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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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Putting the finger on stock rustlers

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Financial planning in a good year

ISSUE 12 • Autumn 2017

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Lake Tyrrell project

Will mice prove to be an issue in 2017?

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


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Mallee Farmer Contents Mallee seasonal update

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Will mice be an issue in 2017?

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Best Wool Best Lamb expands into the Mallee

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Putting the finger on stock rustlers

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Victoria rolls out sheep and goat EID

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More lambs more profit

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Making the most of stubble grazing

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What do you want from your Mallee Farmer?

Financial planning - What to do?

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Citizen Science - Protecting our Mallee icon

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Mallee projects re-vegetating the landscape

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Re-vegetation case study 1

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Re-vegetation case study 2

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Regional Overview – Regional Landcare Coordinator

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What do you think you are doing? - The importance of project monitoring and evaluation

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Grain Bag Recycling – Looking for a solution

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Wildlife monitoring in motion

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MRCC Partnership with Landcare

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New Victorian Landcare Gateway

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Using rotations to control herbicide resistance

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Russian wheat aphid update

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Changing climate has stalled Australian wheat yields

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Eyre Peninsula farmer demonstrates a stacked control approach to weed management study

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A two year break significantly boosts wheat yields at Carwarp in 2016

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Mallee staff of Agriculture Victoria’s grains program - who are we and what do we do?

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The Tyrrell Project

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Community groups get strategic capitalising on a simple philosophy

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Case Study 1

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DISCLAIMER

Case Study 2

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Case Study 3

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

Rabbits on the run: Strategic Mallee release for new strain of rabbit virus

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ISSN: 1839 - 2229

Cover Image Photo: Derrick Boord

One of the few things that’s constant with living and farming in the Mallee is the consistency of change – that each season and each year seems to throw up new challenges! Farmers in many parts of our region have enjoyed a bountiful season, but the disappointing aspect is the low prices on offer for most grain commodities. So, in this issue of Mallee Farmer we’ve sought some tips and advice from a Rural Financial Counsellor on managing the financial aspects that situation creates and the best approach to setting goals and plans going forward. While grain prices are disappointing, it’s great to see prices for prime lambs at record high levels. But again, it’s throwing up another challenge. Stock theft (and rural crime in general) is re-emerging, so in this issue we get some insight from the region’s specialist

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

Victoria Police Agricultural Liaison Officer on crime prevention – and how technology can help. This year we’re also looking at the possible return of an old challenge – mice. Good seasons seem to inevitably reinvigorate the Mallee mouse population. This issue looks into the extent of the threat and the best management strategies to manage it. Landcare Groups across the Mallee are reinventing themselves to take account of new challenges and new requirements. There are some inspiring stories in this issue about re-energised Landcare groups tackling new (and old) problems. A reminder that we are still looking for feedback on the Mallee Farmer. We want to ensure we are continuing to offer what you want in a publication aimed specifically at the needs and interests of Mallee farmers. If you haven’t yet had your say, please visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/ MalleeFarmer2016 The survey should take less than five minutes, but we would love to know what you think. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this issue of the magazine – your insight, input and ongoing enthusiasm for the Mallee Farmer is much appreciated. 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 rainfall received in 2016 may have only ever been exceeded in the year of 1852, when Wirringren Plain (Pine Plains, near Patchewollock) was last submerged to a depth of five metres (from the Diary Extracts of William Lockhart Morton, 1856) loads; manage stubbles now so that your equipment can successfully negotiate them.

By

By Rob Sonogan, AGRIvision Consultants and GRDC Southern Panel Member

Early sowing opportunities; most likely for both vetch, canola and sheep feed. Snails; early control if present.

2016 wrap and 2017 seasonal conditions Mallee records were broken in two breathtaking ways in the spring and summer of 2016! Firstly, the September rainfall broke all written records and the 70 to 100mm of gentle rain received over many events in that month assisted greatly to setting us up for the highest, and greatest, yields EVER across the Mallee. The rainfall received in 2016 may have only ever been exceeded in the year of 1852, when Wirringren Plain (Pine Plains) was last submerged to a depth of five metres (from the Diary Extracts of William Lockhart Morton, 1856). We do seem to be living in an era of constant record happenings, I wonder what will be next? The legacy of such wonderful yields (for the vast majority of the Mallee) are both the large stubble loads and reasonable sub-soil moistures left behind and at depth in many soils. The initial issue was summer weed control with many spraying weeds even before harvest concluded. We all know the importance of summer weed control so this will continue as weeds appear.

Soil Test Nutrients – An area of relative unknown from such high yielding crops is what levels of nutrients are available for this year? If ever a year has presented itself for the need and importance of a soil test result, then I believe this is it. How much nitrogen (N) is there at depth in these leftover soil moistures that last season’s crops did not use from that 30-60 cm level? A 0-10cm for phosphorous (P) and (N) and a 10-60 or 0-60cm test for both N and sulphur (S) are critical to assist determining economic levels of these nutrients to meet your target yields. Soil diseases—A learning from other high yielding years is that of the insidious build-up of cereal root diseases such as Take-all, that is masked in a soft finishing

Your trusted adviser(s); there are many things to consider, some of them quite different from most seasons, a problem shared is a problem halved! Mental fatigue; many have not stopped as season 2017 ran straight from harvest 2016. It is critical to have a break, please make the effort, and all are rewarded.

Record yields were achieved in 2016 crops

year but can carry over and cause serious yield loss the next season. Where a cereal is being considered for planting back into a last season’s cereal stubble, then it is important that a Predicta B soil test is done now.

Mice Many reports are coming in on the numbers of active mice being observed, especially during night spraying operations. Remember the past learnings of the difficulty of controlling mice especially in barley stubbles, AND the importance of mice control BEFORE the sowing of high seed value crops such as chick-peas, canola, lentils, faba-beans and lupins. These crops are a magnet for mice and re-sowing is both extremely frustrating and costly.

Other 2017 seasonal considerations Russian Wheat Aphid; some great information available from GRDC updates and websites. Remain aware of the latest developments and findings and manage it as you do any other crop threatening insect.

Rob Sonogan

For more information Contact Rob Sonogan at AGRIvision Consultants Pty Ltd 259 Beveridge Street Swan Hill 3585 Mob: 0407 359 982 Ph: 5032 3377

Green bridge management; control selfsown to minimise rust and aphid build-ups. Crop establishment under heavy stubble

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Will mice be an issue in 2017? “A good way of observing mice is to take a night-drive around farm access tracks, fence lines and boundaries.”

By Glen Sutherland, Mallee CMA We know by past experiences that tracking mouse numbers and locations is the key to planning effective onfarm control programs, particularly around sowing time. Why? Because once numbers have reached problem proportions (over 500 per hectare) they’re very difficult to manage. Early detection and timely action is the key to effective control to limit damage at and following sowing. This article highlights some straightforward monitoring methods to help farmers keep a check on what mice are up to in their paddocks. Observation remains a very effective method of monitoring, particularly when records are kept of where, how many and when mice were observed. Observation can take place as early as harvest. Headers make a useful elevated platform to see what is going on in the paddock. Mice prefer to get around after dark to avoid becoming a predator’s next meal. Mouse activity during daylight is a potential indicator of increasing numbers. Observing where mice

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Residual stubble loads and established vegetation along fence lines can harbour large numbers of mice. Monitoring will give a true indication of the scale of the problem have been, is more the norm. Typical signs include mice faeces and their unmistakable aroma. Mice tend to use the same pathways to and from their burrows and nesting sites, these are evident as distinct runs or pads left in the soil, more noticeable with high numbers. A good way of observing mice is to periodically take a night drive

around farm access tracks, fence lines and property boundary roads. Record the date, location and number of mice and drive the same route each time and compare results to assess changes. There may not be a direct relationship between more numbers in farm shedding and dwellings (could be due to colder weather) to increases in-paddock, but it’s


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Mallee Farmer a good idea to actively monitor paddocks more closely if mice are being noticed indoors. Trapping. Traps, both hinged snap traps and live capture traps are the most reliable method for determining mouse numbers. They provide information about the animals, growth stage and breeding status. The down side is that traps are labour intensive if used in numbers. Trapping is the preferred method of monitoring used by scientists who use this kind of detailed data to develop forecasts of mouse outbreaks. The difference between two and ten percent trap success can be very important in predicting where mouse numbers will be in the autumn.

Mouse Survey Cards A cost effective and easy method to monitor for increasing mouse activity

paper, or even graph paper if available. A template can also be downloaded from the Mallee CMA website or pads of cards, including instructions, are available from a number of outlets in the Mallee, see website for details. http://www.malleecma.vic.gov.au/ resources/mallee-farmer/mallee-farmer. html Survey cards are a coarse indicator of mouse activity as their appeal can be compromised by other food sources, which may be more desirable. Cards work best when there are limited alternative food sources available in the paddock.

damage may include gnawed stems and damaged or missing seed heads.

Value adding and sharing monitoring information Mice will migrate and fairly quickly when under stress so it is important to know what is happening around your farm and district. An important tool to assist with this is the Smart Phone MouseAlert App, which can be used to record your monitoring results as well as view other results from nearby. The more people using the App, the more useful it becomes as data entered will help with early-warning of increases in mouse

Selecting Monitoring Sites When deciding priority monitoring sites a representative group of cropping paddocks should be selected for your

Acknowledgements

Silo bags can be a strong attraction for mice providing both shelter and an endless food supply is the mouse survey cards which are 10cm x10cm cards with grid lines each 1 cm making up 100 squares. These are soaked in eatable oil, (canola or linseed) allowed to drain for a short while and then placed in the paddock in the late afternoon. At least 10 cards are pegged to the ground to secure from blowing away, at 10 m intervals along a 100 m line. It is best to have another line nearby for greater accuracy. Collect cards next morning and count the number of 1 cm Ă— 1 cm portions eaten. Each square equals 1% e.g. 10 eaten squares = 10% score. Average the scores across all cards. For best results repeat the following night and average the score for each site. If the average score is more than 10% for 2 nights you may have a real problem. Cards can be made using a ruled sheet of photocopy

farm, taking into account factors such as paddock history, soil type, stubble loads and the presence of indicators that there are mice in the area, (burrows and runways).

Follow up Monitoring Regular inspections of paddocks should take place throughout the year. Knowing how many mice are in the paddocks prior to sowing is critical to prevent damage at sowing and ongoing inspections and management can help to reduce the impact of mice throughout the entire growing season. Signs of damage include patches where crops have significantly thinned or failed to emerge, usually with the presence of nearby burrows and or evidence of mouse holes in rows where seeds have been excavated. In maturing crops,

The author would like to sincerely thank CSIRO Researcher, Steve Henry who has kindly taken the time to ensure that the information presented in the article is factual, relevant and appropriate to the intended audience.

Citations Mitchell, B. and Balogh, S. (2007) NSW DPI Orange ISBN 978 0 7347 1880 8 Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra October 2007. Bruce Mitchell and Suzanne Balogh. Monitoring techniques for Vertebrate pests. May 2011, www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/ publications for updates Primefact 1102 First Edition Biosecurity Branch / Invasive Species Unit

For more information Glen Sutherland, 5051 4308 Mallee CMA

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Best Wool Best Lamb expands into the Mallee “Group members decide what is important to them, how they want to lift their profitability and productivity, then meet for facilitated discussions, farm walks, training workshops and information sessions.” By Glen Sutherland The Mallee can now boast two new Best Wool Best Lamb (BWBL) farmer groups based in the Millewa/Carwarp and Eastern Mallee areas. These groups have met three times with the most recent workshops held at Carwarp and Miralie. Thirty-two farmers attended the one day events which were aimed at increasing lamb survival rates and included demonstrations of ultrasound ewe pregnancy scanning. The Millewa/ Carwarp BWBL group comprises members from around Carwarp, Werrimull, Cullulleraine and Meringur, while the Eastern Mallee group has members from around Kooloonong, Manangatang, Piangil and locations in between. BWBL is a self-directed learning network for Victorian sheep and wool producers. The groups are supported by a local coordinator who facilitates group activities and sources industry experts to assist and encourage group members to question and seek solutions to improve their farm businesses. Locally in the Mallee the BWBL groups are supported through a partnership between Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), Agriculture Victoria, the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (MCMA) and the National Landcare Programme (NLP). AWI is a not-for-profit company that invests in research, development and extension activities (RD&E) and is the designated Industry Services Body for the Australian wool industry. AWI collects woolgrower levies matching Australian Government funds for eligible RD&E activities. Mallee Farmer recently caught up with the National Landcare Programme’s Mallee Regional Landcare Facilitator, Glen Sutherland, to find out more about the initiative. “Group members decide

what is important to them, how they want to lift their profitability and productivity, then meet for facilitated discussions, farm walks, training workshops and information sessions,” Glen said. “These discussion groups form the core of the program, recognising producers’ mix of skills and similar interests tailored to their district. Members identify key issues and the best learning approaches to help address emerging priorities and to reach individual farm business goals.”

where sheep are an important part of the farm business mix, with additional areas being targeted on an as-needs basis into the future,” he added.

Glen said today’s BWBL groups are modelled on farmer discussion groups, pioneered in the mid-60s by Victoria Dairy Industry legend, Jack Green. “Discussion groups have been successfully operating across many agricultural industries ever since and remain a very powerful learning tool for farmers who can come together to share collective knowledge and experiences,” he said. The BWBL initiative currently has 60 groups established across Victoria and provides services such as an Annual Industry Conference, webinars, and partnerships with innovative research and development projects, and producer demonstration sites which can complement group activities. “The Mallee CMA and Agriculture Victoria recognises the importance and popularity of the BWBL initiative and are keen for any farmers interested in joining either of the two existing groups to let us know,” Glen said. “Plans are underway to canvass interest from lamb and wool producers in other parts of the Mallee

Lambs in the yard

Acknowledgements This project is jointly funded through Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), Agriculture Victoria, the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (MCMA) and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme (NLP).

For more information

http://go.vic.gov.au/wxfWd0 Or contact Simone Cramer at Agriculture Victoria on (03) 5051 4554 or email simone.cramer@ ecodev.vic.gov.au.

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Putting the finger on stock rustlers “There are incidents being reported, but there’s probably a lot more out there going unreported for whatever reason.” Police urge vigilance as lamb prices rises. something suspicious turns out to be nothing, but it’s far better to be cautious,” he said.

By Jacinta Allen-Gange Detectives in the Mallee are encouraging more watchfulness around stock monitoring and rural properties, and for farmers to consider installing new surveillance technology, as the value of prime lamb reaches record levels. Police are investigating a number of incidents in the Werrimull region in the past 12 months, with numbers of stolen stock ranging from 20 to “a couple of hundred”. Agricultural Liaison Officer (AgLO) at Mildura CIU Paul Harrison said while there were consistent reports of stock theft in the Mallee, the number of stock lost was likely to be under-recorded. “There are incidents being reported, but there’s probably a lot more out there going unreported for whatever reason,” Sergeant Harrison said. “Farmers mightn’t notice stock are missing for a few months, then once they muster and realise their numbers are down, they could be looking at a sixmonth window of when the theft occurred, so they don’t think it’s worth reporting,” he said. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth – they need to report, no matter what the duration, because if we don’t know about it, we can’t do anything. Everyone reporting whatever incidents are occurring means we can start picking up trends and patterns in particular areas and there are measures we can take.”

Regular monitoring of your flock numbers is imperative to being aware of any potential thefts

With sheep and lamb prices at record levels, stock theft is becoming more and more enticing to would-be thieves

Stock theft and rural crime in general was a significant problem and potentially growing, Sergeant Harrison said. “Farms are getting bigger, properties more remote, neighbours are further apart,” he said. “It opens up opportunities for stock, chemicals, machinery, whatever is valuable at the time. “The response of farmers needs to be that they are vigilant about securing their tools and chemicals as best they can, communicate with their neighbours and report anything suspicious.” In addition to more vigilance and reporting, Sergeant Harrison said technology also offered potential to improve security in rural areas and properties. “National Livestock Identification System tags and microchipping have been a great step forward, but also when buying livestock, people should ensure they keep records and receipts of purchase,” he said. “Farm cameras, trailer cameras and security cameras are becoming much cheaper and more accessible – nowadays they use night vision technology, they can be motion-sensored, and most times you can install them yourself.” Sergeant Harrison said Victoria Police’s network of dedicated AgLOs, as part of the Livestock and Farm Crimes Specialist Group, ensured improved sharing of intelligence and information from farm regions across the State. “Often, farmers can be concerned about causing a fuss if what they thought was

“If you see or hear of suspicious activity, vehicles or people, record the time, date, location and a description and ensure that you make a report as soon as possible – the sooner a crime is reported, the greater the chance of detecting the offender.” Suspicious activity can be reported to any local police station or to Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

To-Do List Livestock • Ensure all stock are identified at an early age (NLIS, eartags, microchips etc). • Consider photographing and videoing your livestock regularly to assist with identification. • Keep receipts/records of any purchase as proof of ownership. • Keep track of any agisted stock and their markings. • Check stock numbers regularly, especially those out of view from the homestead. • Ensure your fencing is secure and external gates have locks.

Stockyards • Secure loading ramps, and stockyards at remote locations to prevent unauthorized use. • Where possible, build permanent and portable stockyards in view of homesteads.

Information

Suspicious activity can be reported to any local police station or to Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Victoria rolls out sheep and goat EID States during Victoria’s transition to an electronic system. There are some rare circumstances where exemptions apply such as moving stock in an emergency bushfire or flood situation, or when moving rangeland feral goats directly to an abattoir. Sheep and goats entering Victoria for sale or slaughter need to be identified in accordance with the requirement of the State from which they are sourced.

All sheep and most breeds of goats born in Victoria after January 1 2017 require an electronic NLIS (Sheep) tag before they leave their property of birth. By Arpad Maksay, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources Victoria’s Agriculture Minister, Jaala Pulford, announced a new sheep and goat electronic identification system in August last year. All sheep and most breeds of goats born in Victoria after January 1, 2017 require an electronic NLIS (Sheep) tag before they leave their property of birth. Additionally, from July 1, 2017, Victorian saleyards, abattoirs and knackeries will commence scanning electronic sheep and goat tags and uploading the information to the NLIS database. The role of an electronic identification system is central in stepping up the traceability capability of Victoria’s sheep and goat industries. Sheep and goats act as vectors in the spread of infectious disease such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), anthrax and other diseases that potentially have significant market access and human health impacts. It is essential that sheep and goats of interest are able to be located quickly and accurately to manage and minimise the spread of disease or the impacts of food safety related emergencies, for example, those associated with chemical contamination. The electronic NLIS (Sheep and

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Goats) system uses electronic ear tags, identifying each animal with its own, individual number. The tag contains a transponder that can be read electronically in a fraction of a second with a suitable reader which can be in the form of a handheld wand or a fixed panel. With electronic reading, transcription errors are eliminated, saving both time and labour whilst increasing the accuracy of information. Beyond improved tag reading and accuracy, there are many potential flock management benefits of electronic identification for producers on the farm. These include collecting data and understanding the variation in the productivity of individual animals. Depending on the management needs, the available tag reading equipment, scales, drafting systems and computer management software can record weight gain, breeding history, fibre diameter measurements and pregnancy scanning data.

The Victorian Government’s $17 million transition package provides producers with cost neutral tags during 2017, which start at 35 cents per tag. These are the cheapest electronic NLIS (Sheep) tags available in Australia. You can order your tags online at tags.agriculture.vic.gov. au, or call the Agriculture Victoria’s NLIS Helpline during office hours on 1800 678 779 for assistance. Producers who are keen to realise additional on-farm benefits are encouraged to apply for grant funding to purchase optional equipment, such as scanning wands or purpose built weighing systems. Applications for grants close on December 31, 2017 or when the allocation is exhausted, whichever occurs first. Application forms for equipment grants are available online at www.agriculture.vic.gov.au/sheepEID. A series of information sessions dedicated to producers was conducted in the north-west during February to explain the new system. The information covered in these sessions can be viewed via Agriculture Victoria’s webinar at www. webcasts.com.au/dedjtr01122016. Further ‘hands on’ workshops to demonstrate on-farm opportunities will be rolled out over the year. Keep an eye on the Agriculture Victoria website to stay up-to-date.

Producers who are close to adjoining State borders will be interested to note the specifics of moving sheep and goats interstate. Sheep and goats born on or after January 1, 2017 going to an interstate location must be identified with an electronic NLIS (Sheep) tag. This requirement will ensure that Victorian saleyards and processors are not disadvantaged by producers choosing to consign their animals to other

For more information

www.agriculture.vic.gov.au


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More lambs more profit “Nationally, the average lamb marking percentage currently stands at 92% which is a record level since recording began 40 years ago”- Jason Trompf. By Glen Sutherland Sheep producers wanting to significantly improve their returns could do a lot worse than looking at ways to improve lamb survival rates, particularly from birth to marking, according to Jason Trompf, Best Wool Best Lamb (BWBL) coordinator. Jason is a much-respected sheep industry consultant and farmer based in the North East of Victoria. He was recently in the region presenting at two workshops on the subject of improving lamb survival rates. According to Jason there is plenty of scope to reduce lamb loss, particularly during the first few of days of life, when lambs are most vulnerable. One major cause of neonatal lamb loss is due to dystocia or difficult birth disorder. Dystocia, typically, is a result of lambs being too large or the ewes’ pelvic opening being too small, which prolongs the birthing process and can result in brain damage to the lamb through hypoxia, or lack of oxygen to the brain. Another major cause of lamb loss is starvation either through missmothering or other factors including the

ewes condition, particularly at the time of lambing, even more so when twins are born. Exposure to harsh weather can also cause significant lamb losses. In most cases though neonatal lamb loss can be linked back to ewe feed management and associated nutritional issues prior to and following lambing. “Nationally, the average lamb marking percentage currently stands at 92% which is a record level since recording began 40 years ago,” Jason told the workshop participants. “However, given that average scanning rates are more like 120%, there is still plenty of room for improvement,” he said. But how do farmers determine what their potential is? This is where ultrasound pregnancy scanning (UPS) comes in to the equation. “Traditionally UPS was done mostly to identify the dry ewes in the mob, which would be separated, culled or re-joined,” he said. “The industry still does that of course but just as importantly we are now increasingly value-adding to the process by scanning for the presence of multiple lambs and/or foetal aging, simultaneously.”

scanning for multiples. First, scanning determines the potential lambing percentages of each mob. This number can be directly compared to the number of surviving lambs at marking. From there we can start to think about how to improve survival rates. “Knowing our percentage survival rate lets us compare how other producers in our area are doing and to also make decisions based on that,” Jason said. The key purpose of scanning for multiples is to enable separation of the different pregnancy classes of ewes, allowing their feed requirements to be managed differently. “Clearly ewes carrying more than one foetus will need more nutrition than singles,” Jason said. “The feed rations for each class of ewes (dries, singles and multiples) can’t be tailored according to requirement when ewes are all in one mob.

Jason went on to explain that there are a number of important benefits from

Jack Challis and Jason Trompf discussing scanning

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Mallee Farmer Continued from Page 7 “Either singles are getting too much, which risks dystocia issues, or multiplebearing ewes being under-nourished when feed singles’ rations,” he said. “Under-fed ewes are put under a lot of stress and their ability just to survive, let alone mother more than one lamb, is potentially comprised.”

To detect multiples, ewes should be presented for scanning at 80-90 days from the start of joining. Any more and it becomes difficult for the scanner to accurately identify multiple foetuses and it becomes less reliable. This timing also coincides with escalating energy requirements of ewes in later pregnancy, particularly twin bearing ewes. According to Jason, the key to turning reproductive potential into live lambs in the paddock is to pregnancy scan ewes

for multiples and differentially manage ewes according to their requirements. The workshops were held for the recently established Best Wool Best Lamb groups in the Millewa and eastern Mallee and more information about the BWBL project visit: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/ livestock/beef-and-sheep-networks/ bestwool-bestlamb

Acknowledgements This project is jointly funded through Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), Agriculture Victoria, the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (MCMA) and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme (NLP).

Further Information

Glen Sutherland 5051 4308 glen.sutherland@malleecma.com. au www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

Ewe Scanning with Ultrasound

Making the most of stubble grazing With value returning to the livestock industry things have now changed somewhat and farmers are now looking to integrate livestock back into their cropping systems on a semi-permanent basis. By Kevin Chaplin, Mallee CMA

Stubble retention in one form or another has become a priority for many farmers across the Mallee over the last 20 years with the primary motivation being the desire to conserve moisture, reduce the risk of soil erosion and potentially increase soil carbon levels. The range of stubble management techniques has increased with advances in seeding technology, stubble mulches, straw spreaders and guidance for interrow sowing but the adoption of new technology can be very expensive. For those who still use livestock a more flexible approach is often taken. When seasonal conditions dictate the need to reduce heavy, weed-infested

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stubble loads like 2016 it is often a real challenge to deal with the enormous amount of stubble and potentially high volumes of grain still on the ground. When using livestock to reduce these loads good management of your livestock is paramount if you are to gain the maximum benefit for your paddocks’ soil health, the livestock health and your back pocket. Livestock in the Mallee is making somewhat of a comeback with record prices being paid for breeding stock, fat lambs and wool over the last few years, while grazing is increasingly being reintroduced as a form of stubble management in conjunction with diversification of farm revenue. With 2016 being such a big year, attention to a diligent monitoring program with associated management actions needs to be seriously considered rather than

just opening the gate and letting them run. Reduced tillage and stubble retention started 40 years ago, following development of the first knockdown herbicides. These practices meant a change from conventional cultivation, which at the time consisted of longer rotational periods with a pasture phase included or stubble burning and several passes with tynes or discs to control weeds and volunteer cereals. Reduced cultivation and retained stubble led to improved soil structure and less soil erosion, and the environmental value of conservation cropping became more widely recognised. A side implication of this change was that it made it more difficult to sustain a livestock program due to less feed from either the removal of a pasture phase from the cropping rotation or more efficient and effective


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Mallee Farmer The Farmtalk article titled ‘Top tips for stubble grazing’, produced by Mallee Sustainable Farming in December, 2015, highlighted the need for close monitoring of grazed stubbles to ensure that you obtain maximum benefit while not over or under grazing and causing more headaches with the loss of valuable ground cover or leaving excess grain on the ground. In conjunction with the Mallee CMA’s Native forage shrubs for low rainfall areas program, this article also highlighted the benefits of integrating stock containment areas and native forage shrubs with effective stubble management to maximise the returns from an alternative farm income stream. The adoption of semi-permanent livestock into your farming operation can help diversify and increase your farm’s income which helps with risk management in a year where large volumes of on-farm stored grain is reflective of an oversupply of grain leading to low grain prices and reduced cash flow. Both the Stubble Grazing Farmtalk and the Native Shrub Grazing Guide can be found on the Mallee CMA’s website and are free to download. http://www.malleecma.vic.gov.au/farmtalk-top-tips-for-stubble-grazing Hard copies can be obtained by contacting the Mallee CMA on 5051 4377 or by visiting the DEDJTR complex on the corner of Koorlong Avenue and Eleventh Street, Irymple.

weed control. Changing practices in the cropping system led to the reduction of livestock across the Mallee as it became increasingly difficult to integrate livestock into a more intensive system with tighter rotational parameters, along with the fact that the returns on livestock were relatively low in the face of relatively high levels of workload. With value returning to the livestock industry things have now changed somewhat and farmers are now looking to integrate livestock back into their cropping systems on a semipermanent basis. Store lambs/sheep are purchased either pre or post-harvest for grazing of stubbles prior to sowing and

are then placed into a feed lot to finish off for the market in late winter early spring. 2016 in the Mallee has been one of the best seasons in the last 30 years, in some areas it has been the best season that farmers have experienced, ever! With good rains leading up to a moist spring followed by a relatively dry harvest period the situation has now left farmers with the difficult decision on how best to deal with high stubble loads as we look forward to the 2017 season. Grazing will no doubt once again feature very prominently and, with that in mind, now is a good time to revisit an article that we produced a number of years ago, focusing on summer grazing of stubbles.

Acknowledgements

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

For more information

Mallee CMA 5051 4377 http://www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

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The

Mallee Farmer

Financial planning - What to do? 2016 was a good season with most cereal producers reporting very large, and in some cases record yields, but unfortunately due to the surplus of supply we are now experiencing very low grain prices with prices equivalent to what they were 30 years ago. By Stephanie Ferdelja, Rural Financial Counselling Service The Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) is a government-funded financial counselling service, which has, for the past 30 years, aimed to successfully assist primary producers. The service is always a willing partner when things get tough, and is a free, independent confidential service available to farmers who are in, or at risk of, financial hardship. Now that the harvest dust has settled and the batteries are hopefully recharged it’s time to plan the next season. From the RFCS perspective, 2016 was a good season with most cereal producers reporting very large, and some cases record yields, but unfortunately due to the surplus of supply we are now experiencing very low grain prices with prices equivalent to what they were 30 years ago. While

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livestock production and prices were promising, it will take more than one good year to make up for several poor years before it.

having to commit, discuss and explain how Farm Management Deposits (FMDs) work positively for you, and consider/identify/manage risks.

Big yield years are a joy to experience but they come with added costs as every extra ton produced is an extra ton to be harvested and carted. That’s quite different to a year where you get average yield but a much better-thanexpected price. The extra turnover is like a freebee because it comes free of additional cost. Last year’s chick pea prices for example were tremendous. A good year is a good year so who’d be complaining.

How can RFCS provide assistance and add value to a difficult short or long term situation? This can be best demonstrated with an example:

To help you manage this situation and to analyse your current financial position it’s all in the planning and that’s where the RFCS can assist. A Rural Financial Counsellor can really help. They can look at a new cash flow budget with you, factoring in some real income, identifying some options (old and new), assist you to review or set goals, project possibilities using the Plan2Profit agricultural planning tool - test driving different enterprises on farm without

• A Mallee broad acre entity purchased neighbouring land in recent years– the district was tightly held and the price and the debt increase was deemed justifiable given reasonable ensuing seasons and prices. • Client engaged RFCS at the time of purchase to go through “Plan2Profit”- a financial management model that shows the effect of various scenarios added to an existing farming entity i.e. stay as is versus purchase additional land versus vary mix of cropping and livestock. • The planning incorporated additional equipment purchase and projected the effect of change


The

Mallee Farmer

over a five year period including Asset and Debt position as well as the period to recoup the cost of the new equipment. As we know, the strong seasons were not forthcoming, culminating in consecutive drought years. RFCS were able to assist with cashflow budgets required by the bank to cover capital shortfalls, and a Government Drought Concessional Loan Application that saw a component of term debt placed on a cheaper rate of interest for five years. To alleviate pressure on the farm budget, the RFC identified the option of getting the family on Farm Household Allowance (FHA), the Federal Government income support program for farmers through Centrelink. An application was successful and $900 per fortnight was accessed by each family involved in the farm. Negotiations with creditors re payment plans were successful. Most were very accommodating and appreciated regular communication updates. In the process of all these engagements, discussions

were held around a process of succession for the farming families. Whilst RFCS is not involved in the formal succession process, it was able to assist in gathering information for the formal process to begin. • This entity did not reach a point of Farm Debt Mediation with the bank, but if it had, the RFCS would have assisted in the preparation, actual mediation and follow up of agreed actions. • With a better season in 2016, formal contact between the farm and RFCS is winding down in the short term, but the service is ready to assist further with Plan2Profit updates and other assistance as the need arises. As you can see from this example RFCS can be part of the planning process every step of the way, to help give you confidence in what you are doing and why. Maybe you are in the situation where you may not want to go again. Perhaps you’ve been waiting for the good year to hang up the boots and retire or move in a different direction in life. RFCS works with every farming client as an individual and listens to what their needs and priorities are, helping them to implement actions and options

that allows them to have confidence in their future, because every family farm and situation is different.

Acknowledgements Rural Financial Counselling Service is an enterprise of Sunraysia Rural Counselling Service Inc.

Further Information Rural Financial Counselling Service 1300 769 489 www.sunrcs.com.au

Citizen science - Protecting our Mallee icon “If it weren’t for their interest in putting the cameras in place, we would never have known how bad the fox problem was.” By Jacinta Allan-Gange Neth Hinton had never even seen a Malleefowl before she and her husband Trevor decided to make the move to a life on a remote property near Hattah. But the couple are now custodians of one of the Mallee’s hot spots for the emblem bird, with 17 known Malleefowl mounds on their property – and counting. The couple bought the block which adjoins the Hattah Kulkyne National Park from Trust for Nature seven years ago with retirement in mind, and for the past three years the 1780-acre property has been home. Neth admits it has been, and still is, a steep learning curve. “We moved from a terrace house in

Fitzroy to here and it was absolutely the right thing for us – we needed something to do when we retired and we just love it,” Neth said. “We were familiar with Mildura because Trevor has family there but we had only ever driven through Hattah,” she said. “We saw the property advertised and spent two years thinking about whether to buy it or not. Then we decided on our third visit we had to have it. “We weren’t blind to what was ahead of us, but we were ready to learn and our neighbours were so welcoming and generous in sharing their knowledge about the Mallee. We couldn’t have overcome all the hurdles involved in moving to Hattah without their support and encouragement. They also know a lot about Malleefowl and have given us a lot of advice about these great birds. In return, we give them a lot of laughs at all the mistakes we make!”

Neth Hinton

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The

Mallee Farmer Continued from Page 11 “As well, the partnership that we’ve developed with the Mallee CMA has been a great thing to help us protect the Malleefowl in particular.” Neth said 300 acres of their property had been cropped in the past, but was slowly returning to its natural state. The remaining 1400 acres is Mallee scrub. When the couple bought the property from Trust for Nature the terms of sale were that covenants needed to be established and they remain in place on the entire property apart from the area around the couple’s home. “When we came to have a look at the property we were told about some rare species that were here including the Yellow Faced Whipsnake, Mallee Emu Wrens, Regent Parrots, and Malleefowl, but we didn’t know where the Malleefowl nests were,” Neth said. “When we started walking around we found quite a lot of mounds – 17 nests so far, but there is a fair bit of bush here so there are probably a few we haven’t found yet,” she said.

them,” she said. With the support of the Mallee CMA’s Project Officer for Land and Biodiversity Kate McWhinney, remote cameras were set up in October 2016 to monitor active Malleefowl mounds and the presence of pest species. Kate said the two cameras were left for 28 days overlooking two active mounds. “The footage showed us there were multiple foxes returning to the mounds each night to raid the nests,” Kate said. “There were some amazing pictures, including an interaction in which a Malleefowl defends its mound from a fox.” (The vision is available on the Mallee CMA Facebook Page). Neth said the vision gathered by the cameras was an eye-opener. “We didn’t realise the extent of the problem so we started a fox baiting program straight away,” she said. “We engaged a contractor to come and lay baits. We put out 30 and 18 were taken.

Neth said Bush Tender funding had helped them do some initial work to protect the Malleefowl, such as goat and cat trapping, rabbit poisoning and fox shooting.

“The contractor recommended that we bait twice a year and we will try this and review it after 12 months. We have our own camera now so we can set that up and check on predator activity and know if we are having an impact.

“Last year we approached the Mallee CMA to see if we could work cooperatively to do more to protect

“I’ve just got my 1080 poison endorsement and we will do the baiting ourselves from now on.”

Neth said that while predators could never be eradicated completely, the couple is committed to minimising the impact of foxes on the resident Malleefowl, while doing more work on quantifying bird numbers. “They’re such determined little birds, they build such amazing nest structures and we’ve found that Mallee people are as interested in them as we are,” she said. “The birds keep a certain distance from you but they are quite tolerant of you if you approach them quietly and it’s not that difficult to watch them working the nests. We still get a kick out of it. “We’ve learnt a bit, but the more you learn the more you realise there is to learn.” Neth said one of the best outcomes had been an enhanced relationship with the Mallee CMA. “When we developed the relationship with them they were so generous in helping us try to deal with the issue,” she said. “They just ran with it and it’s been a really equal relationship, which has been a very positive experience. If it weren’t for their interest in putting the cameras in place, we would never have known how bad the fox problem was. “The more you see of the Mallee, the more you appreciate it. It’s beautiful, peaceful and remote. “We have the Hattah Lakes right near us, the river is close, Ouyen is a great town with pretty much everything we need and Mildura’s not too far away either. “It was absolutely the right decision for us and the longer we are here the more we love it.”

Acknowledgements This project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority

Further Information

Malleefowl under attack from a fox

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Kate McWhinney 5051 4529 Kate.mcwhinney@malleecma. com.au www.malleecma.vic.gov.au


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Mallee Farmer

Mallee projects revegetating the landscape “We have some landholders who come back again and again to participate often because they love the aesthetic and environmental benefits the new trees bring and how they make their farm look” By Jacinta Allan-Gange A review of revegetation projects in the Mallee has found it is bringing real change to the landscape and delivering on-farm advantages to farmers working in partnership with Mallee CMA. On-farm revegetation works in the Mallee have been a priority for the Mallee CMA since 2009, and an evaluation of the revegetation program in 2016 reviewed the effectiveness of the program since 2011.

sources, covering 643 hectares. Of the 61 sites monitored, the overall survival has varied across the northern, central and southern geographic areas. Tubestock species include Pine, Belah, Mallee, Myoporum and Box, with the major direct seeding species used being Atriplex, Maireana, Rhagodia, Pittosporum and Senna. “The evaluation emphasised that landholder engagement drove success in almost all instances,” Mr Boord said. “Obviously, a landholder who is committed and interested in the project is most likely to notice what needs to be

“We use direct seeding and tubestock plantings, or a combination of both, to try to maximise our success and the overall effect is improving the connectivity of remnant vegetation across the Mallee.” Mr Boord, who has been in his current role for five years, said the evaluation found the first six to nine months after planting was critical to overall success. “We do our plantings of tubestock around June to try to allow them to get established on natural rainfall,” Mr Boord explained. “But as you would expect, follow-up watering in the first summer after the plantings are carried out is really important as to whether or not a revegetation project succeeds. “The evaluation found the bulk of tree deaths occurred in the first nine months after planting and that success rates were certainly best where there is diligent follow up watering when it’s needed in that first nine months.” A total of 91 revegetation projects have been completed across the Mallee CMA region through funding from various

Mr Boord said the changed management practices in 2016 were showing promising results. “Of course, this year’s plantings went out in terrific seasonal conditions, and for the 20,000 tubestock we planted we would be looking at an 80 percent success rate so far,” he said. “Generally, we are finding that if the plantings are attended to in the first 12 months and, in reasonable conditions, the trees are then capable of surviving on their own.” Mr Boord said supporting tubestock plantings with direct seeding was also being shown to deliver a higher degree of success in revegetation work.

Mallee CMA Project Officer Land and Biodiversity Derrick Boord said the evaluation found supporting private landholders to undertake revegetation works on their land was a successful approach to improving the extent and quality of high priority habitat. “Our focus is mainly partnering with landholders to link existing remnants of native vegetation and create ‘stepping stones’ of vegetation,” Mr Boord said.

ensure they’re protected as best they can be in the early stages.”

Farmer reveg planted 2011

done in relation to weed and pest control and to ensure that those important summer waterings are carried out in the establishment phase,” he said. In that regard, the evaluation pointed to some areas where the program could be improved and Mr Boord said changes had been implemented to reflect those recommendations. “For instance, most landholders who get involved with the program are interested and keen for it to succeed – but farming is a busy and time-pressured business, so we’ve recognised that and have stepped up our monitoring activity this year,” he said. “We’re taking the initiative to have a stronger focus on monitoring the sites and then providing direct feedback to the landholder. “It helps to keep them aware of things like watering and pest management that can be overlooked when things are busy on the farm. “The evaluation also showed some heavy tree losses due to grazing from either pest or native animals and our planting crews now do tree-guarding as a matter of course for all tubestock to

“We try to get a diversity of understorey going – things like acacias, saltbush and daisy bushes – and they’re direct-seeded to complement the tubestock plantings,” he said. “We find the seed generally germinates within the first six months, but then dies off. However, we find they bounce back again after 18 months to two years and then they generally stay.” Overall the revegetation programs were most successful when partnering with enthusiastic landholders. “We have some landholders who come back again and again to participate often because they love the aesthetic and environmental benefits the new trees bring and how they make their farm look,” Mr Boord said. “It’s been of great benefit to landholders who are looking at establishing trees on non-productive or salinity-affected seepage and recharge areas,” he said. “But most of the farmers we’re working with are also encouraged by the productive benefits as well, such as erosion control, stock shelter and wind protection. “It’s a win-win in providing real on-farm benefits, while allowing us to create wildlife linkages and corridors by strategically linking reserves and public land with high-priority remnant vegetation on private properties.”

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The

Mallee Farmer

Revegetation Case Study 1 Creating a 20 kilometre trail of vegetation through their Murrayville district mixed farming property has been a satisfying undertaking for James and Merryn Beckmann and their children Hayden, Suzie, Ivy and Alex. Snapshot Name: Beckmann Family Property: 3200 hectares north east of Murrayville Farm system: No-till cropping and White Dorper production

By Jacinta Allan-Gange James Beckmann: “We first began planting a corridor of trees in 2003 using our own resources and some funding that was available at the time through Landcare. “Initially a few things drove our interest. I wanted to establish wind breaks to reduce soil erosion, but, at the time, there was also a lot of talk about a potential carbon tax, and I was thinking our tree plantings could offset that. But we also just love having trees in the landscape. We’d prefer to see trees, rather than just bare paddocks. “The carbon tax hasn’t eventuated, but the benefits of what we’ve done have –

we’ve definitely created the wind breaks and improved the look and feel of our farm. We would now have between 20 and 25 kilometres of wildlife corridors around our property, ranging from new plantings to mature trees. “The past four years have been done in partnership with the Mallee CMA under the Connecting Mallee Parks Revegetation Project and we’ve planted up to 10 hectares at a time. “The process has changed and got better over the years, most recently in how the plantings are done and managed. “Earlier, I used to rip the tree lines before the crews came in to plant. But I always felt the roots were inclined to just grow along the rip and more likely to fall over as they matured. “Last year we decided not to rip, and instead the crews used water jetting to dig the hole which also gives good moisture for the tree to establish. “The program does the planting and provides resources for stock exclusion fencing, and it’s our responsibility to install the fences, as well as do pest and weed control.

“One of the big benefits has been the CMA helping us out with watering the tubestock to get them established. In earlier programs, it was the responsibility of the landholder, which was fine, but when the watering is most important in summer, it coincides with some of the busiest times on the farm. So the watering the CMA has done is a great help and it also helps that they monitor the site and let me know if things like rabbit numbers are getting up a bit. “What has driven us to do more plantings over the years has changed as we’ve seen the success of our earlier work. “We love the native corridors for what they are. I really like birds and I love seeing more birdlife passing through the property. Things like Imperial parrots, which breed along the Murray River, but come out into the Mallee to feed. They don’t like flying large distances in open areas so the extra habitat helps them. We’re noticing small babblers and wrens much more now, too. “The wind breaks have worked and mean there’s less soil erosion, so that’s obviously a direct economic benefit to the farm but I think it’s now the aesthetic and environmental benefits that we enjoy most.”

Acknowledgements This project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

Further Information James, Merryn, Hayden, Suzie, Ivy and Alex Beckmann are strong advocates for revegetation helping to improve farm productivity

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Derrick Boord Derrick.Boord@malleecma.com.au www.malleecma.vic.gov.au


The

Mallee Farmer

Revegetation Case Study 2 Aligning their property for auto-steer farming methods has provided a revegetation opportunity for Rodney and Marian Caccianiga on their Manangatang District cropping property. Snapshot Name: Rodney and Marian Caccianiga Property: 5300 hectares near Manangatang Farm system: Continuous cropping of cereals and legumes, using precision agriculture techniques

By Jacinta Allan-Gange “We started getting into revegetation as part of setting up our farm for autosteer, tram tracks and other precision agriculture technology. “Long, straight runs are what you are looking for with autosteer, because that’s the most economical and complements the farming system. So, we’ve moved fences and aligned the way we work the

farm to suit that technology.

that remnant vegetation.

“But it does tend to leave some awkward little corner triangles and odd pieces of land that don’t fit in with the system.

“We have had only one really disappointing result along the way, and I put that down to not having tree guards on the trees in that program.

“You could just leave those parcels of land, but we like to have trees in the landscape, so we have done four different areas of revegetation over the past eight or ten years. “The largest was 32 hectares, but in total we have done around 70 hectares. We have also revegetated some lowerproductivity, salt affected land with saltbush plantings with the intention of running sheep on it. But since then we decided to de-stock, so that area is now doing its job helping the soil by using up the excess water. If it wasn’t there, it would virtually be bare ground and the salt would be getting worse. “The way our farm is laid out, there were trees in the middle of the farm, but there were no tree corridors to the boundaries and road reserves. “So as part of the revegetation work, we have been working towards connecting

Landholder Rodney Caccianiga, Manangatang, speaking to Mallee CMA staff about his revegetation site

“That’s been addressed now, and the CMA makes sure all the plantings have tree guards on them as soon as they go in. “The help the CMA has given with coordinating the program, managing the logistics and covering the cost of the trees and the tree guards is great, as well as the legwork they do on gathering the right varieties of trees and shrubs. “How good the results are with each program depends a lot on the seasonal conditions, but the survival rate this year has been excellent with the great winter and spring last year and the late start to the summer heat. “Our aim has been to improve the farm environmentally and aesthetically and to leave something better for the kids and I think we’re certainly doing that.”

Acknowledgements This project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

Further Information Derrick Boord Derrick.Boord@malleecma.com.au www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

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


LANDCARE LINKS Autumn 2017

PO Box 5017, Mildura Vic 3502 | Telephone 03 5051 4377 | www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

Regional Overview – Regional Landcare Coordinator By Kevin Chaplin, Mallee CMA Welcome to 2017 and the latest edition of Landcare Links. Let’s take a look at what has been happening in the world of Landcare in the Mallee over the last six months as well as take a glimpse at what the future holds going forward. Since our last edition Landcare groups across the Mallee have been frantically applying for funds for projects they hope to implement in 2017. Since that time 21 Landcare groups have been successful in receiving over $350,000 in funding grants to tackle local issues such as roadside rabbits and weeds and to establish onfarm wildlife corridors and to enhance local native vegetation. One initiative that the Eastern Mallee Landcare consortium has adopted is the use of remote sensing cameras for the detection and monitoring of threatened species that occur in their area. Have a look at ‘Wildlife monitoring in motion’ to get the full rundown. In a nutshell, this consortium is being smart about how they go about justifying government spending in their area and how it is protecting and enhancing their region.

Everyone wants to be famous

A big part of any Landcare group’s funding and activities is the ability to relay back to the investors (those who hand out the money) how effective their works have been and why they are doing it. To be able to do this you need a good method of recording information, or data, prior to the event taking place as well as after it’s completed. To assist groups to do this consistently across the Landcare network the Mallee CMA has produced the Community Monitoring Methods Workbook. You can read more about this important tool and how groups can use it in the article ‘What do you think you are doing?’. See page 18.

Community Monitoring Methods Wookbook

(generating an extremely toxic smoke) or simply just letting them blow away, littering the region. They can become entangled in the neighbour’s fence, or worse still, their ripening crops and they pose a real hazard to the native flora and fauna as, rather than breakingdown, they tend to break up into pieces. To try and address this issue, Landcare groups within the Eastern Mallee Consortium, through their Landcare Facilitator, are actively looking for a solution to this problem and you can read more about this in the article ‘Grain Bag Recycling – Looking for a solution’. See page 20. So as you can see there is a lot to take your attention, so grab yourself a tea or coffee, sit back for 20 minutes and learn about what is happening around you in Landcare. You never know, you might be inspired to become involved!! If you are, there is a contact list on the back page of people who can help you take the first step. Happy Landcaring! Kev Chaplin

An issue that is rapidly gaining greater attention, particularly after the big grain season we have just experienced, is the use of on-farm grain bag or ‘Silo Bag’ storage and in particular the disposal of these bags once they have been emptied. Reports are coming in from across the region of people simply dumping them in illegal disposal pits, burning them

Used grainbags are becoming a significant farm waste issue

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What do you think you are doing? - The importance of project monitoring and evaluation by Kevin Chaplin, Regional Landcare Coordinator We do it every day, without even thinking about it! We get up and the first thing we do is monitor – how do I feel today, what is the weather like outside, am I organised for the day ahead? These are all questions that we ask ourselves constantly. We then evaluate the results – I feel unwell, it’s looking pretty bleak out there and no, nothing is organised for the jobs I have ahead of me! It is only through this monitoring and evaluation process that we can make a decision to improve the situation – I will take a Panadol and make sure that I don’t have a drink tonight, I’ll make sure I’ve got an umbrella and a jacket before I head out and the first thing I need to do is write down a list of jobs I need to finish before the end of the day. It is only through the process of monitoring and evaluation that we can have certainty in our decisions, defining a purpose and direction. So why is it then, when we are looking to address an issue or a problem in our communities, that we ignore these basic principles when we come together to achieve something as a community group? Is it because we tend to do it automatically, as individuals, and think that it’s not necessary? Which is OK-- as long as everyone thinks the same as you do! A case in point are projects routinely conducted by Landcare groups, such as community pest plant and animal control programs. The priority focus for most Landcare groups in the Mallee is usually pest plants, such as Cactus and Boxthorn, or pest animals mainly rabbits and foxes. But the biggest issue with these projects is that groups are inclined to just want to ‘get out there’ and dispose of that rabbit or boxthorn without ever really asking the big questions like: is this

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Monitoring workbook front cover

to fixing the problem or issue. If you don’t ask the questions then you have no way of measuring (monitoring) the impacts, results or outcomes and ascertaining (evaluating) whether the whole thing was worthwhile. To help groups address this issue the Mallee CMA has developed a resource called the Community Members Monitoring Methods Workbook. This workbook provides groups with a standardised set of scientifically valid techniques that ensure effective and efficient monitoring of projects which then allow groups to evaluate the full impact of their on-ground projects rather than just going out there and killing things for the sake of it. To explain the benefits of monitoring and evaluating a little better let’s look at them in a bit more detail;

the best place to do it; is there a better way to do it; is this value for money and will it fix the problem? If these questions are asked as a group then you can be sure that the group is working in the best interest of the community with the view

Monitoring – This is the systematic gathering and analysis of information that will help you measure the progress and ultimate success of your project. An example of ongoing checks against progress over time may include counting

How a good monitoring program can inform your decision making


Monitoring can highlight where your problems really are, rather than just going in blind rabbit numbers before a rabbit ripping project started; after the on-ground works have been completed; and then again, later down the track, to see if the on-ground works have been worthwhile. Monitoring is not evaluation as such but is a critical part of your evaluation process and should therefore be included at your project planning stage. It is like watching where you are going while riding a bicycle; you can adjust as you go along and ensure that you are on the right track. Keeping records and monitoring activities helps people see progress and builds a sense of achievement. Records and previous project monitoring data can be useful, even essential, when promoting group activities or applying for funding. Evaluation – This is the process of using the monitoring information that you have collected to help you make a decision about future activities and direction. Evaluation provides an opportunity to reflect and learn from what you’ve done,

assess the outcomes and effectiveness of a project and think about new ways of doing things. In other words, it informs your future actions. Evaluation should ideally be factored into your initial project planning so when you are setting your purpose, vision, goals and actions, you need to be considering how and when you’ll check your progress against them. A good evaluation will demonstrate how well organised you are and whether you met the expectations of the community and the investors that gave you the money.

scientifically valid and very easy to use. A copy of this workbook is now provided to every successful grant recipient who applies for funding through the Mallee CMA. The booklet is also available for download on the Mallee CMA’s website for all community members who would like to learn more about effective monitoring and hard copies can be obtained from the Mallee CMA by contacting Kevin Chaplin on 5051 4670.

The Community Members Monitoring Methods Workbook has been designed to make the process of monitoring and evaluation easier for Landcare Groups by developing a series of instructions and worksheets that can be used for rabbit control, weed control and revegetation projects along with setting up photo points for monitoring over long periods of time. All these instructions and worksheets are

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Grain Bag Recycling – Looking for a solution by Jacinta Allan-Gange The growing popularity of bulk grain bags or “silo bags” is presenting both a solution and a problem for the Mallee’s dryland farmers. While the thick, polyethylene bags are now an invaluable on-farm storage option, adding flexibility to harvest logistics and selling options, they also present a significant waste challenge that’s potentially leading to illegal dumping and burning. It’s a problem the Eastern Mallee Landcare Consortium is taking the lead on trying to resolve. The Landcare Facilitator for the Eastern Mallee Sandii Lewis said as grain bags come into more common use, both farmers and Landcare groups are keenly aware of the problem of disposal. “The bags are made of polyethelene, they cost up to $1000 each and they can’t be reused,” Sandii said.

“These are huge bulky bags and that’s not cost effective or easy, particularly with a bag that’s stored and used outdoors and, once it’s empty, it generally ends up hot, sweaty, stinking of rotten grain and attracting vermin. “In reality, what generally happens is that farmers either just pile them up somewhere, or they burn them, neither of which is ideal.” The Eastern Mallee Landcare Consortium is a cooperative arrangement made up of Landcare Groups in some of the key Mallee grain production areas at Annuello, Manangatang, Kooloonong-Natya, Nyah West, Robinvale, Sea Lake and Waitchie. These groups predominantly represent the dry land farming community, along with their respective rural communities in helping them to identify and address local and regional priorities and actions in relation to their areas natural resource management issues.

“We don’t want farmers to be criticised over this issue, because really, what can they do? We want to resolve the problem.” She said the group had now turned to a Queensland company Farmwaste Recovery to explore the potential for a pilot grain bag recycling program in north west Victoria. Farmwaste Recovery manages a hugelysuccessful Queensland program targeting fertiliser bags with sugar cane farmers. Farmwaste Recovery Manager Stephen Richards said the grain bag issue presented a potential “environmental catastrophe”. “It’s fantastic that farmers can take the opportunity for increased flexibility in their marketing but unfortunately the way that they do that is via a non-reusable container,” Stephen said. “To give you an idea of the extent of the problem, in South Australia 4000 of the bags are sold each year at an average 150 kg of

“The capacity of grain bags varies but they can be anywhere between 25 and 150 metres long, they can weigh up to 400 kilograms and some farmers might have to dispose of 40 or 50 at a time,” she said. “You can use one or two as slippery slides for the kids on the lawn! But you can see the extent of the problem – we are just one small area of the Mallee and we create hundreds of waste bags each year. “This is happening across Australia and there really isn’t a viable solution.” Sandii said due to the need for the bags to provide a robust and durable storage solution, they were not manufactured as “enviro bags”. “They don’t break down, they break up – meaning that they just degrade into pieces,” she said. “There is an opportunity for small numbers to be recycled in Mildura and turned into eco-plastic products such as outdoor furniture and decking, but to take advantage of that, the farmer has to cut the bags into ten metre square pieces, bundle them up and make sure the plastic is clean and dry.

20

Grain bags are becoming very popular

Sandii said the consortium’s members had identified the problem but with all bag suppliers in Australia selling foreignmanufactured bags, it was difficult to lobby successfully for solutions at a manufacturing level. She said the problem was not a new one, and the consortium looked overseas for potential solutions. “In Canada, Saskatchewan Province developed a recycling program around the used grain bags,” she said. “They have trucks going around to do the collections and the farmers don’t have to have the bags cleaned. It’s been a really successful initiative and what we are hoping to do is somehow mirror that approach here.

plastic in each, and we know that the vast majority of those end up being burnt. It’s a massive problem,” he said. “The bags are absolutely recyclable, but this is low grade plastic that’s expensive to collect and process – so it’s not worth picking it up for the value of the plastic. It’s not commercially sustainable. “The challenge is, who pays the sustainability difference? How much are those in the supply chain prepared to pay for recovery of that plastic and who will pay?” Stephen said the best way to make the system sustainable was to make it commercial. “That needs the implementation of a


‘recovery fee’ built into the system at some point and, perhaps councils, to provide repositories for farmers to return the bags. Then there is a measure in place for whoever collects the bags to build a sustainable business.

Once emptied, grain bags can be a big waste problem

“It is 100 percent doable. Farmwaste Recovery has proven farmers will embrace opportunities to protect their clean, green image if they have the opportunity. “We put the Queensland fertiliser bags program in place in six weeks – it’s about having the conversations on who is going to pay and how much. If we get everyone around the table and if there is a genuine will to make it happen we can make it happen and make it happen quickly.” Sandii Lewis said a sustainable solution was the end goal for Eastern Mallee Landcare Groups.

“People see the bags blown up against fences and farmers have them hanging around their sheds and properties and they want a solution,” she said.

“If they don’t have to go too far and if they don’t have to prepare them too much then farmers would definitely do it because they all see the bags as a pain as well.”

“As a starting point, we did a survey and found 100 percent of respondents would recycle their bags if it was affordable and simple.

For further information contact: Sandii Lewis landcare1619@gmail.com

Wildlife monitoring in motion by Jacinta Allan-Gange

Landcare groups in the Eastern Mallee are taking wildlife monitoring to the next level, with the purchase of motion sensor cameras and GPS technology. The groups at Annuello, Manangatang, Koolongong-Natya, Nyahwest, Sea Lake and Waitchie have purchased or are purchasing the cameras to use for threatened species detection and monitoring. The Eastern Mallee Landcare Consortium’s Jodi Elford said the cameras were to be used both for generating community

awareness as well as bolstering the groups’ efforts to secure funding. “The days are over where Landcare groups simply said, for example, that ‘we have got a problem with rabbits and we need funding to control them’,” Jodi said. “Groups are getting the clear message that to get further funding for on-ground Natural Resource Management programs and projects we need to build our case by demonstrating that controlling pests will assist threatened species,” she said.

“But there’s also the potential that if one group needs to focus on a project or area, then they potentially can borrow a number of the cameras from other groups as well,” she said.

“In our area, in particular, the problem for our groups is that, because we are isolated and there aren’t large numbers of people, we often have problems getting photographs or videos that provide the evidence we need. “Our groups decided that one way of overcoming that problem was to have access to motion-sensor cameras, and to use them in conjunction with GPS units to provide evidence that threatened species exist in particular areas.”

The new Reconyx camera that Landcare groups will be using to monitor for threatened species in their area

“Each of the groups has a camera and in our group, there are 43 members, with quite a few who are keen to use the cameras to identify what species are active in their area or how many of a species there are,” Jodi said.

The Eastern Mallee Landcare groups received their cameras just before Christmas and are looking forward to beginning monitoring activities as the weather cools.

Echidna caught on camera

“If we can demonstrate that there are endangered species in our Landcare area and capture them on camera that will help us to strengthen our submissions for funding in future.” Jodi said the Eastern Mallee region

21


contained areas of known habitat for Malleefowl and other threatened species of birds, bats and reptiles.

“There are a lot of parklands and reserves in our area, and we’ve been working at establishing and protecting several wildlife corridors as well,” she said. “Our main activities have been in rabbit control with ripping, fumigating, poisoning and shooting. We’ve also built stock exclusion fencing to protect wildlife corridors as well as revegetating some areas with saltbush plantings to help with soil erosion.

Malleefowl pair building their nest

“But we are also quite an active communityfocussed group, so we are hoping the cameras will also give us great material to use in some of our other activities such as working with school children and the wider community.”

Cameras can also capture the threats that these beautiful creatures face as well

MRCC Partnership with Landcare by Joanne Robinson, Mildura Rural City Council

The Mildura Rural City Council is engaging with landholders and land managers to control rabbits and targeted weeds across the landscape. Council manages approximately 5,100 kilometres of roadside reserves which travel through and between other landscapes with a variety of land use. With the formation of the Mildura Rural City Council (MRCC) Roadside Invasive Plants and Animals Working Group, Council has been leading the engagement with Landcare groups, State Government Land Managers, utility providers and other Groups within the Council boundaries since mid-2014. The Working Group allows for a more strategic approach to weed and rabbit control for an effective program to be carried out across the landscape. One of the main aims of the Working Group is for Landcare groups and other land managers to share information about where they will be carrying out weed and rabbit control. This allows for collaboration of landholders and land managers to carry out control in the same area at the same time. On February 7 2017, the Mildura Rural City Council (MRCC) organised and chaired the 12th official meeting for the MRCC Roadside Invasive Plants and Animals Working Group.

22

Department of Land, Water and Planning-State Forests

VicRoads-Major Roads

VLine-Rail

VicTrack-Rail

Trust for Nature-Neds Corner

Iluka Resource-Mining

The Landcare representatives volunteer their time to attend the meetings as they are passionate about weed and rabbit control in their areas.

APA Group-Electricity and Gas Lines

Other Landcare Groups within the municipality are always informed of the decisions made at the Working Group meetings and are always welcome to attend.

Development of the Mildura Rural City Council Roadside Weed and Rabbit Control Plan 2015-2017

Sitting around the table at these meetings are community representatives from the three major dryland farming Landcare Groups; Faye and Leonard Vallance representing Mallee Landcare Group; Annette Lambert and James O’Day representing Millewa/Carwarp Landcare Group; and Eboni Musgrove representing Murrayville Landcare Group.

Representatives on the MRCC Roadside Invasive Plants and Animals Working Group are: •

Department of Land, Water, and Planning-State Forests

Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources

Parks Victoria

Mallee Catchment Management Authority

Trust for Nature

Some of the achievements of the MRCC Invasive Plants and Animals Working Group since June 2014 have been:

This strategic plan was developed over a period of eight months with regular Working Group meetings being held. The Plan outlines the approach of the Working Group to weed and rabbit control on Council roadsides including target pest species. This plan can be found on the Council’s website under Plans and Strategies. http:// www.mildura.vic.gov.au/Council/AboutCouncil/Council-Plans-Strategies Development of Reactive Funding Grants Landholders/land managers can access State Government funding, administrated through Council, to control rabbit, Prickly


Pear, African Boxthorn and Boneseed hotspots on Council roadsides. Development of the Expression of Interest to Landcare Groups Council invite Landcare Groups to apply for State Government funding, administrated through Council, to add value to current control project for rabbits and weeds on Council roadsides. Tools Identified: Rabbitscan An application that can be used by everybody for free to mark where any recent rabbit activity has occurred on Council roadsides. More information can be found at: https://feralscan.org.au/ rabbitscan/mallee Mapping Past and Future Control

Landcare Groups discuss and share where they will be carrying out their control in the Working Group meetings. The project areas are mapped by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority and the information is shared with all representatives of the Working Group. RHDV1 K5 Trial Sites Release Council has supported Landcare Groups in the release of the K5 Calicivirus Strain, which will be occurring in autumn of this year. For more information on this research go to: http://www.pestsmart.org. au/boosting-rabbit-biocontrol-rhdv-k5national-release/

Working Group Meetings allow land managers and landholders to get to know each other and build on their relationships with knowledge and skill sharing. This is an important aspect of achieving effective weed and rabbit control across the landscape, bringing economic and environmental benefits to the region. Council appreciates the time and effort that Landcare Group representatives put in to carry out pest control projects in their locality, attending the Working Group meetings and to let us know what is happening on the landscape where they live.

Council will coordinate the Working Group Meetings into the future and assist in improving landscape scale weed and rabbit control for the benefit of agricultural production and biodiversity. The biannual

New Victorian Landcare Gateway by Kevin Chaplin, Regional Landcare Coordinator The Victorian Landcare Gateway is the central point of contact for Landcare in Victoria. It is an interactive and informative website where you can find news from Landcare groups and networks, including upcoming volunteer activities and events, resources and toolkits for groups, information on grants and projects, as well as group and network contacts. We now need your help to make sure relevant and accurate content is available to everyone. We need everyone in the Landcare community to start having a look for their group or network and start updating their information. It’s easier than ever before to log in and edit your information, whether you already have login details or this is your first time using the Gateway. If you had login details for the old Gateway:

New Landcare Gateway homepage www.landcarevic.org.au

1. Click ‘Log in’ (found at the top right hand corner of every page) 2. Click the link titled ‘I’ve lost my password’ 3. Enter the email address you used in the old Gateway 4. Follow the prompts to set up your new

password.

Coordinator Kev Chaplin

If you don’t have login details:

2. Or contact the landcarevic team on landcarevic@gmail.com.

1. Contact your Regional Landcare

23


Much of the information from the old Gateway has been migrated to the new website. This may mean that information is now out of date or incomplete. The new Landcarevic website team has attempted to edit and update information, but they need everyone in the Landcare community to make their information as good and up- todate as possible. If you have something to say, positive or constructive, they also want to hear from you -- there is a link on the homepage to a form that can be submitted to contact the website team direct.

(one that doesn’t require expert knowledge in using IT systems). All you have to do is log in and follow the prompts to edit.

A community website like this will only ever be as strong as the community that supports it, so jump on line and have a look and start to discuss the website with others in your group. How could the website help you achieve your group aims? Who should be given responsibility to make sure your group information is up to date and engaging?

Adding and promoting events is simple

In the process of upgrading to the new website the Landcare Vic team ensured that nothing was deleted from the old Gateway, just in case any information was lost moving from one website to another. If you believe any information has been lost in the migration, please contact Adam Hughes at the Victorian Landcare Program (landcarevic@gmail.com) and he will help you find and restore it.

Landcare has lots of fantastic resources that are now easier to find, easier to filter and easier to read. Whether you’re looking for resources relevant to professional farmers to hobby farmers, group facilitators to volunteers, or if you’re recovering from fire or flood, or just looking for info on how to manage a group or build partnerships, resources are now grouped by focus, topic and audience.

The new Gateway is simpler than ever before. Much of the complexity has been removed to make performing your role in the community easier. So, what’s been improved?

The Victorian Landcare Magazine is now online

Find your group instantly It’s simple. Go to the homepage, type the name of your group into the search field, and then click on it with your mouse. No regions to contend with, no convoluted pathways, no wasted time. It’s easier than ever to update information The Landcarevic team has created a simple process for uploading information

Project Partners

24

Every group has key information listed on a single page The Gateway allows all groups – from occasional users to ‘all-the-time’ users – to upload projects, events and resources onto one page. The site also allows groups to tag information to help different groups connect with others that have similar interests and themes.

Groups are now able to promote their events to a wider audience. We’ve made it simple to add events, share them with the Landcare community and your own wider networks. Search for resources based on intelligent filters

One of the more popular Landcare resources is the Victorian Landcare Magazine and now it’s available on-line! The Victorian Landcare Magazine is a highly anticipated publication that is produced three times a year and is always in high demand. We’ve now made it even easier to access and share articles by having it all on-line for groups to share and re-post for a broader audience along with added videos and links. The Victorian Landcare Program provides support for the maintenance and on-going development of the Victorian Landcare Gateway.

Contacts Kevin Chaplin - Regional Landcare Coordinator. Phone: 03 5051 4670 Mobile 0428 370 175 kein.chaplin@malleecma.com. au Anna Heath - South Western Landcare Facilitator. Phone: 0478 170 765, southernmalleelandcarenetwork@gmail.com Beulah Landcare Group, Hopetoun Landcare Group, Rainbow and District Landcare Group, Woomelang and Lascelles Landcare Group. Sandii Lewis - Eastern Mallee Landcare Facilitator. Phone: 0400 701 730 landcare1619@gmail.com Nyah West Landcare group, Swan Hill West Landcare Group, Manangatang Landcare Group, Kooloonong-Natya Landcare Group, Waitchie Landcare Group, Annuello Landcare Group, Robinvale Indigenous Landcare Group. Eboni Musgrove - Murrayville Landcare Facilitator. Phone: 0477 550 161 murrayvillelc@hotmail.com Murrayville Landcare Group. Jess Cook - South Eastern Landcare Facilitator. Phone: 0458 922 033 southeastmalleelandcare@gmail.com Berriwillock Landcare Group, Birchip Landcare Group, Culgoa Landcare Group, Lalbert Landcare Group, Nullawil Landcare Group Ultima Landcare Group, Sea Lake Landcare Group, Curyo-Watchupga Landcare Group (NEW) Annette Lambert - Northern Mallee Landcare Facilitator. Phone: 0428 283 226 millewalc@outlook.com Millewa-Carwarp Landcare Group, Yelta Landcare Group, Mallee Conservation and Landcare Group (NEW), Red Cliffs Landcare Group, Lindsay Point Landcare Group.

Mallee Landcare News Mallee Catchment Management Authority Telephone: (03) 5051 4377 PO Box 5017 Mildura Victoria 3502 www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

This publication may be of assistance to you but the Mallee Catchment Management Authority refers readers to our Terms and Conditions, available from our website.


The

Mallee Farmer

Using rotations to control herbicide resistance

Above: Trial plots at Yaapeet [Trial plots of wheat in the Herbicide Resistance trial at Yaapeet on October 7.]. Photo: [Dodgshun Medlin/Roy Latta]

USING ROTATIONS TO CONTROL HERBICIDE RESISTANCE

Established in 2014, the Yaapeet study is evaluating and demonstrating crop rotations and associated chemical options to control wild radish and annual grass. By Roy Latta, Dodgshun Medlin

Established in 2014, the Yaapeet study is evaluating and demonstrating crop rotations and associated chemical options to control wild radish and annual grass.

This article summarises a collaborative Dodgshun Medlin, Mallee Catchment Management Authority and landholder demonstration and extension project. Established in 2014, the Yaapeet demonstration is evaluating crop rotations and associated chemical options to control wild radish and annual grass. There was an identified level of chemical groups B, C and I resistance in the wild radish, and groups A, B and M in the annual rye grass populations. With this in the wild radish, and groups A, B and in mind, the project aims to demonstrate and validate options for depleting weed seed banks over successive M in the annual rye grass populations. seasons.

By

With this in mind, the project aims and validate options for depleting weed seed banks over successive seasons.

Roy Latta Two approaches were used to measure weed population depletion: to demonstrate 1. Tools to combat the problem in the short term.

This article summarises a collaborative The short-term demonstrations looked at the control of annual grasses in canola and wild radish in field peas. The Dodgshun Medlin, Mallee Catchment Two approaches were used to measure results were reported in the Mallee Farmer edition of August 2015. Both studies demonstrated successful weed Management Authority and landholder weed population depletion: control with a range of herbicide strategies. However, they confirmed that a single year’s control of wild radish or demonstration and extension project. annual grass does not extend adequate control into subsequent years. 1. Tools to combat the problem in the Established in 2014, the Yaapeet 2. Reducing the problem through successive rotational crops and management strategies. short term. demonstration is evaluating crop rotations METHOD and associated chemical The short-term demonstrations looked at options to control wild radish and annual the control of annual grasses in canola This demonstration commenced in 2014 by measuring annual ryegrass and brome grass persistence within six grass. There was an identified level of rotations. Table 1 presents the herbicides and management treatments through to the 2016 wheat phases of the six and wild radish in field peas. The results chemical groups B, C and I resistance rotations. Table 1. 2014, 2015 and 2016 field crop rotations and annual grass control pre- and post-emergent herbicide groups applied: 2014

Herbicide groups applied

2015

Herbicide groups applied

2016

Herbicide groups applied

Crop

Pre-emerg

Post-emerg

Crop

Pre-emerg

Post-emerg

Crop

Pre-emergent

Wheat

DM

Wheat

DM

Wheat

DM

Wheat CL

DJM

B

Wheat

DJM

Hay

Wheat

DJM

Wheat

DM

Chickpea

DCM

A (F&D)*

Wheat

DM

Canola TT

DM

A (F&D)*

Wheat CL

DJM

B **SD

Wheat

DJM

Canola Imi

DJM

A (F&D)*B

Wheat

DJM

Wheat

DJM

Canola Imi

DJM

A (F&D)*B

Fieldpeas

DM

A (F&D)*Hay

Wheat

DJM

Pre-emergent herbicide treatments were applied immediately before sowing on May 15 in both 2014 and 2015, and on June 15, 2016. Post-emergent herbicides were applied at registered rates on July 2, 2014, August 8, 2015 and July 29, 2016. Mallee Mix 3 (15% N, 10% P) was applied @ 100kg/ha at seeding in all years. Urea @ 50kg/ha (46% N) was wheat yielded 1.8-2t/ha and canola 0.8t/ha, irrespective of chemicals applied. May to October rainfall in 2015 was applied in 2015 and 2016 to wheat and canola treatments that did not follow a legume. approximately 100mm and in 2016 it was 250mm. RESULTS Table 2. Crop rotations in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and the annual grass (plants/m2) following post-emergent herbicide In 2014, wheat without Group J pre-emergent applied had 3-4 plants/m2 of annual grass, wheat with Group J pretreatments, and wheat grain yields and hay biomass (t/ha) in 2015 and 2016: emergent had 1-2 plants/m2. The canola with Group A post-emergent had less than 1 plant/m2 of annual grass. The 2015

2016 2

Rotation

2

2. Reducing the problem through successive rotational crops and management strategies.

Method This demonstration commenced in 2014 by measuring annual ryegrass and brome grass persistence within six rotations. Table 1 presents the herbicides and management treatments through to the 2016 wheat phases of the six rotations.

Results

*A (F&D) includes both a fop and dim Group A herbicide. **SD Seed over back of header destroyed.

2014

were reported in the Mallee Farmer edition of August 2015. Both studies demonstrated successful weed control with a range of herbicide strategies. However, they confirmed that a single year’s control of wild radish or annual grass does not extend adequate control into subsequent years.

(plants/m )

(t/ha)

Rotation

(plants/m )

(t/ha) 2.9b

Wheat

Wheat

*9 (11)

1

Wheat

**22a (1)

Wheat CL

Wheat

0

2.2 Hay

Wheat

**3b (1)

3.4a

Wheat

Chickpea

0

0.1

Wheat

20a

3.2ab

Canola TT

Wheat CL

0

0.6

Wheat

4b

2.9b

Canola Imi

Wheat

6 (4)

1

Wheat

4b(1)

3.3ab

Canola Imi

Fieldpea

0

1.2 Hay

Wheat

3b

3.5a

In 2014, wheat without Group J preemergent applied had 3-4 plants/m2 of annual grass, wheat with Group J preemergent had 1-2 plants/m2. The canola with Group A post-emergent had less than 1 plant/m2 of annual grass. The wheat yielded 1.8-2t/ha and canola 0.8t/ ha, irrespective of chemicals applied.

Acknowledgements This project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

*Annual ryegrass (Brome grass), **a is statistically greater than b (P=0.05)

No grass escaped the Group A or Group B herbicide application or the hay treatment in 2015. In 2016 grass populations were lower when the Group J pre-emergent tri-allate was applied. DISCUSSION There has been a consistent increase of annual grass each year when only pre-seeding trifluralin and glyphosate, groups D and M were applied. This suggests there could be some herbicide resistance to glyphosate as indicated in initial testing, however emergence of annual ryegrass and especially brome grass post-seeding was also a possible cause. There is no evidence to date suggesting resistance to either Group A, the mixture of fops and dims, or Group B herbicides. However, resistance testing in 2017 within each of the six rotations will identify escapees.

Agricultural Management Pty Ltd

25


The

Mallee Farmer Continued from Page 25 Trial plots of wheat in the Herbicide Resistance trial at Yaapeet on October 7

May to October rainfall in 2015 was approximately 100mm and in 2016 it was 250mm.

Discussion There has been a consistent increase of annual grass each year when only pre-seeding trifluralin and glyphosate, groups D and M were applied. This suggests there could be some herbicide resistance to glyphosate as indicated in initial testing, however emergence of annual ryegrass and especially brome grass post-seeding was also a possible cause. There is no evidence to date suggesting resistance to either Group A, the mixture of fops and dims, or Group B herbicides. However, resistance testing in 2017 within each of the six rotations will identify escapees.

The project is also aimed at promoting sustainable systems. The use of a hay cut increased the subsequent 2016 grain yields, compared to three years of continuous wheat. Although the addition of tri-allate pre-emergent reduced grass populations, the grain yields were similar or less than the hay cut. This indicated

a benefit from the 2015 crop removal. However, apart from the rotation with the 2015 chickpea failure, the other four rotations are expected to compare favourably with the continuous wheat without the grass populations - following the 2017 harvest results.

Russian wheat aphid: An update By Julia Severi and Paul Umina, cesar

About RWA RWA is spindle-shaped, light green and can appear coated with a whitish wax. Wingless adults grow up to about 2 mm long and have distinctively short antennae. Unlike most aphids, their siphuncles or ‘exhaust pipes’ are difficult to see with the naked eye. They also have two caudae or a ‘double tail’ at the rear end. The host range of RWA includes wheat, barley, triticale, rye, oats, and some pasture and wild grasses. Wheat and barley are most susceptible, while triticale, rye and oats are less susceptible. RWA injects salivary toxins during feeding resulting in acute plant symptoms and potentially significant yield losses. Symptoms include white and purple longitudinal streaks on leaves, curled, rolled or hollow tube leaves, stunted growth or flattened appearance, discolored leaves, hooked-shaped head growth from awns trapped in curling flag leaf and bleached heads. Like other aphids, populations of RWA are strongly regulated by environmental conditions. Survival is affected by exposure to rainfall, drying winds,

26

Russian wheat aphid (RWA, Diuraphis noxia) has now been found in SA, Victoria, NSW and Tasmania. So, what do we know about this cereal pest and what did we learn in 2016? Russian wheat aphid

predators and parasitoids. Rainfall washes aphids from upper leaves, and heavy rainfall may cause mortality of up to half of the population. Populations are generally reduced by cold and wet conditions. This was particularly evident in late winter-early spring in 2016.

2016 observations RWA was first detected at Tarlee, SA in mid-May. RWA infestations in this area

appeared to have commenced on wheat volunteers. The early onset of rain in January 2016 may have created a ‘green bridge’ that favoured RWA, as many of the heavier ‘paddock wide’ infestations were in early sown crops with volunteer cereals. Most early infestations in other parts of SA and Victoria were also first detected on volunteers. In other latersown and/or less infested-paddocks, RWA was mostly limited to paddock


The

Mallee Farmer Russian wheat aphid

edges, where local migration from weedy grasses into the paddock is likely to have occurred. In late winter-spring, RWA populations declined at most localities. Rain is believed to have washed off many aphids and many of those surviving, hidden in the rolled leaves, were then attacked by entomopathogenic fungi (an insect disease) and died. Other beneficial insects (particularly parasitic wasps) also appeared to have caused considerable RWA mortality during this period. This sharp population decline was unexpected. In most areas worldwide, RWA populations build up in spring; this is the period where most damage is caused by aphids attacking flag leaves and causing head abortion. It is also when growing populations disperse widely. Importantly, plants were found to recover once aphids were gone; there were very little yield losses observed as a result of RWA feeding in 2016.

Management in 2017 Insecticide seed treatments Preliminary trials conducted by cesar suggest that those seed treatments currently registered in Australia to control cereal aphids will be effective against early RWA colonisation. This is supported by field reports from advisors and growers in 2016 in numerous parts of southern Australia. Products containing imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin should prove effective, although thorough trials are needed to fully understand the role of seed treatments in managing RWA. Based on overseas experience, it is unlikely that fipronil-based products will effectively control RWA (Wilde et al. 2001). At this stage, the length of protection offered by registered cereal seed treatments remains unknown.

Post-emergence Aphids may infest crops during any stage of crop development, from early establishment to maturating flag leaf. Check crops regularly following seedling emergence. RWA are often difficult to find when at low numbers so check for the characteristic and distinctive leaf streaking and rolling. Infestations often begin along crop edges, usually on the windward

side or adjacent to infested grasses, particularly barley grass. RWA also commonly occurs in areas of paddocks where plants are sparse, on sandy rises or adjacent to bare ground. After initial infestation, aphids can rapidly spread across a paddock. Chemical control of RWA is effective, however decisions on the need for foliar treatments should be based on the proportion of seedlings or tillers infested. Economic thresholds (ET) from international literature provide a useful guide but these will be situation dependent and trial work is required to validate locally. Yield loss under Australian conditions, crop yield potential and cost of the chosen control option are all determining factors. Threshold guidelines recommended in the USA vary somewhat between regions, but for early season growth we currently recommend an ET of 20% seedlings infested up to the start of tillering, and 10% plants infested thereafter. Local research will be required to test, and if required, to modify these thresholds for Australian crop conditions. Due to the cryptic feeding habits of RWA, good spray coverage and use of an insecticide with fumigant or systemic activity is recommended. Chlorpyrifos and pirimicarb are chemicals that are now listed for control of Russian wheat aphid under Emergency Use Permits, but there are good reasons to hold off spraying until thresholds are reached: • Insecticides will reduce numbers of predators and other beneficial species which may subsequently result in a spike in numbers of RWA (and other aphids) later in the year. • Foraging honeybees will succumb to sprays and must be protected. Speak to local beekeepers. • Spraying can foster resistance in pests so must be used only when economically justified.

Role of Beneficials RWA is attacked by a range of natural enemies in other parts of the world, many of which also attack other aphids. Of these, groups that commonly occur in Australia include minute parasitoid wasps, ladybird beetles, lacewings, damsel bugs, and also entomopathogenic fungi. We have already observed mummified and fungus diseased RWA. We do not advocate the use of prophylactic sprays for managing invading or dispersing RWA. These sprays can create secondary pest outbreaks (such as other cereal aphids) by removing beneficial species. If spraying is warranted, aim to use the softer chemistry to maintain predators and beneficial populations.

Acknowledgements This article was adapted from the GRDC Grains Research Update paper ‘Russian wheat aphid: what we know, including lessons learnt from 2016’ by Paul Umina, Julia Severi, Garry McDonald, Greg Baker and Maarten van Helden.

References / Resources GRDC Paddock Practices - Monitor RWA numbers closely over winter (https:// grdc.com.au/Media-Centre/ GRDC-E-Newsletters/PaddockPractices/Monitor-RWAnumbers-closely-over-winter) Plant Health Australia – Threat Specific Contingency Plan (http://www. planthealthaustralia.com.au/ wp-content/uploads/2013/01/ Russian-wheat-aphid-CP-2012. pdf) Wilde GE, et al. Seed treatment for control of wheat insects and its effect on yield. Journal of Agricultural and Urban Entomology 18: 1-11. 2001

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The

Mallee Farmer

Change in Wheat Yield Potential

Changing climate has stalled Australian wheat yields: So far, despite poorer conditions for growing wheat, farmers have managed to improve farming practices and at least stabilise yields. By Zvi Hochman, David L. Gobbett, Heidi Horan Australia’s wheat yields more than trebled during the first 90 years of the 20th century but have stalled since 1990. In research published in January in Global Change Biology, we show that rising temperatures and reduced rainfall, in line with global climate change, are responsible for the shortfall. This is a major concern for wheat farmers, the Australian economy and global food security as the climate continues to change. The wheat industry is typically worth more than A$5 billion per year – Australia’s most valuable crop. Globally, food production needs to increase by at least 60% by 2050, and Australia is one of the world’s biggest wheat exporters. There is some good news, though. So far, despite poorer conditions for

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growing wheat, farmers have managed to improve farming practices and at least stabilise yields. The question is how, long can they continue to do so?

We found this decline in yield potential by investigating 50 high-quality weather stations located throughout Australia’s wheat-growing areas.

Worsening weather

Analysis of the weather data revealed that, on average, the amount of rain falling on growing crops declined by 2.8mm per season, or 28% over 26 years, while maximum daily temperatures increased by an average of 1.05º.

While wheat yields have been largely the same over the 26 years from 1990 to 2015, potential yields have declined by 27% since 1990, from 4.4 tonnes per hectare to 3.2 tonnes per hectare. Potential yields are the limit on what a wheat field can produce. This is determined by weather, soil type, the genetic potential of the best adapted wheat varieties and sustainable best practice. Farmers’ actual yields are further restricted by economic considerations, attitude to risk, knowledge and other socio-economic factors. While yield potential has declined overall, the trend has not been evenly distributed. While some areas have not suffered any decline, others have declined by up to 100kg per hectare each year.

To calculate the impact of these climate trends on potential wheat yields we applied a crop simulation model, APSIM, which has been thoroughly validated against field experiments in Australia, to the 50 weather stations.

Climate variability or climate change? There is strong evidence globally that increasing greenhouse gases are causing rises in temperature. Recent studies have also attributed observed rainfall trends in our study region to anthropogenic climate change. Statistically, the chance of observing the decline in yield potential over 50 weather


The

Mallee Farmer Australia’s wheat industry contributes more than A$5 billion to the economy each year

stations and 26 years through random variability is less than one in 100 billion. We can also separate the individual impacts of rainfall decline, temperature rise and more CO2 in the atmosphere (all else being equal, rising atmospheric CO2 means more plant growth). First, we statistically removed the rising temperature trends from the daily temperature records and re-ran the simulations. This showed that lower rainfall accounted for 83% of the decline in yield potential, while temperature rise alone was responsible for 17% of the decline. Next we re-ran our simulations with climate records, keeping CO2 at 1990 levels. The CO2 enrichment effect, whereby crop growth benefits from higher atmospheric CO2 levels, prevented a further 4% decline relative to 1990 yields. So the rising CO2 levels provided a small benefit compared to the combined impact of rainfall and temperature trends.

Closing the yield gap Why then have actual yields remained steady when yield potential has declined by 27%? Here it is important to understand the concept of yield gaps, the difference between potential yields and farmers’ actual yields. An earlier study showed that between 1996 and 2010 Australia’s wheat growers achieved 49% of their yield potential – so there was a 51% “yield gap” between what the fields could potentially produce

and what farmers actually harvested. Averaged out over a number of seasons, Australia’s most productive farmers achieve about 80% of their yield potential. Globally, this is considered to be the ceiling for many crops.

While total wheat production and therefore exports under this scenario will decrease, Australia can continue to contribute to future global food security through its agricultural research and development.

Wheat farmers are closing the yield gap. From harvesting 38% of potential yields in 1990 this increased to 55% by 2015. This is why, despite the decrease in yield potential, actual yields have been stable. Impressively, wheat growers have adopted advances in technology and adapted them to their needs. They have adopted improved varieties as well as improved practices, including reduced cultivation (or “tillage”) of their land, controlled traffic to reduce soil compaction, integrated weed management and seasonally targeted fertiliser use. This has enabled them to keep pace with an increasingly challenging climate.

What about the future? Let’s assume that the climate trend observed over the past 26 years continues at the same rate during the next 26 years, and that farmers continue to close the yield gap so that all farmers reach 80% of yield potential. If this happens, we calculate that the national wheat yield will fall from the recent average of 1.74 tonnes per hectare to 1.55 tonnes per hectare in 2041. Such a future would be challenging for wheat producers, especially in more marginal areas with higher rates of decline in yield potential.

Acknowledgements Zvi Hochman, Senior Principal Research Scientist, Farming Systems, CSIRO; David L. Gobbett, Spatial data analyst, CSIRO, and Heidi Horan, Cropping Systems Modeller, CSIRO

References / Resources This article was originally published on The Conversation at https://theconversation. com/changing-climate-hasstalled-australian-wheat-yieldsstudy-71411

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Mallee Farmer

Eyre Peninsula farmer demonstrates a stacked control approach to weed management study “A major part of nutrition management is ensuring that the crop or pasture has maximum competitive capacity. Deficient crops and pastures allow weeds to grow.” By Tori Masters and Michael Moodie From Minnipa in South Australia, Bruce Heddle’s property is 170km east of Ceduna and 70km from the Great Australian Bight on the Western Eyre Peninsula. Recently, Bruce was invited to the region to share his knowledge with Mallee farmers about managing grass weeds in low rainfall regions. Together with his wife and two daughters, Bruce farms 1800 hectares in a lowrainfall area on a medic-wheat-canolawheat rotation, with Merino sheep. Bruce labels any stuff ups as “entirely his own doing”, but it’s his stacked control method when it comes to weed management that keeps him ahead of the game.

Bruce Heddle on his property at Minnipa Bruce’s farming philosophy works on the key fact that anything can change significantly at any given time – so there’s always a need to be dynamic and keep up with times. Looking at their farm as a legacy, the Heddles intend to make the system more robust with the passing of time – rather than giving it a use by date. By applying stacked control tactics Bruce, has been able to effectively manage grass weeds over the past decade. “We still have weeds, not all crops are perfectly clean, but what has happened is that some parts of our chemical application regime have shrunk dramatically while parts of the weed spectrum are also diminishing,” he said. Over the past few seasons, Bruce has seen brome grass diminish to now be insignificant, while ryegrass control in cereals has been significantly reduced. However barley grass management remains a challenge. The best way to explain his approach he says is to break it down month by month.

April Barley grass in the wheat swath

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Around April 15 Bruce begins canola seeding. The seeding system used

is dependent on the weed burden present, residue burden and soil moisture. It’s either seven-inch rows and ribbon seeding, 14-inch rows with ribbon seeding (both with full cut tillage), or no-till on 12-inch defined seed rows. Where the no-till seeding system with 12-inch rows is used, east-west sowing is practised wherever possible to increase crop competition. Where seven-inch tyne spacings are used, Bruce has never encountered a problem with stubble loads. He attributes this firstly to his harvest weed-seed management, which requires a low cutting height, and in some situations, cross bar rolling. He also says one of the great advantages of narrow windrow burning when cereals follow cereals is the removal of the chopped stubble from the inter-row, allowing any soil-applied herbicides better access to the ground.

May Aiming to have seeding out of the way by the middle of the month, the last of it is generally with no-till as by this stage weeds are easy to target and can be double knocked. Bruce likes to do some rolling with the cross bar rollers immediately following seeding to ensure a low cutterbar height can be used at


The

Mallee Farmer harvest.

June Amongst a busy spray schedule, Bruce says getting Clethodim and Atrazine onto his canola is his greatest urgency. His goal is to try and have all Group A chemicals sprayed in canola and pasture as early as possible as the resistance mechanism becomes more robust as weeds develop. He says getting in early on small weeds in good conditions pays off. Both crops and pastures receive a blend of N and S fertiliser, guided by soil tests, paddock history, soil type, moisture reserves and yield prospects, Bruce says. “A major part of nutrition management is ensuring that the crop or pasture has maximum competitive capacity. Deficient crops and pastures allow weeds to grow,” he said. During the month, Bruce begins rolling cereals from three leaf up to end of tillering with round rib rollers to ensure stony areas can be safely harvested low, or cut for hay if a frost disaster occurs.

July Bruce selects approximately 25% of his pasture area to use for brown manure and no grazing. He generally chooses a paddock needing a strategic clean-up and group A break or where group A failure is clearly evident.

August and September Glyphosate or Paraquat is used in pastures with grass escapes. Until 2014 Bruce had between 100 and 130 hectares of hay, strategically targeting surviving weeds, which were then followed up with additional glyphosate and grazing to control surviving weeds. He says while silage is generally more effective it has its limitations and challenges.

October – December Harvest generally starts in October, where Bruce has a strong focus on using harvest weed-seed management tactics. Overall, he says there are both pros and cons to his harvest weed management system. While narrow windrows are great particularly for snail and barley grass control, he says there is always a risk of fire escaping and burning the

Bruce swathing wheat to improve the capture of resistant barley grass paddock. He also uses a chaff cart, which he says provides high feed value for livestock. On the downside, he says it can be inconvenient to operate. However, he hasn’t found chaff carts to be the burden some farmers envisage. Another downside of the chaff cart is that it hasn’t been as effective for managing barley grass as it has for other weeds. In some paddocks Bruce uses both narrow windrow burning and the chaff cart simultaneously to improve barley grass and snail management. Bruce is also trying swathing of wheat in an attempt to catch the barley grass seed before it sheds, as well as altering the way the harvester concaves are configured to direct more weed seeds onto the chaffer and into the chaff cart.

January Bruce starts work spraying summer weeds as soon as sufficient emergence has occurred. Some paddocks are rolled at the beginning of the year. This stimulates weeds ready for control but also provides benefits like reducing snail burdens and hastening stubble degradation to reduce disease pathogen loads, especially Yellow Leaf Spot and Blackleg.

February With the luck of the weather narrow windrows are burnt, typically targeting grass weeds and snails.

Narrow windrow burning and chaff dumps in the same paddock he’s also conserving moisture and controlling pests such as Aphids. At this time sheep are continuously moving across the farm providing backup weed control, utilising chaff heaps and controlling snails. Bruce Heddle was invited to speak to Mallee farmers on his approach to weed management as part of the project: Sustainable brome grass management in the Central Mallee. This project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

March Chaff heaps are burned in paddocks going into crop where no grazing has occurred. Any second emergence of summer weeds and early winter weeds are sprayed, targeting any cereals, early grass germinations, marshmallow, brassicas, melons and caltrop. In addition to the weed control benefits,

Further Information Michael Moodie, Mallee Sustainable Farming Email: michael@msfp.org.au Phone: 0448 612 892

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The

Mallee Farmer

A two year break significantly boosts wheat yields at Carwarp in 2016 The two-year break crop sequence was able to capitalise the most on the favourable season yielding 3.1 t/ha. ha less fertiliser nitrogen (N) than the on December 21 and the yield map was one-year break and continuous cereal analysed to determine yield differences rotations. The paddock was harvested between the three crop sequences. This Above: Dr Gupta Vadakattu.jpg [Dr Gupta Vadakattu inspects Rhizoctonia on wheat roots with farmers in the

By

Michael Moodie, Mallee Sustainable Farming

Carwarp paddock].

Photo: [MALLEE SUSTAINABLE FARMING/MICHAEL MOODY]

This article is a case study of the break crop benefits measured in a paddock at Carwarp where three different rotations were implemented A two year break significantly boosts wheat yields at Carwarp in 2016 over the preceding two seasons. This paddock is being monitored by Mallee The two year break crop sequence was able to capitalise the most on the favourable season yielding 3.1 t/ha. Sustainable Farming (MSF) as part of the ‘Demonstrating the benefits of break crops in Northern Mallee no-till cropping By Michael Moodie, Mallee Sustainable Farming systems’ project.

This article is a case study of the break crop benefits measured in a paddock at Carwarp where three different Background rotations were implemented over the preceding two seasons. This paddock is being monitored by Mallee Break crops are becoming a prominent Sustainable Farming (MSF) as part of the ‘Demonstrating the benefits of break crops in Northern Mallee no-till feature of the farming landscape in the Northern Mallee region. To fully cropping systems’ project. understand the benefits that break crops

are providing to these farming systems, Background

MSF has been working with growers to monitor five paddocks in this region Break crops are becoming a prominent feature of the farming landscape in the Northern Mallee region. To fully where rotations with break crops are understand the benefits that break crops are providing to these farming systems, MSF has been working with being compared to cereal intensive crop sequences. In this article we report the growers to monitor five paddocks in this region where rotations with break crops are being compared to cereal significant break effects in 2016 which intensive crop sequences. In this article we report the significant break effects in 2016 which was measured in the was measured in the focus paddock located at Carwarp. Unfortunately, hail focus paddock located at Carwarp. Unfortunately, hail affected the other paddocks included in the project in 2016 affected the other paddocks included in and therefore yield results were not able to be reported. the project in 2016 and therefore yield results were not able to be reported.

Methods Methods The focus paddock at Carwarp was split into three different crop sequences over the 2014-15 seasons (Table 1). In The focus paddock at Carwarp was 2016, the entire paddock was sown to Trojan wheat across all rotations on May 20. The entire paddock was split into three different crop sequences over the 2014-15 seasons (Table 1). managed identically except for the two year break section that received 28 kg/ha less fertiliser nitrogen (N) than the In 2016, the entire paddock was sown one year break and continuous cereal rotations. The paddock was harvested on December 21 and the yield map was to Trojan wheat across all rotations analysed to determine yield differences between the three crop sequences. This productivity data was backed up on May 20. The entire paddock was managed identically except for the two with soil testing and monitoring of agronomic factors such as soil fertility, disease, weed seed banks and soil water year break section that received 28 kg/ 1 Figure 2. Rhizoctonia (R.solani AG8), mineral nitrogen and soil water measured prior to sowing in 2014, 2015 and prior to sowing. 2016 for a light and heavy soil in the Carwarp focus paddock. Figure 2. Rhizoctonia (R.solani AG8), mineral nitrogen and soil water measured prior to sowing in 2014, 2016 for a light and heavy soil in the Carwarp focus paddock. Table 1. Three different crop sequences established in the Carwarp focus paddock during 2014-2015.

Conclusion

2014 2015 Large break crop benefits of 1 t/ha was observed in this paddock between the two year break and the continuous cereal rotation. While this was a unique season in that growing season and in particular spring rainfall was very high, Crop Variety Yield (t/ha) Crop Variety Yield (t/ha) Conclusion this paddock demonstrates that break crops are having a positive effect on the productivity of Northern Mallee Two year break Canola 44C79 0.4 Field Pea PBA Twilight 0.7 farming systems. Large break crop benefits of 1 t/ha was observed in this paddock between the two year break and the c One year break Canola 44C79 0.4 Wheat Grenade 1.3 Acknowledgements cereal rotation. While this was a unique season in that growing season and in particular spring rainfall w Continuous Cereal Barley Scope 1.9 Wheat Grenade 1.3 This project is supported by the Mallee CMA with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare this paddock demonstrates that break crops are having a positive effect on the productivity of Northern Programme. Thank you to the collaborating farmers for the time and effort that each puts into the implementation farming systems. of this project. 32 Findings Crop sequence


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Mallee Farmer productivity data was backed up with soil testing and monitoring of agronomic factors such as soil fertility, disease, weed seed banks and soil water prior to sowing.

Findings Significant break effects were evident in a unique season with exceptional spring rainfall (Figure 1). The two-year break crop sequence was able to capitalise the most on the favourable season yielding 3.1 t/ha. This was significantly higher than the one-year break yield of 2.32 t/ha and the yield of 2.05 t/ha which was measured for the continuous cereal rotation. Based on an on-farm grain price of $160/t, this large break effect resulted in a doubling of the gross margin between the two-year break ($378/ha) and the continuous cereal

($185/ha). The one-year break rotation had a gross margin of $226/ha in 2016.

wheat crop on the light soil, but not the heavy soil.

Key agronomic properties were monitored prior to sowing on light and heavy soil types within this paddock and the data suggests that differences in root disease, soil nitrogen and soil water all contributed to the break effects observed in 2016 (Figure 2).

Soil mineral N levels were increased following crop sequences with one and two-year breaks relative to the continuous cereal rotation on both soil types. The two-year break treatment had 10 – 15 kg/ha more mineral N in the soil prior to sowing in 2016 than the one-year break treatment on both soil types.

Root disease risk was measured using Predicta B with differences in Rhizoctonia inoculum levels evident between the three crop sequences. Inoculum levels were approximately six-fold greater in both soil types in the continuous cereal than in the two-year break rotation. While growing canola in 2014 kept Rhizoctonia levels very low in 2015, inoculum levels quickly rebounded to high levels following one

The two-year break crop sequence had approximately 20 mm more residual soil water than the other rotations on the light soil prior to sowing in 2016. However, there was no difference in soil water levels between any of the rotations on the heavy soil type.

Conclusion Large break crop benefits of 1 t/ha was observed in this paddock between the two-year break and the continuous cereal rotation. While this was a unique season in that growing season and in particular spring rainfall was very high, this paddock demonstrates that break crops are having a positive effect on the productivity of Northern Mallee farming systems.

Dr Gupta Vadakattu inspects Rhizoctonia on wheat roots with farmers in the Carwarp paddock

Acknowledgements

This project is supported by the Mallee CMA through funding from the Australian Figure 1. 2016 yield map of wheat sown across the different crop sequences in the Carwarp paddock. 2 Government’s National Key agronomic properties were monitored prior to sowing on light and heavy soil types within this paddock and the Landcare Programme. Thank data suggests that differences in root disease, soil nitrogen and soil water all contributed to the break effects observed in 2016 (Figure 2). you to the collaborating farmers for the time and effort that each Root disease risk was measured using Predicta B with differences in Rhizoctonia inoculum levels evident between puts into the implementation of the three crop sequences. Inoculum levels were approximately six-fold greater in both soil types in the continuous cereal than in the two-year break rotation. While growing canola in 2014 kept Rhizoctonia levels very low in 2015, this project. inoculum levels quickly rebounded to high levels following one wheat crop on the light soil, but not the heavy soil.

Further information

Soil mineral N levels were increased following crop sequences with one and two-year breaks relative to the continuous cereal rotation on both soil types. The two-year break treatment had 10 – 15 kg/ha more mineral N in Michael Moodie, Mallee the soil prior to sowing in 2016 than the one-year break treatment on both soil types. Sustainable Farming

The two-year break crop sequence had approximately 20 mm more residual soil water than the other rotations on Email: michael@msfp.org.au the light soil prior to sowing in 2016. However, there was no difference in soil water levels between any of the rotations on the heavy soil type.

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The

Mallee Farmer

Mallee staff of Agriculture Victoria’s Grains Program Who are we and what do we do? The team is able to assist farmers and rural service providers with information, advice and training, through activities such as field days, workshops and demonstration sites By Simone Cramer, Land Management Extension Officer, Mildura The Grains Program of Agriculture Victoria (part of the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources) has four regional staff working to support dryland grains and mixed farmers in the Mallee: Darryl Pearl, Melissa Cann, Jodie Harrison and Simone Cramer. The team delivers various extension programs and activities that assist dryland farmers in the Mallee to improve their productivity and the quality and health of their land. Darryl Pearl (Swan Hill) has worked in agricultural research and extension for 36 years with experience in soils, agronomy, dryland farming and sustainable land management. Darryl is currently working on a Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) in low rainfall project and farmer lead demonstration sites. Melissa Cann (Swan Hill) is currently working in drought recovery as the State Drought Extension Program Coordinator. Melissa has more than 27 years’ experience in soil and land management research and extension, delivering programs to assist land managers improve their skills and knowledge in managing soils to maximize productivity. Jodie Harrison (Mildura) has been working in dryland agriculture for the last 10 years. Jodie has recently returned to her role after being on maternity leave and has many years’ experience delivering extension activities including group workshops,

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Agriculture Victoria team members are keen to work with Landholders to identify programs and projects that farmers consider important for future productivity and sustainability


The

Mallee Farmer

Simone Cramer

Melissa Cann

farm walks and farm planning all over the Mallee. Simone Cramer (Mildura) has recently commenced with the team. Simone grew up on a family farm in the Wimmera, and is now living on a mixed farming property in the Mallee, which she also helps manage. Simone is currently helping coordinate the two new Best Wool Best Lamb groups that have been set up in the Millewa/ Carwarp and Eastern Mallee areas.

store water, including planning for dry years; • Managing degraded land including reducing salinity and erosion – soil erosion and salinity management advice; • Farm planning – identifying options to improve farm productivity and sustainability, and developing a plan to make the changes; • New and innovative farming practices – support in adopting new technologies and innovations such as controlled traffic farming and others; and • Preparedness and longer term resilience – preparation and delivery of technical information and workshops to help farmers manage dry seasons and other issues. As part of Agriculture Victoria’s large network, the team are able to access research and extension experts from a variety of interest areas, for example, climate variability, animal health, chemical standards, and can work with partners and farmer networks to deliver or assist with organizing events such as workshops, training, field days and other activities.

The team is able to assist farmers and rural service providers with information, advice and training, through activities such as field days, workshops and demonstration sites, in the following areas; Jodie Harrison

Darryl Pearl

• Best Wool Best Lamb– an innovative farmer network for sheep and wool producers to help them improve their farming business and productivity; • Productive soils - understanding how soils function and how best to manage their constraints to increase productivity, profitability and sustainability; • Grazing and pasture management – improving production through better pasture selection and management, better feed budgets, reducing impacts of seasonal risk and optimising market opportunities; • Sustainable cropping practices – maximising productivity and maintaining sustainable soil management; • Farm water management – determining water requirements and how to effectively use and

Further information Darryl Pearl 03 5036 4831

Melissa Cann 03 5036 4815 Jodie Harrison 03 5051 4359 Simone Cramer 03 5051 4554

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The

Mallee Farmer

The Tyrrell Project Ancient landscape, new connections By Jacinta Allan-Gange

Communities within the Lake Tyrrell region, including Sea Lake and Birchip, are driving a project that aims to add value to the region’s new-found status as a tourist destination as well as protecting its fragile environment. The Tyrrell Project is based around Lake Tyrrell which, thanks to the powers of the internet, is now an internationallyrenowned destination, particularly among Chinese tourists. Mallee CMA is coordinating a four-year community-driven landscape-scale project that celebrates the unique social, cultural and environmental values of this iconic landscape. Mallee CMA Project Manager Rian Caccianiga said strong working partnerships have been established to deliver lasting outcomes. “The community is at the centre of our decision making – it has to be, because The Tyrrell Project aims to deliver multiple outcomes at the Lake, as well as Tyrrell and Lalbert Creek and other wetlands connected to the WimmeraMallee Pipeline,” Rian said. “Mallee CMA is the central point for the project, through funding from the Victorian Government’s ‘Our Catchments Our Communities’ program, but it’s the community that’s guiding how the project will look and what will be implemented.” What will The Tyrrell Project deliver? The Tyrrell Project will be delivered over four years. Planning commenced in late 2016, with the project being rolled out until 2020. Under this project, key activities to be delivered include: • Improving biodiversity by increasing areas of native vegetation and/or supplement existing areas; • Tackling invasive species such as priority weeds, rabbits, foxes and feral cats to restore degraded habitat, enhance regeneration

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opportunities and reduce predation on native animals; • Installation and maintenance of fences and bollards to protect highvalue areas; • Installation of habitat structures to assist the recovery of threatened species; • Improving visitor facilities to increase amenity/accessibility at priority sites; • Establishing management agreements to secure long term outcomes; and, • Delivering exciting new education and awareness programs aimed at providing opportunities for people to learn more about the region they love. The Tyrrell Project dovetails with significant community interest in the tourism and associated economic benefits of Lake Tyrrell, while providing the opportunity to further support existing community activities and priorities across a wider project area; including, the protection and enhancement of the regions natural and cultural values. Rian said local communities and traditional owners were already on-board providing sound advice in the planning stages. “Local input will guide everything from where native shrubs should be planted to how Aboriginal cultural values should be

celebrated,” Rian said. “That engagement will only grow as we move to delivering on-ground works and events that are directly in line with their expectations – we’re hoping once the community starts to see things happening, more people will be keen to get involved.” This project is part of a $22 million initiave funded by the Victorian Governments, Our Catchments, Our Communities. This initiave is part of the Water for Victoria plan, aimed at improving the health of our catchments for the benefit of Victorians. People wanting to get involved can see the latest information and updates on The Tyrrell Project at www.malleecma. vic.gov.au/TheTyrrellProject , find “Mallee CMA” on Facebook or Twitter @ MalleeCMA.

Further information

Anyone wanting more information can contact Mallee CMA Project Manager Rian Caccianiga on 5051 4377.


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Mallee Farmer

Community groups get strategic – Capitalising on a simple philosophy Since it began, Landcare has been about a simple idea – people organising themselves to work together on shared issues by designing and implementing practical solutions. By Jacinta Allan-Gange

focus, people see results and want to be part of it. It all starts with planning at a group level.

There have been many changes over the decades, but Landcare continues to achieve its greatest successes when local groups are strategic in their approach to local Natural Resource Management.

Over the last 10 years Landcare groups across the Mallee, in partnership with the Mallee CMA’s Landcare support program, have developed Group Action Plans that identify and prioritise local issues and priorities. These range from the identification of threats to local biodiversity from pest plant and animal threats, through to revegetation, protection and enhancement of areas of native vegetation across public and private land. These plans provide a strategic objective for all group functions that is reflective of the wants and needs of both the local community and the regional Mallee community as a whole.

When groups actively engage community members, external parties and organisations to develop strong partnerships with a landscape-scale

Having action plans in place with the strategic objective of enhancing the local biodiversity and ecology carries a lot of weight when groups are submitting grant

The Landcare movement was established 30 years ago, when farming neighbours recognised that they could be more effective and have a greater impact if they addressed common natural resource management concerns together.

applications and looking for support from external partners. To ensure that these group action plans stay relevant to the wider community, groups review these plans on an annual basis. This review is usually conducted at about the same time as new funding opportunities arise whereby groups reflect on their current priorities and objectives to ascertain whether their local focus has, or needs to change in order to align with local and region priorities and actions. Sometimes the priority focus of Landcare groups and external funding providers differ slightly, but the overall objective of enhancement and preservation remains the same for both. By reviewing these plans on an annual basis Landcare groups can be more proactive and flexible in their project delivery thereby creating a win-win for both the community and the region’s biodiversity – and therefore the external funding provider’s objectives, as a whole.

Case Study 1 - Eastern Mallee Landcare “The positive thing about bringing everyone together with a common focus is the information sharing that it sets up. We have formed partnerships in other areas that are having a positive impact as well” Snapshot Name: Eastern Mallee Landcare Consortium Project: Working proactively with multiple agencies to address Hudson Pear, an emerging Weed of National Significance in the area.

Sandii Lewis – Landcare Facilitator: “One of the biggest challenges facing

our area, in terms of weeds, is Hudson Pear. It’s a terrible weed. It’s got vicious spines which can penetrate shoes, boots or car tyres and, of course, can injure people, livestock and native animals. “It was first found in Australia at Lightning Ridge area during the late 1960s. I don’t think the story has ever been confirmed, but it’s thought opal miners deliberately used them to protect their diggings from thieves. “We don’t know how they arrived here in the Mallee, but they are very mobile weeds, because they attach to everything and when the segments separate from the spines, they form their

own root system in a new place. “We know there have been reports of Hudson Weed at Mittyack, Ouyen, Underbool, Tol Tol, Beggs Bend and Natya, and when I first started in this role in 2015, I wondered why, as groups, we weren’t working together on this problem. “Groups were working hard individually and in an isolated way, but I felt we should be networking with landholders and stakeholders to make the most of everyone’s money, but most importantly to be as effective as we possibly could be.

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Mallee Farmer Continued from Page 37 “Everyone thought it was a good idea, but Landcare groups are made up of farmers who are busy, have families and are busy enough – my role is to be the central hub who does some of that legwork. “We have had amazing support from our stakeholders – Mallee CMA, Parks Victoria, Graincorp, Swan Hill Rural City Council, DELWP and VicTrack, as well as all the private landholders have been on board with trying to deal with this problem in a proactive way. “At Natya our program has involved the spraying of more than 3500 plants in a

two kilometre radius. There are some frustrations, but we are continuing to focus bringing more organisations on board to recognise the extent of the problem and trying to eliminate it. “The positive thing about bringing everyone together with a common focus is the information sharing that it sets up. We have formed partnerships in other areas that are having a positive impact as well. “A project we have underway with Parks Victoria now involves re-fencing of Towan Plains Reserve, east of Chinkapook, where we have a threatened species grant to do fauna survey and some weed and pest control.

“We also have a Malleefowl project underway at Menzies Reserve at Robinvale, again with Parks Victoria, and which now has the National and State Malleefowl Recovery Groups on board. “These things take time but we are building. The Landcare facilitators are only one person, working part time, but I think you can save some legwork and frustration with good communication and information sharing and looking to work with in partnership with stakeholders, not against them. “You’ve got to be consistent, insistent and persistent but things do start to move!”

Case Study 2 - Birchip Landcare “Our group put together a strategic plan reflecting our goals in that area, and we’ve used that as a basis for our projects over the past seven years” Snapshot Name: Birchip Landcare Group Area: South east Mallee Project: Reconnecting water points with biodiversity corridors for the protection of locally endangered species

Mary Fielding:

“What we wanted to do as a group and a community was to gradually plant corridors that link significant areas of remnant vegetation with the watering points in the landscape.

all in the ground and fenced and it’s been a really successful exercise.

“We were strategic by planning projects that would revegetate areas moving towards where we knew carpet python are established. Our aim is to improve the range area for the python, but also improve the ability of other woodland species of interest to move towards and between water sites.

“The vegetation corridors don’t link those strategic sites yet, but they do extend and connect significant areas of vegetation heading to those key wetlands.

“Our focus as a group and as a community is on biodiversity, threatened species and maintaining important wetlands in the Birchip area.

“The challenge for us was that we couldn’t create those corridors through public land – we needed the support of private landholders to improve the connectivity of the water points.

“We love our Inland Carpet Pythons here, and one of our objectives is to protect not just the carpet pythons, but also threatened woodland birds like tree creepers and our areas of remnant Buloke, which is a national threatened eco-system.

“So we spoke to the eight landholders in the areas of interest and in every case they were prepared to pitch in. That wasn’t an insignificant contribution on their part, because it involved the donation of land, for a start, but also they made in-kind contributions such as ripping and earthworks as well as spraying weeds and controlling vermin.

“Our group put together a strategic plan reflecting our goals in that area, and we’ve used that as a basis for our projects over the past seven years. “Birchip was fortunate to have some environmental watering last year on a couple of local wetlands, Marlbed Lake, Mahood’s Corner, Barbers’ Swamp and Gould’s Lake. There are a lot of recorded sightings of pythons at Mahood’s Corner and Marlbed Lake, backed up by photographs of them at those sites.

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“We have successfully applied for funds several times, but last year was our largest single project.

“We’re a relatively small group, but at the same time as doing the tree planting projects, we’ve also been working to protect what vegetation is already there through fencing as well as rabbit and weed control, including box thorn eradication. “The support we’ve had from landholders, from local, state and national entities and the community has been partly, I think, because of our strategic approach. We are clear about our goals and plans, they’re easily understandable and they reflect our community values.

“Generally, we’ve found that most landholders are interested in the environment and are only too happy to support our work where the expectation is reasonable and where the communication is good.

“With that in mind we also place a strong emphasis on community education and we host a field day every year. Last year our day on Buloke woodlands drew about 30 people from as far away as Horsham and from right across the Mallee to hear environmental consultant Neil Marriott.

“So with their support, last year we were able to plant 3500 trees overall in the district. That included corridors over a distance of more than three kilometres and other plantings to strengthen areas of remnant vegetation. The plantings are

“We have also started presenting Landcare Prizes at Birchip P12 College reflecting outstanding academic performance in science, which we think is a good way to encourage the next generation.”


The

Mallee Farmer

Case Study 3 - Millewa Carwarp Landcare Snapshot Name: Millewa Carwarp Landcare Group Area: West of Mildura, between the Murray Sunset National Park to the Murray River Project: Control of weeds and pest animals through the development of strategic partnerships

Annette Lambert: “Going back four or five years ago, Landcare was struggling in the Millewa region. The group owned a lot of equipment for rabbit ripping and baiting, but things had fallen down a bit and there was no system for landholders to be able to access that equipment. “So a couple of us got together and that was the reason to rejuvenate the group. We got all the equipment back into one place and set up a system so farmers could use it. “But as a group we were still working in isolation. All the rural Landcare groups in the far north west face similar challenges. They’re not like other areas of the State. It’s semi-arid, we’re very isolated, resourcing is tight and the problems we face are unique. “So we started working on partnerships with the other Landcare groups in the region, the Murrayville Landcare Group and the Mallee Landcare Group. “That’s resulted in the establishment of what we call the Greater Mallee Landcare Group. It’s not a formal organisation, but it’s a very effective working partnership that covers all the Landcare organisations in the Mildura Rural City Council area. “The really groundbreaking part of what we are doing is that the partnership has gone beyond just Landcare. Mildura Rural City Council has taken the concept on board, recognised its potential and has helped us take it to the next level.

“Part of the impetus were the amendments to the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994, which placed management of controlled weeds on roadsides onto local government. “We were already doing a lot of that work and the council really took the view that it was a partnership – we put a strategic plan together with the council and from there we introduced regular stakeholder meetings. “It took us two years to get off the ground, but it’s now working really well and twice a year we bring together all the organisations – Mildura Rural City Council, Mallee CMA, Parks Victoria, VicRoads, VicTrack, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, and Trust for Nature. “It took a while to find its feet and for everyone to get to know each other, but now they are very constructive onestop-shops for information exchange on Natural Resource Management in the region. It’s a very honest and practical way of communicating and that really helps when it comes to achieving goals. “Everyone puts on the table what they are doing, any issues, how they are doing it, so each area has a chance to complement what other areas are planning or doing. We all get to have a say, and you say what you think. “At a very local level, the Millewa Carwarp group has also been focusing on building partnerships and taking a long-term view of initiatives to help the community. “I moved my office to the Lake Cullulleraine Tennis Club rooms about 12 months ago and it’s now turned into a bit of a community hub. “We have the Millewa News coming soon which will be printed at the office, potential for council library services to work there, we are sales associates for an insurance company, which pays the group a return for each referral, a book club and run regular training sessions for various things. We are also in the process of acquiring a visiting masseur. “It’s actually not big enough now which is fantastic and means Landcare and our goals are integrated into what the community is thinking and needing – it’s really seen as part of the community.

“Another initiative that’s really worked well is our Feral Festival each March, which is unique I think. Each farmer registers their property and the weekend shoot is held over 48 hours. The shooters bring in their kill at the end, they’re cashed in and that provides funding for the organization of the event – it’s a win-win for fox, rabbit, pig, wild dog, mice and carp control and an event for the community. “For the last three years, we have applied for grants and have been successful receiving $90,000 in the first year, $60,000, second year and $30,000 for current grant rounds which are currently being undertaking roadside rabbit and weed control in the Millewa and Kulkyne Way area. “After next year we will be back at the start of the strategic planning. We use a 4-year rotation of our area to deliver road weed and vermin control, which also enhances the enormous task our farmers do annually. “With the aid of the Council we also have two trial release sites for the RHDV1 K5, a new strain of calicivirus. Releases of the new virus will occur in March 2017, at Neds Corner and on a private farm at Karween Victoria. “Another example was the Lake Cullulleraine Boat Club had an infestation of rabbits, which we were able to get funding for them to clean up. That work was done in conjunction with Mallee CMA’s Cultural Heritage team and that made new connections there which just hadn’t been possible before. “I connect with someone new, somewhere every day and I think that’s what it’s all about.”

Find out more

Annette Lambert Northern Mallee Landcare Consortium Facilitator 0487 178 582 weare@lambertinc.com.au

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The

Mallee Farmer

Rabbits on the run: Strategic Mallee release for new strain of rabbit virus “For some, K5 will be seen as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve biological control options for rabbits in Australia”. Victorian K5 Release Sites March 2017

By Jacinta Allan-Gange

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The Victorian release of K5 is the culmination of work undertaken by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC) in partnership with Agriculture Victoria, and sites were selected from expressions of interest from Landcare and community groups. There were 355 expressions of interest in Victoria, resulting in 150 sites being selected for release. The overwhelming community response to host a release site in Victoria has enabled the strategic selection of locations to ensure widespread distribution of the virus right across the State. Sites were specifically selected based on national criteria, adapted for Victorian conditions. Agriculture Victoria has been undertaking biological sampling at 13 long-term rabbit population monitoring sites across Victoria in the lead up to the release of K5, in order to be able

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to accurately monitor the spread and impact of K5 once it is released.

The rabbit damage bill • Rabbits cause $206 million in losses each year to the agricultural industry. • They compete with grazing stock for food, contribute to soil erosion, damage crops and destabilise the land, potentially leading to injury of livestock. • Rabbits threaten the survival of more than 300 Australian native flora and fauna species. This includes 24 critically endangered species such as the pygmy possum, orange-bellied parrot and ballerina orchid. • Less than one rabbit per football field sized paddock is enough to stop the growth of some native species and negatively affect biodiversity Agriculture Victoria’s rabbit specialist John Matthews said K5 was selected because it may overcome the

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The Mallee sites are among 600 across Australia where the virus will be released in a co-ordinated national attack on one of the most destructive agricultural and environmental pests.

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Mildura

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The release of a new strain of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease, known as RHDV1 K5 or ‘K5’ will begin at 15 Mallee sites from March in an effort to control rabbits and their negative impacts on agricultural production and native ecosystems.

It’s the first time in 20 years a new rabbit biocontrol agent is being released into Australia, however RHDV1 K5 is not a new virus; it is a strain of the existing virus already widespread in Australia, commonly known as calicivirus.

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Copyright © The State of Victoria Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, 2016 Disclaimer This publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication. Accessibility If you would like to receive this publication in an alternative format, please telephone the Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or email customer.service@ecodev.vic.gov.au, via the National Relay Service on 133 677 or www.relayservice.com.au.

Author: Jill Smith Project Officer - GIS/Systems Support Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources Date Produced: Monday, 21 November 2016 Coordinate System: GDA 1994 VICGRID94 Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic Datum: GDA 1994 False Easting: 2,500,000.0000 False Northing: 2,500,000.0000 Central Meridian: 145.0000 Standard Parallel 1: -36.0000 Standard Parallel 2: -38.0000 Latitude Of Origin: -37.0000 Units: Meter

protective effects of a benign calicivirus which naturally occurs within Australia’s rabbit population and that it is speciesspecific to European rabbits. “For some, K5 will be seen as a oncein-a-generation opportunity to improve biological control options for rabbits in Australia,” Mr Matthews said. “K5 has the potential to kill more rabbits and provide for a faster death than the current strain of RHDV,” he said. But Mr Matthews cautioned landowners that K5 was not a silver bullet. “It’s not likely that it will result in population reductions like those seen in 1996-97 when calicivirus first arrived in Victoria,” he said. “Knockdowns are expected to be improved by anywhere from 10 to 40 per cent, depending on location and susceptibility of the rabbit population to K5, however some vulnerable rabbit populations may be affected at higher rates.


The

Mallee Farmer “But private and public land managers are encouraged to take advantage of the arrival of the virus and follow up with conventional controls to remove remnant rabbits.” The release of RHDV1 K5 comes after more than 10 years of testing through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre RHD Boost project, with major financial and in kind resources provided by the Australian Government, State Governments, and industry and nongovernment organisations. Mallee CMA chair Sharyon Peart said a combination of an improved biological control agent and community-led rabbit management using best practice rabbit management principles, should provide an opportunity to manage and maintain rabbit numbers at low levels. “RHDV1 K5 offers a new opportunity to begin a conversation with neighbours with the aim of integrated best practice rabbit control at a landscape scale,” Ms Peart said.

“We know that two rabbits can become 200 in just two years, and in another two years that could be 40,000 – that’s why it’s important that we keep on top of the problem with new interventions and new tools.” Unlike previous biocontrol releases, the public is being urged to get involved by helping to track the spread of the virus through downloading the RabbitScan (FeralScan) smart phone app. Rabbitscan allows landholders and community members to easily report evidence of disease to assist land managers understand the movement of the virus. To report sightings of rabbits or evidence of disease in your region visit www. rabbitscan.org.au or download via the iTunes or GooglePlay stores through searching for ‘FeralScan’. To keep up to date with progress of the RHDV1 K5 release visit www. healthierlandscapes.org.au

K5 At A Glance •

RHDV1 K5 is not a new virus; it is a Korean variant of the existing virus already widespread in Australia. K5 was selected out of 38 candidate variants because it can overcome the protective effects of a benign calicivirus (RCV-A1) which naturally occurs in Australia’s rabbit population. K5 will not kill every last rabbit. It is not a silver bullet. It is another tool in the toolbox and needs to be supported with conventional controls. Population reductions like those seen with the release of calicivirus in 1996/97 are not expected. Knockdowns are likely to be conservative, depending on location and susceptibility of the rabbit population to K5. K5 is a naturally occurring variant of RHDV1. The virus has not been altered by humans in any way. K5 affects only the European rabbit. Disease cannot be caused in any other animal. The Australian Veterinary Association advises that rabbit owners vaccinate domestic rabbits and provide additional protection against the virus and myxomatosis by keeping rabbits inside or in insect-proof enclosures. Online information is available from the Australian Veterinary Association. http://www.ava.com.au/ rabbit-calicivirus

Find out more

For more information about rabbit control please visit www. pestsmart.org.au or www. agriculture.vic.gov.au/rabbits

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The Last Word

By Glen Sutherland Regional Landcare Facilitator

By now regular readers of the Mallee Farmer will know this page concentrates on problematic pest plant and animals that give rise to both environmental and production threats in the Mallee. After 11 such articles you might be forgiven for thinking that we must be close to exhausting topics for conversation. Unfortunately no such luck. While we don’t want to be labelled doomsayers, a recent long drive certainly provided an easy decision on what to write about this time around as part of the journey occurred relatively late at night. It took but a little while to identify those miniature grey furry shapes scuttling to and fro across the road illuminated by my headlights; Mice! And a fair few of them at that. This edition of the Mallee’s Most Wanted is scrutinising mice and poses the question; will they be a problem this cropping season? There is no doubt history is a great predictive tool when comparing past experiences to current circumstances and forecasting what might be about to happen. When it comes to mice we know the worst population explosions have followed some bumper harvests, particularly when coupled with milder, wetter seasons and early autumn breaks. The spring of 1993 was perhaps the worst ever recorded widespread mouse plague in Australia and 2010-11 was no picnic either, nor was the spring of 2014 on the South Australian Yorke Peninsula. These periodic episodes are classic examples of what can happen when conditions are just right for the little furry fiends and given the dynamics of the last harvest, right across the grain growing regions of Australia, we may be in for one doozy of a mouse challenge in the very near future. Particularly given the amount of dropped grain, due to storm damage and other factors in the Mallee, parts of South Australia and elsewhere. According to the GRDC’s Mouse Control Fact Sheet there may be more mice per hectare these days resulting from changes in cropping systems that use

The

less cultivation, stubble retention, more diverse crops, and fewer livestock. These changes provide mice with better cover, more high-quality food, undisturbed burrows and easy access to sown grain. But are mouse plagues really as catastrophic as they are made out to be? The answer is an emphatic yes. It has been estimated, under the right conditions, one breeding pair of mice could produce another 500 in just 21 weeks! In numbers they have the potential to cause devastating losses in all crop types. Anyone lucky enough not to have seen a mouse plague in action should watch these videos to gain some insight into the impacts of full-on mouse plagues.

Record crop yields can equal plentiful mouse feed

https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=zWVw-j8eYSk http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/ nature/the-bizarre-mystery-of-the-aussiemouse-plagues.aspx Predicting mouse plagues is difficult as it doesn’t always mean that a good year will be followed by serious mouse problems. Ideal mice breeding conditions may only be present at isolated locations, even between properties and paddocks. Once mouse numbers have reached problem proportions (over 500 per hectare) they are nigh on impossible to realistically deal with, so the early detection of an increasing

Mallee Farmer

mouse population is the key to effectively limiting their numbers. By the time mice densities have reached the stage where they’re going to pose a problem, in-crop control through baiting is the only viable option and baiting efficiency is very dependent on getting the application timing right. So what to do? Monitoring and recording mouse numbers, any suspect year, is a good idea, but if history is anything to go by, it will be even more important this season. The more people involved the better as mice can up and move long distances and fairly quickly, when push comes to shove with food scarcity. Just because you don’t have a problem in your paddocks now, doesn’t guarantee avoiding a mouse infestation later in the season when the most damage can occur to crops. In the long run the best way to keep mouse numbers manageable is by reducing, as much as possible, the amount of food available and crop baiting at the most effective time. Another way for farmers to get an understanding of what is happening with mice in their district is to use the Smart Phone MouseAlert App to record data about mice on their farms, as the information is then available to all interested people to view via a Google maps platform. There are a number of tried and proven techniques and tools to assist monitoring mouse numbers and these are discussed in more detail in this addition of the Mallee Farmer, take a look at the article on page 2. Another excellent information resource is the very comprehensive GRDC Mouse Control Fact Sheet, available on line at: http:// www.grdc.com.au/grdcfsmousecontrol

Contact

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

www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

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

Mallee farmer edition 12  
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