 2015 157 84 26 7 68 56 33 9 33 8 Both the TT line (treatment 1) with no pre-emergent and one Imi line (treatment 7) received no post-emergent herbicide application. The other TT and Imi lines (treatments 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9) had AMS 1% + Select @ 500 ml/ha + Verdict @ 30 ml/ha + Lontrol @ 100 ml/ha + Uptake 1% plus Atrazine @ 1.1 kg/ha or Terbyne @ 1.1 kg/ha (TT line treatments 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) or Intervix @ 300 ml/ha (Imi line treatments 8 and 9) on 2 July. The RR line (treatments 10, 11 and 12) had AMS 1% + Roundup Ready @ 900 g/ha applied twice, 18 June and 10 July. In 2014 the pre-emergent herbicide, trifluralin, reduced grass from 41 to 9 plants/m2 (Treatment 7 compared to treatment 1) and post-emergent chemicals reduced populations to 1 or less (compared to treatment 7) and increased grain yields by approximately 30%. Comparative population density differences were repeated in the 2015 crop. The group C pre-emergent chemicals (Lexone and Terbyne) achieved 2014 wild radish control, but the addition of the group D chemical (Edge) did not improve the control. Trifluralin controlled annual grasses and coupled with 500 ml of Select or Glyphosate (the RR line) reduced populations to less than 1 plant/m2, indicating little evidence of resistance to the chemical groups C in the wild radish, A or M in the annual grass.

Wild radish in a 2015 wheat demonstration crop.Photo: Roy Latta

Acknowledgements This project was supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s National Landcare Programme.

Find out more

The two trials have demonstrated successful weed control with both district and best practice herbicide strategies. However, the trials confirmed that a single yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s control of wild radish or annual grass, supported by spring dessication, does not extend adequate control into year two.

Contact Roy Latta from Dodgshun Medlin on 0475813040 or email RLatta@ dodgshunmedlin.com.au www.dodgshunmedlin.com.au

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The

Mallee Farmer

Testing the Controlled Traffic Technical Manual The recently launched Controlled Traffic Technical Manual has some great information relevant to controlled traffic practices in the Victorian Mallee. By Glen Sutherland, Regional Landcare Facilitator, Mallee CMA. One of the benefits of belonging to the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme and being one of the 56 Regional Landcare Facilitators in Australia is sometimes being “in the know” about what is happening in far flung places and being able to identify work that may be relevant and useful to our region. A fine example of this is the recently launched Controlled Traffic Technical Manual, which hails from the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council, based out of Geraldton in Western Australia. Our regions share much in common when comparing dryland agriculture cropping industries, soil types and climate. Even though the manual comes

from the other side of our continent, the authors are well known over here in the east and include Bindi Isbister, Paul Blackwell, Glen Riethmuller, Stephen Davies, Andrew Whitlock and Tim Neale. Mallee Farmer asked Darryl Pearl, Land Management Extension Officer, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, to take a look at the manual with a view to determine its appropriateness for use in the Victorian Mallee. Darryl kindly provided the following review: “I have read through the manual and it has great points and insight into the benefits and issues in regards to controlled traffic farming (CTF). It would be a good tool for Mallee farmers to use when considering moving to CTF. The Innovation in Crop project and the GRDC funded CTF in low rainfall project will help add more local information for farmers on CTF.”

Acknowledgements The Regional Landcare Facilitator Programme is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

For more information To find out more about the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council and to download a copy of the manual visit: http://nacc.com. au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ NACC_Controlled_Traffic_ Farming_Technical_Manual.pdf

Ray Dalton, local farmer takes a look at the Controlled Traffic Technical Manual. Photo: Glen Sutherland

18


The

Mallee Farmer

Bees at work. Photo: Mallee CMA.

Importance of managing the risks to bees Bees provide a substantial service to our agriculture and horticulture industries through crop pollination; however, we need to remember they are sensitive to agricultural chemicals. By By Alex Perera, Chemical Standards Officer, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR), Epsom. Inappropriate use of agricultural chemicals can result in significant damage to bee colonies, and may also be illegal under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992. Bees are particularly sensitive to the class of chemicals called ‘neonicotinoids’. These chemicals act on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the nervous system of insects. In Australia, the use of these chemicals is currently under review by the

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), which is the federal department responsible for registering agricultural chemicals in Australia. Chemicals toxic to bees contain label statements under ‘Protection of Livestock’ indicating the risk the chemical could pose to bees, for example ‘DO NOT spray any plants in flower while bees are foraging.’ It is a legal requirement that all ‘DO NOT’ statements on a product label are observed and complied with. Some products also contain details of ‘how to’ manage the risks to bees, for example ‘Spray in the early morning when bees are not actively foraging.’

between chemical users and apiarists who may be operating in the area. Chemical users should also ensure pesticides do not drift from the target area and, wherever possible, use a pesticide formulation and application method that minimises the potential for harm to bees.

For more information To find out more information visit http://www.depi.vic.gov. au/agriculture-and-food/farmmanagement/chemical-use or contact the DEDJTR Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

The most effective way for chemical users to manage the possible risks to bees is to ensure communication channels are open and unrestricted

19


The

Mallee Farmer

New ideas the key to farming in Werrimull By Jacinta and Terry Gange, for the Mallee CMA.

Ian Arney’s farming philosophy is based on diversity and a willingness to trial new ideas – an approach that’s enabling him to manage risk and adapt to the climatic realities of farming in the low-rainfall Millewa.

Ian Arney at his Werrimull property. Photo: Jacinta Gange.

The Arney property at Werrimull combines a broad mix of grain crops and a 3500-head sheep feedlot, providing Ian with the flexibility he needs to adapt to seasonal conditions and be opportunistic about profitability. “Farming is really a constant learning curve. Looking for information to try to make your life easier and performance better and reducing risks, because the risks farmers take every day are so huge,” Ian said. “You have to make money, you have to enjoy what you are doing, and you have to be incredibly flexible. Those are the

20

three things I think that you need to be considering all the time.”

years before moving into direct drill methods about 14 years ago.

That approach has underpinned Ian’s farm management and has seen his farming model evolve considerably since returning to the family property about 20 years ago.

“I was doing a lot of crop-on-crop so I reduced sheep numbers from about 1000 ewes, back to about 300 and used them as a grazing tool. But two years ago, I went back to high sheep numbers because of good prices and the opportunity they offered to spread our risk.”

In an average season, Ian will have up to 10 varieties of crop on his 3200 hectare property and estimates it would be 12 years since he went into a season “without a new variety of something”. Ian moved from conventional sheep and grain farming to minimum till for several

This year Ian says he has about 1600 lambs and 700 ewes on the property, but has sown more crop than ever. “I buy and sell opportunistically which is something I have not done a lot of in the past,” he said.


The

Mallee Farmer “But again, it does give me flexibility. If grain prices aren’t great, I put the grain through the sheep, rather than sell it for what it costs to produce.” He says the sheep have helped profitability, but are also a better tool than he could ever have imagined in controlling summer weeds. “A feedlot operation is not expensive to get into as long as nothing goes wrong,” Ian said. “You can make money out of it, but there is high risk and a huge amount of work and commitment because you should be monitoring and working with the sheep seven days a week. “I think the method is one we will stick with, though, because it’s the first one in

a long time that’s given me a net return.”

that isn’t performing.”

Ian has carried a strong commitment to Landcare since he started farming and is currently president of the Millewa group. He’s planted thousands of trees, including completing a wildlife corridor that runs along the full length of his property – a distance of approximately 4.5 km.

Finding a balance is also something Ian and his wife, Jane, also considered when they moved their young family off the farm to live in Mildura several years ago.

Ian is committed to sustainable farming principles as one factor in a balanced decision-making process.

“The drive to and from work has actually made it much easier to stay in touch socially. Mobile phones have made a huge difference and I use that time to catch up with people or follow up messages people have left during the day,” he said.

“I went back to conventional farming some small areas last year, because there are some spots that just don’t perform unless the soil has been turned over. It seems to be working and I will do the same again next year anywhere

Jane teaches locally and Ian now does the 40-minute commute to work each day.

“As much as I love farming, you can work seven days a week as many hours as you like and there are still so many things to do. “Season-wise, things can get pretty bad around here, and in those years it’s nice to be able to actually physically drive off the place after the day.”

Snapshot Ian Arney Location: Werrimull Farm Size: 3200 hectares Annual Rainfall: 285 mm Growing Season Average Rainfall: 185 mm Soil types: Sandy loam, limestone, grey flats Enterprises: Grain production/sheep feedlot Crops grown: Wheat (3 varieties); barley (2 varieties); oats (2 varieties); field peas; vetch Ian Arney at his Werrimull property.

Upcoming events Event: MSF Karoonda Field Day Date: 01.09.2015 Start Time: 10:00 End Time: 15:30 Venue: Karoonda. This is MSF’s main field day and will showcase the majority of our trial work, along with that of our research partners

such as CSIRO and SARDI. Topics highlighted during the day include sowing strategies, demonstration of the ProTrakker (implement guidance system), weed management, pastures in Mallee farming systems, nutrient cycling and soil pH among others. Key trial funders are GRDC, SAGIT, SAMDBNRM, and CSIRO. Guest speakers will include John Kirkegaard (CSIRO), Rick Llewellyn and Therese

McBeath (CSIRO), Sean Mason (University of Adelaide), Andrew Bird (SANTFA) among others. Registration is free and includes morning tea, barbecue lunch and field day booklet. Contact Website: www.msfp.org.au/ events

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The

Mallee Farmer

Aerial shoot reduces grazing pressure on parks Parks Victoria recently carried out an aerial goat control program in Murray Sunset National Park. The aerial cull is the latest weapon in a bid to reduce the population of feral goats as part of the Mallee parks restoration program that has been underway since the early 1990s. By Brendan Rodgers, Parks Victoria. Feral goats are known to cause significant damage to native woodlands and prevent regeneration of woodland species such as the threatened Buloke and Slender Cypress-pine. These vegetation communities are the most degraded in the Mallee, with some areas not seeing any natural regeneration

The team involved in the aerial culling program, taken at Linga Air Base. Photo: Parks Victoria.

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for more than 100 years. These native woodlands provide habitat for threatened species such as Major Mitchell Cockatoos and White-browed Treecreepers. Feral goats also impact on the endangered Malleefowl through competition for habitat.

from New South Wales by Parks Victoria. Satellite tracking collars were attached to seven â&#x20AC;&#x153;Judasâ&#x20AC;? goats and released into remote areas of the park to assist with locating mobs from the air. After three and a half days, 459 goats had been culled.

The aim of the aerial goat control program was to reduce the number of goats in the park and trial the effectiveness of aerial culling as a control method. An experienced professional helicopter shooting team was contracted

Due to the remote locations of the goats that were culled, an aerial operation was the only effective way to get to these goats. Removing goats from these areas is an important step in protecting and restoring the Mallee


The

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landscape as a whole and ensuring that MSNP Aerial Control Program goatGoat numbers do not rapidly expand by ignoring the goats that are more difficult to get to. Goat populations can double every year if left unmanaged. Parks Victoria will evaluate the success of this program, learn from any areas that can be improved and consider all this information when planning how to control goats in the Murray Sunset National Park and other Mallee parks into the future. .000000

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“This is the first time aerial shooting has been trialled in the Victorian Mallee,” Parks Victoria Project Co-ordinator Brendan Rodgers said.

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Acknowledgements

For more information

The aerial cull was carried out as part of the broader plan to restore 80,000 hectares of semi-arid woodlands as part of the $3 million Mallee Biofund project supported by the Federal Government.

For further information on this program, contact Brendan Rodgers, Parks Victoria on 5051 4648.

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“Based on the number of sightings of goats, we are pleased that the range of things we have been doing over recent years – trapping, closing water points, fencing and ground shooting with the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) -- have led to a reduction in the number of goats since the last survey in 2012. “This means that the aerial culling, in conjunction with these other control methods, will make a significant difference to the health of the park. “We will continue with the range of control methods, working with the SSAA and monitoring goat numbers and impacts. The information we gain from this will help us plan the actions we take over time to control goat numbers.”

Aerial image of goats in Murray Sunset National Park. Photo: Parks Victoria.

23


The

Mallee Farmer

Understanding snail management Snails are now a significant pest in many areas in Southern Australia…improved farming systems that increase organic matter, improve soil moisture, reduce soil disturbance and soil temperatures have helped increase snail numbers.

Snails in a crop. Photo: Northern and Yorke Regional Landcare Facilitator.

By Michael Richards, Northern and Yorke Regional Landcare Facilitator. Snails were introduced into Australia in ballast and dunnage in sailing vessels. Snails have made their way from coastal ports along roads or railway lines and have also been transported direct to farm and from farm to farm via goods, produce and movement of machinery and vehicles. Occasionally snails have been spread by flood waters. Snails are

24

now a significant pest in many areas in Southern Australia; especially in areas where calcium is freely available. Improved farming systems that increase organic matter, improve soil moisture, reduce soil disturbance and soil temperatures have assisted with increasing snail numbers.

Summary • The best snail managers have a strong understanding of snail behavior (e.g. numbers present, when snails are moving and location of areas where there are high snail populations);

• Snail control is best achieved when it is an integrated part of the farming system; • Relative humidity is the most important factor for snail activity (snails will move in the summer autumn period when relative humidity is above 90%); • It is easier to assess snail numbers when snails are active. That is when relative humidity is high (dew on the ground- early in the morning, or during showers); • Check paddock borders for snails in late winter so you can develop


The

Mallee Farmer harvest strategies to reduce risk of contaminated grain. Identify paddocks and paddock areas where snails are high. Do not apply snail bait less than 60 days prior to harvest; • Try to harvest snail infested areas when as many snails as possible are below the cutting height; • Stripper fronts are the most effective way of reducing snail intake into the harvester, when there is sufficient crop bulk to prevent front losses.

Snail movement during harvest • Snails tend to be towards the top of cereal plants around flowering time; • Snails will move down to the ground during harvest, with showers or high humidity; • Snails will move up to the crop head with increased temperatures; • Snails will stay on and around green plants during harvest and the summer period.

Grain cleaning options • The snail crusher grain roller is the most effective and efficient way to ensure snail free grain. It can be used with most grain types, ensuring the gap between the rollers is adjusted to minimise grain damage. Twenty and forty tonne per hour units are available.

Snail control options post-harvest • Spray out green weeds as soon as possible to reduce survival of snails over the summer autumn period; • If there is sufficient plant bulk and soil cover, a second pass of the harvester with minimal rotor

opening in January or February during hot conditions when snails are up and stubbles are brittle, will significantly increase snail mortality over the summer autumn period.

Tips to improve snail control We currently have a high dependence on bait to control snails. The main factors farmers should consider to improving bait performance are: • Timing of application. Snails are active at 90% Relative Humidity in the summer/autumn period. Snails are active when there is enough dew or rain to change the colour of the soil surface. Hand spread a small area of bait to see if snails are feeding, check bait regularly, especially after periods of high humidity; • Ensure it is easy to find baits by browning out weeds prior to applying bait in the February to April period; • Ensure an even bait distribution across bait swath. Check the number of bait pellets across the swath and adjust spreader settings as required. Snail bait will not throw as wide as urea, so keep spreading widths narrower. • Match bait rates to the number of snails present (e.g. 10 kg of meta type baits in medium snail populations). Check for live snails six days after application and reapply bait as required. Meta type baits will last around 14 days in March. Metarex will last around 30 days in these conditions. Snail control can also be improved by reducing stubble height. A second pass

of the harvester is the most effective method in cereal stubble, as it mulches the stubble without increasing the amount of horizontal straw. Snails tend to use horizontal straw as a roadway, keeping snails off the soil surface and bait. Rolling canola stubble before applying bait will increase snail movement and snail mortality. This is especially important when baiting conical snails in canola stubble. Keep in mind when controlling conical snails, many of them may become active later than round snails, ensuring the need for a second bait application to achieve good mortality. Investigation of non-chemical snail control options are currently underway including the use of radiation (microwaves) and superheated steam, as is investigation of biological control, both including importation of parasitic flies from areas where the snails originated (CSIRO) and the effects of soil borne pathogens such as ciliates (University of Melbourne).

Acknowledgements The Regional Landcare Facilitator Programme is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

For more information Contact Michael Richards, Northern and Yorke Regional Landcare Facilitator on 0427 547 052; contact SARDI Entomology 08 83039537; visit the On Farm Facebook group at   https://www.facebook.com/ groups/113788338706121/ or scan the QR code provided.

A snail roller machine. Photo: Northern and Yorke Regional Landcare Facilitator.

25


The

Mallee Farmer

New incentives for Mallee farmers On-ground work including weed control and stock exclusion fencing are among the eligible activities in a new round of incentives available to Mallee landholders in target areas. By Gareth Lynch, Mallee CMA. Incentives are now available for landholders in target areas to undertake on-ground works such as weed control and stock exclusion fencing. Habitat surveys are also available to help landholders learn more about native flora and fauna on their land. To be eligible, works must be carried out in the Connecting Mallee Parks, Wathe or Avoca target areas, as shown in maps one, two and three. Landholders can apply for incentives by lodging an Expression of Interest by 4 September 2015.

What makes these target areas significant? The Connecting Mallee Parks target area was selected to help improve connections of suitable habitat between the Murray Sunset and Wyperfeld National Parks, the Big Desert State Forest and the Big Desert Wilderness Park. The Wathe and Avoca target areas have been selected because they provide important habitat for threatened species listed under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).

Connecting Mallee Parks target area – Improving connections between the Murray Sunset and Wyperfeld National Parks The Connecting Mallee Parks target area covers predominantly dryland farming land in the west of the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) region. It is broken up into two sites. One site takes in Galah and Walpeup, while the other site takes in Underbool, Linga, Boinka, Tutye, Cowangie, and Murrayville. The two sites include the following parishes: Koonda, Woatwoara, Purnya, Tyalla, Boinka, Tutye, Danyo, Gunamalary, Worooa,

26

Wymlet, Kulkwyne, Tiega, Paignie, Walpeup, Timberoo, Baring North, and Patchewollock (see map 1). The target area contains Buloke woodlands, which are listed as an endangered community under the EPBC Act. This area is also significant as it provides a connection between Murray Sunset and Wyperfeld National Parks, Big Desert State Forest, and Big Desert Wilderness Park. These parks provide important refuges for nationally listed species such as the Malleefowl, the Black-eared Miner, and the Redlored Whistler. While the area between the parks has been mostly cleared for agriculture, significant patches of vegetation still remain on roadsides, private land and public reserves.

Avoca and Wathe target areas - protecting and enhancing threatened communities and species The Avoca target area covers 378,700 hectares of mainly dryland farming area in the south-east of the Mallee CMA region, taking in Birchip, Sea Lake, Lake Tyrell, Wahpool and Timboram. Within these areas, on-ground works will focus on protecting and enhancing Buloke Woodlands, Chariot Wheels, Slender Darling-pea, Plains Wanderer, Regent Parrot, and Malleefowl which are all listed under the EPBC Act. The Wathe target area incorporates Wathe and Paradise Flora and Fauna Reserves and Patchewollock State Forest. Farming is the predominant land use in the north-west, southwest, and central-east of the target area. The Wathe target area provides important habitat for a number of threatened species which depend on mallee vegetation for their survival. It provides breeding and feeding sites for the Malleefowl and food for the Regent Parrot, which feeds on native herbs and grass seeds.

Eligible activities Incentives are available to landholders for the following activities: • Stock exclusion fencing; • Control of Weeds of National Significance (WONS); • Habitat assessments.

Stock exclusion fencing Incentives are available to landholders within the target areas for fencing patches of vegetation to protect these areas from stock. Funding of up to $6.50 per metre of fencing will be available to landholders to contribute towards the costs of materials and labour. Landholders can undertake the fencing themselves or source a contractor using the incentive provided. Fencing must be completed by 6 May, 2016. Incentives will be paid upon satisfactory completion of the works.

Control of Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) Funding is available to assist landholders with the control of Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) for the protection of important vegetation communities. WoNS to be targeted under this program include Bridal Creeper, Prickly Pear (erect and drooping), Wheel Cactus, Hudson Pear, Athel Pine, Boneseed and African Boxthorn. The cost of initial control works will be reimbursed to the landholder. Landholders can undertake control of WoNS themselves or alternatively, source a contractor using the incentive provided. WoNS control works must be completed by 6 May, 2016. Incentives will be paid upon satisfactory completion of the works.


The

Mallee Farmer

Map 1. The Wathe target area. Map: Mallee CMA.

Map 2. The Connecting Mallee Parks target area. Map: Mallee CMA.

Habitat assessments Through habitat assessments, landholders can learn about native flora and fauna on their private land. Surveys can detect the presence of native and non-native plants and animals, including rare/threatened species. Experts can use the information gathered through the surveys to provide suggestions on how to manage native habitat on private land to protect rare/threatened species. The Mallee CMA will arrange a suitably qualified contractor to conduct the habitat assessments.

How do I apply for incentives? Landholders can apply for incentives by completing an Expression of Interest form, available from the Mallee CMA website at www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

Map 3. The Avoca target area. Map: Mallee CMA.

For more information

Acknowledgements

For further information on incentives contact the following MCMA Project Officers

The Mallee Biodiversity Incentive Program is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Government. The incentive program within the Avoca and Wathe target areas is supported by the Mallee CMA, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

• Wathe and Avoca target areas Cameron Flowers 0427 509 663 • Connecting Mallee Parks target area Derrick Boord 0428 316 146 Expressions of interest close 4 September 2015.

27


The

Mallee Farmer

Innovations in cropping systems - a project update By Darryl Pearl, Land Management Extension Officer, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources. The Innovations in Cropping Systems Project is demonstrating innovative practices of Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) and Subsoil Manuring (SSM). This project is investigating the benefits of CTF from a nearest neighbour approach and the practice of SSM through paddock demonstration sites. Twenty four sites across Victoria are being monitored for yield, crop and plant biomass, soil physical property changes and modelling from satellite imagery. Successful field days were run during 2014 and will continue throughout the 2015 season.

This article provides an update on the Innovations in Cropping Systems Project, which was featured in Edition 8 of the Mallee Farmer. Prior to harvest, dry matter cuts were taken at all sites. For example, at Nowie (Figure 2), the dry matter biomass was greatest in the CTF ‘off track’ as compared to ‘on track’ and the non-CTF paddock. Estimated grain yield was determined from the grain collected from these samples and a similar pattern for yield was observed. In paddock, yield monitor along a 1.6km strip showed the CTF paddock yielding at 3 t/ha and 2.5t/ ha for the conventional paddock.

the wheel tracks and in the non-CTF paddocks, soil was collected from random sites across the paddock.

Soil water status was collected prior to sowing 2015. On the CTF paddocks, soil was collected both ‘on’ and ‘off’

Figure 3 shows that at Mittyack, in the top 50cm of soil, the difference in soil moisture may be due to compaction on the wheel tracks and in the non-CTF paddock. This compaction is likely to be causing a lower rate of infiltration, lending to greater evaporation of water from the soil surface. The spike in soil moisture at the 70cm depth on the ‘CTF on wheel’ line suggests that it may have a different soil texture at depth, or there may be an issue with the sample data.

Figure 2: 2014 harvest biomass and estimated grain yield at Nowie paired paddocks

Figure 3: Mittyack soil water status (April 2015)

Controlled Traffic Farming In 2014 information was collected from MODIS satellite imagery to assess any apparent differences in biomass between the CTF paddock and its paired conventional paddock. Results suggest that biomass was the same when considering paddock pairs only under wheat. Yield information from growers (20082014) was collected for nine CTF paddocks and the associated paired paddocks growing wheat (Figure 1). The data suggests the yields from the CTF paddocks tended to be slightly higher than the conventional paddocks. These results suggest that the biomass amounts are the same for the two farming systems.

Figure 1: Results of comparisons of the grower reported yields (for paired paddocks in the same crop) under conventional and CTF systems from 2008 - 2014.

28


The

Mallee Farmer

Subsoil manuring

Prior to the 2014 harvest, dry matter cuts were taken in the SSM treatment and control. Table 2 shows spring biomass and estimated yields (from plant cuts at harvest). Spring biomass production showed promise at most sites. However, the tight finish affected yields in most northern sites. The Hopetoun’s SSM treatment with its lower plant population density produced good biomass early, but may have ran out of water during grain fill, as shown by the poor yield. In 2014, soil bulk density was collected at the commencement of each demonstration site to identify baseline soil bulk density. The density of the soil itself may not be a limiting factor and a careful look at the pore size distribution down the profile and how it affects the ‘bucket size’ of the soil is required. Where macro (large) pores are less than 10%, crops can be affected by poor soil water infiltration, limited root growth and a perched water table in the case of a heavy rainfall event.

Site

Crop Type

Crop Biomass yield

Crop Yield Estimates

t/ha

t/ha

SSM

13.11

4.59

Control

12.87

4.25

Spring Biomass Treatment

Propodollah Hopetoun

Barley Wheat

Kamarooka

Wheat

Ouyen

Barley

Plants/m2

SSM

87

2.16

0.65

Control

105

2.54

0.86

SSM

160

8.7

2.98

Control

150

9.51

3.05

SSM

5.75

1.6

Control

1.96

0.36

Table 2: Crop productivity indicators from subsoil manuring trials (2014).

In the lighter soils at Ouyen, macro porosity at depth was satisfactory; however, in the sandy soil this would have prevented storage of extra soil water due to rapid infiltration. Manuring appears to have helped with an increased supply of soil water during vegetative growth of the crop, as seen by the reasonably heavy biomass produced by the crop (5.75 t ha-1) compared to control (1.96 t ha-1), which interestingly did not translate to grain because of the spring cut-off. The 2015-16 season will be interesting to watch, with roots now down in the manure, allowing new crops to access nutrients and moisture at depth.

Acknowledgements

• This project is supported by DEDJTR, Victorian No-Till Farming Association (VNTFA), La Trobe University and North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

For more information

• Contact Darryl Pearl on 03 5051 4531 or email darryl.pearl@ecodev.vic.gov.au

The team from DEDJTR using a truck-mounted crane, barrel augur and PVC pipes to collect large, intact soil cores. Photo: DEDJTR.

29


The Last Word In each edition of the Mallee Farmer, we take a look at some of the “Mallee’s most wanted” when it comes to invasive plants and animals. You can’t beat a peach, or so they say. But unfortunately for canola growers the combination of beet western yellows virus (BWYV), and the green peach aphid, can be very bad news indeed. This edition of Mallee’s most wanted takes a closer look at the nasty little virus that can invade canola crops to such devastating effect. The virus is as common as it is widespread and not only knocks canola around but also a wide variety of other crops and weeds. It mostly gets around by piggy backing on (or more accurately, in) the green peach aphid (GPA), which is its preferred mode of transport in much the same way that malaria is transported and spread by mosquitoes. Crop damage attributed to BWYV was wide spread last year with reports of entire paddocks infected with up to 50% to total crop losses in parts of South Australia, which was hit the hardest. Millewa crops fared better but losses of up to 20% in some parts were also reported. Most damage occurs when crops are infected at the early (rosette) stage. Typical symptoms of BWYV infection closely resemble and can be mistaken for nutrient deficiencies, or damage from herbicides, with lower leaves turning yellow and purple before usually dropping off altogether. Like most things to do with farming, the severity of the problem will depend on the prevailing seasonal conditions. Management of BWYV is about stopping or limiting infection from occurring in the first place; plants that have contracted the virus cannot be treated or cured. So what should be done to prevent or limit the infection? Conventional wisdom here is about limiting the presence of the virus in the first place and then managing its transport to the crop (the aphids). BWYV does not live in seeds, it survives between growing seasons on summer weeds. So BWYV in wetter summers will certainly be about, particularly on broadleaf weeds, as will the aphids themselves. Typically weed

infestations in the paddock or on fence lines, including favourites like wild radish, turnip, marshmallow and volunteer canola plants, all need to be dealt with well before sowing (10 to 14 days minimum). This is commonly referred to as managing the “green bridge”. It’s a similar story for managing other crops pests like Diamondback moth, slugs and snails. The Western Australian experience in particular has shown that seeds coated with an appropriate neonicotinoid insecticide will certainly limit aphid numbers. Dealing with aphids, once detected though, is a bit more problematic due to widespread insecticide resistance issues. However there are a number of strategies that can help and these include stubble retention, which limits the ability of aphids to land

(they apparently prefer to land on bare ground) and denser planting, which serves the same purpose by closing the crop canopy earlier. Like most things to do with dealing with pest plants, animals and crop disease, BWYV is all about an integrated management strategy across the seasons and luckily there are excellent resources available to assist putting strategies and plans in place. An excellent starting point is the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) web site. http://www.grdc.com.au Glen Sutherland, Regional Landcare Facilitator, Mallee CMA T: 0417 396 973 E: glen.sutherland@malleecma.com.au

Typical healthy canola crop. Photo: Mallee CMA.

Diamond back moth damage to canola. Photo: Mallee CMA

The

Mallee Farmer

This publication is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

Contact

Mallee Catchment Management Authority Telephone 03 5051 4377 Facsimile 03 5051 4379 PO Box 5017 Mildura Victoria 3502

www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

Mallee farmer edition 09  
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