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The

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

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Tackling summer weeds

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Crop insects what to expect in spring

Incentives on offer for dryland farmers Cereal crops provide forage potential

ISSUE 01 • AUGUST 2011

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Revegetation is it surviving?


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Mallee Farmer

Contents Dunmunkle Creek biolink project

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Land Protection Incentive Scheme

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Athel Pine in the Victorian Mallee

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Break crops in the Mallee

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Summer weed control strategies 8 Mallee farming research and demonstration projects 10 Profitable broadleaf crop sequencing

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Crop insects: what to expect this spring

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Landcare links

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Revegetation works

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A profitable and sustainable feed source

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Monitoring the success of revegetation in the Mallee 22 Grazing Cereals

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Paddock zoning and Yield ProphetTM combined 27 The Mallee’s hidden treasures 29 Flood-affected farmers helping the environment

ISSN: 1839 - 2229

Cover Image Rob Stewart preparing a site for saltbush plantings, which were planted with funding from the Mallee Land Protection Incentive Scheme (LPIS). The LPIS opens in August.

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A New Era For Mallee Farmers

Welcome to the first edition of the new-look Mallee Farmer proudly produced by the The Mallee Catchment Management Authority. The CMA will endeavour to continue the tradition of providing Mallee farmers with important information on research, projects and events across the region.

The Mallee CMA recognises the work done by the Department of Primary Industries in producing The Mallee Farmer in previous years and the Authority plans to carry on DPI’s commitment to delivering interesting and engaging content. In this edition, The Mallee Farmer features details on: • how locals can access funding for on-ground works such as stock containment areas, saltbush and dune reclamation through the 2011 round of the Mallee Land Protection Incentive Scheme; • summer weed control strategies • and how various methods impact on soil health; DISCLAIMER The information in this document has been published in good faith by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA). 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

• what crop insects you can expect to see in your paddocks this spring, and why not all crop insects are pests; • an update on how Landcare groups across the Mallee are travelling, as well as a look at how the Red Cliffs Secondary College is revamping Landcare as we know it; and • how a field trial at Walpeup is exploring the use of perennial shrubs as an alternative fodder option. Thank you to those who have supported this edition of The Mallee Farmer by submitting articles and photographs, including staff from the Mallee CMA, Landcare, DPI, Birchip Cropping Group, Mallee Sustainable Farming, the University of Melbourne, Dodgshun Medlin and others. On behalf of the Mallee CMA Board, I hope you enjoy this edition of The Mallee Farmer and look forward to the next edition in March 2012. 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 Farmer

PHOTOS New sections of protection fencing along Dunmunkle Creek

Dunmunkle Creek biolink project A co-operative effort to build a fenced exclusion zone along a Mallee creek has allowed a spectacular recovery of remnant vegetation under the Dunmunkle Creek Biolink project. By

Kevin Chaplin, Mallee CMA. Sea Lake Landcare Group members originally conceived and developed the first stage of the project to preserve a stretch of the Dunmunkle Creek. The intention was to provide protection for critical habitat along the northern section of the creek which runs from the Sea Lake township (and the Tyrrell Creek) to Green Lake. The stretch of creek was previously un-fenced and had been degraded by grazing. Landholders were consulted and engaged by the Landcare group to plan and construct the fencing of the creek frontage on their individual properties. The project was co-ordinated

by the Landcare Group and supported by all landholders along the creek corridor. The result was eight kilometres of fencing and the protection of 40 hectares of remnant vegetation. The fencing excluded stock from the creek corridor and is now allowing the re-establishment of depleted and threatened flora. The success of the initial project inspired a second group of farmers south of Green Lake to become involved. This section of the creek previously had some existing fences, but the fences were not continuously joined along the creek corridor. The Landcare group was also able to facilitate strong support from farmers bordering this section of creek, and almost-continuous exclusion fencing is now in place. A total of 38.5 kilometres of fencing has been erected through the two projects, with 371 hectares of habitat protected. Funding has now been secured to fill the few remaining gaps and complete a continuous exclusion zone from Green Lake to Blysthman’s Swamp. Participating farmers recognise that keeping rabbit and weed numbers

down will be critical to the regeneration of vegetation, and are committed to eradication efforts on their individual properties. The Sea Lake Landcare Group initiated the project as a result of concern about the impact of grazing and pest animals on the creek. The project has ensured there is now a critical biolink for fauna between the two significant waterways in the Sea Lake area – Victoria’s largest salt lake (Lake Tyrrell) and the freshwater Green Lake. The completion of the project coincided with the breaking of the prolonged drought, and the result has been dramatic vegetative growth in the creek corridor. The exclusion of stock from grazing along the creek corridor and the ongoing vermin and weed control by landholders is allowing for the re-establishment of depleted and threatened fauna.

The Dunmunkle Creek project was supported by the Mallee CMA, through funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country.

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Mallee Farmer

Land Protection Incentive Scheme By

Jodie Price, Project Officer, DPI

The Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), in partnership with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is working with dry land farming communities, through the provision of financial incentives for on-ground works that address key environmental threats. These financial incentives are made available through the Land Protection Incentive Scheme (LPIS). The LPIS has been in the region for more than 20 years and supports the implementation of targeted risk management actions through the provision of financial incentives.

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The LPIS is designed to help farmers tackle environmental issues by sharing the costs of on-ground works that protect and rehabilitate land at risk of degradation. During 2009/10 Mallee Farmers completed works to help protect and improve local environmental assets including more than 18,000 ha of agricultural soils managed to reduce the risk of soil erosion and control saline areas. Work undertaken by Mallee farmers during 2009-10 included: • Building stock containment areas; • The rehabilitation of saline discharge; • Revegetation with indigenous vegetation for salinity recharge control; • Dune reclamation works to protect soil from erosion; • Remnant vegetation protected from stock through fencing; and • Land managed to land class through fencing. Delivery of the 2010-11 LPIS is currently underway in the Mallee CMA region, with 83 expressions of interest received for salinity and soil conservation works.

Approved works to be undertaken by Mallee farmers by 30 July 2011 include: • The construction of 48 stock containment areas, protecting over 72,000 hectares of agricultural soil from erosion. • The rehabilitation of 341 hectares of saline discharge areas through the establishment of saltbush. • 71.4 hectares of dune reclamation works at 26 sites to protect soil from erosion. • 271.3 hectares of land managed to land class through fencing. The actual works completed for 2010-11 are still to be finalised as works are being completed. The LPIS will continue in the Mallee CMA region during 2011/12 with Expressions of Interest due to be called in early August 2011. Look out for the advertisements in your local papers and come and visit the Mallee CMA and DPI team at the Mallee Machinery Field Days at Speed on August 3rd and 4th for further information. The case studies highlight how landholders have used incentives to manage soils in past.


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Mallee Farmer Case Study 1 - Stock Containment Areas Darren Hogan operates a cropping, sheep and cattle farm north of Birchip. The Hogan’s farm consists of a mix of heavy clay and clay loam soil, which is managed under a conventional cropping system that consists of both conventional and chemical fallow. Darren has always been careful not to overgraze his paddocks with stock. Darren said “this type of management reduces weeds and retains moisture, however it does put the soil at risk of erosion.” Through the LPIS, Darren received a financial incentive to construct a stock containment area on his property. The stock containment area will provide Darren with a specific, designated area for him to hold, feed, water and maintain his stock during adverse seasonal conditions reducing the impact on the soil and risk of erosion over the rest of his property. “The stock containment area will allow me to hold and maintain my core stock and keep them off the paddocks until they are suitable for grazing,” Darren said.

Case Study 2 - Salinity Discharge Robert and Jenny Stewart were participants in the first ever Environmental Management Action Plan project conducted at Waitchie. It was through their involvement with this project that non productive and saline areas on the Stewart’s property were identified, and mapped. An action plan was then developed to address these issues. Through the LPIS, the Stewart’s received a financial incentive that helped them turn their plans to tackle salinity into reality. The Stewart’s used the incentive to hand plant 9.5 hectares of Old Man Saltbush and 400 indigenous trees. This was completed with the assistance of friends who Rob said helped out because of the excellent BBQ lunch that they supplied. All plants were watered-in immediately and the indigenous vegetation was further protected by 700 metres of stock exclusion fencing. “The survival rate of the trees and saltbush has been fantastic. The only thing I need to do is slash between the rows to keep the grass down,” Rob said.

ABOVE LPIS 2010/11 planned on-ground works. OPPOSITE PAGE - Stock containment area built on Darren Hogans property.

Acknowledgements

The LPIS project is supported by the Mallee CMA, in partnership with DPIs Farm Services Victoria Division, though funding from the Australian Government Caring for our Country Initiative and the Victorian Government.

Information

For further information on the LPIS and more case studies: www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

Contact

Jodie Price, Project Officer, DPI. FSV - Grains Branch PO Box 905 Mildura, Vic 3502 T: (03) 5051 4359 M: 0428 354 720 E: jodie.price@dpi.vic.gov.au

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Athel Pine in the Victorian Mallee Athel pine (Tamarix aphylla) is one of the worst weeds threatening inland Australia today, as such it has been declared a “Weed of National Significance” (WoNS). By

Kevin Chaplin, Mallee CMA. Athel Pine was identified as a Weed of National Significance in 1999 because of its invasiveness, its potential to spread and its impacts on the environment and primary industry. Athel pine or athel tree is an evergreen tree to 15 metres tall with rough greybrown to black bark on older stems. It can be single stemmed or multistemmed, with trunks usually up to 40cm thick. Bark on new stems is smooth and reddish-brown to grey-green in colour. Athel pine’s specific name, “aphylla” means, “without leaves”. Its leaves are so shrunken that they are not visible.

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Instead, it harvests energy from the sun through its drooping grey-green needles, which look like pine or She oak needles. The segments of athel pine needles are only 1 to 2mm long, compared to She oak needles which are 5 to 10 mm long. Athel pine needles often have a coating of salts excreted on their surfaces, which gives them a whitish colouration. Athel pine has tiny pinkish-white flowers, in 3 to 5cm long clusters on the ends of branches. Each flower has five petals. Fortunately these weeds have a limited distribution at the moment, and now is the time for land managers to remove Athel pine. Athel pine is drought resistant and suited to arid and semi-arid regions. It is salt tolerant and flourishes around rivers, but is not restricted to the riverine environment. Athel pine flowers after three years and produces as many as 500,000 seeds per tree annually. Seeds can travel at least eight km via wind and 12km if floating on water. Athel pine flowers in summer in Australia, but timing of seed set and seed fall has not been established. Athel pine seeds must come to rest on moist

ground within a few weeks of being set in order to grow. Seedlings develop rapidly once established, forming a strong woody root system which reaches as deeply as 50m into the soil and rock profile. Athel pine has been introduced around the world for shelter and erosion control. It arrived in Australia in the 1930s from countries such as Asia, India, Arabia and Iran and was widely planted for shade and windbreaks into the 1970s. It was planted on roadsides, private property, school yards and parklands. This plant was known for its hardy ability to establish and survive in dry, low rainfall conditions and in most soil types. It grows from seed, cuttings and coppices (shoots from the stump) once it has been cut down. Athel pine is known to block sewer and water pipes and excretes salts from its leaves (phylons) causing any metal objects beneath the plant to rust very quickly. No understory plants, shrubs or herbs will grow underneath the Athel pine due to the build up of decaying, salty leaves that drop from the tree.


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Mallee Farmer It threatens the environment by outcompeting the native plants of Australia such as River Red Gums, small shrubs, plants and endmic herbs which our native birds, reptiles and invertebrates rely on for food and shelter. Athel pine impacts on the Australian people by damaging the natural landscapes where we live. In regard to controlling Athel pine, the best practice method is to cut down the Athel pine to the ground surface and immediately apply a registered chemical to the cut stump surface. The waste foliage is to be burned when safe to do so. The cut stump surface area must be monitored for any regrowth. If

regrowth occurs it is to be sprayed with a registered chemical when about a metre tall. Planting of indigenous species near to where the Athel pine has been removed is advised to rehabilitate the area.

What can you do to help

The Mallee CMA is currently mapping infestations of Athel pine and is encouraging community members to report any known infestations, so future control works can be implemented.

Want to know more?

For more information or to report sites of Athel pine please contact the Mallee CMA.

Further information

Information on registered chemicals can be found at: www.msds.com.au/ and compliance with fire restrictions at:

www.cfa.vic.gov.au/restrictions/can.htm

Contact

Mal Thompson, Mallee CMA Community Support Officer T: (03) 5030 2855 M: 0427 514 378 E: malcolm.thompson@dpi.vic.gov.au

ABOVE Community members examine Athel Pines during an information session at Nyah. OPPOSITE PAGE Athel Pines in flower during summer.

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Mallee Farmer

Break crops in the Mallee This article summarises the findings of field research conducted during 2010 to evaluate the viability of including break crops within cereal dominated systems, and the related impacts on soil health within the Victorian Mallee. By

Angela Cough, DPI. The identification of management strategies to increase water use efficiency (WUE) in cereal based cropping systems is an ongoing priority within the low rainfall Mallee environment. While the inclusion of break crops in continuous cropping systems may provide several benefits to the subsequent cereal crop, it may also change groundcover production and maintenance; and thus susceptibility to soil erosion. The project assessed above ground biomass and stubble loads of canola, lupins and wheat grown for hay, relative to those achieved by wheat grown for grain, in a replicated field trial at Ouyen. Associated productivity and profitability impacts were quantified as part of a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Department of

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Primary Industries (DPI) funded project to improve whole farm WUE across the tri-state Mallee region.

Background

Over the past decade a highly efficient cropping system based largely on more intensive cereal production using no-till farming has developed in the Mallee. However, the long term viability of this system is starting to be questioned by local growers who see potential benefits of including break crops to reduce grass weed populations, reduce cereal diseases, increase WUE in the cereal phase, and increase nitrogen inputs through N fixation. While break crops are well suited to the Mallee and may provide production benefits to intensive cereal crop sequences, crops that perform poorly have the potential to cause significant environmental damage to the landscape through a lack of groundcover promoting erosion processes.

This project aimed to evaluate a range of break crop strategies and assist landholders to select options to optimise the objectives of crop productivity and the protection of the soil resource.

Methods

The evaluation site was located at Ouyen in the Victorian Mallee and incorporated typical dune, slope and swale soil types. A separate experimental design was created for each of the three soil type areas of the paddock, each being a randomised block design with three replicates and 10m x 5.4m plots. The treatments evaluated across these soil types were: • High input lupin (sown at 100 kg/ ha with 50 kg mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP)/ha); • Low input lupin (sown at 50 kg/ha with 25 kg MAP/ha); • High input canola (sown at 3 kg/ha with 50 kg MAP/ha); • Low input canola (sown at 1 kg/ha with 25 kg MAP/ha); • Chemical fallow; • Hay crop (wheat sown at 60 kg/ha with 50 kg MAP/ha); • Continuous wheat (sown at 60 kg/ha with 50 kg MAP/ha); • Wheat (sown at 60 kg/ha with 50 kg MAP/ha and to be followed by break crops in later years).


The

Mallee Farmer The varieties selected were Mandelup narrow leaf lupins, Pioneer 43C80 imidazolinone tolerant canola and Yitpi milling quality wheat.

Results

(a) Rainfall The average annual rainfall for Ouyen is 331mm, with 215mm falling in the April to October growing season. In 2010, the rainfall to December was 395mm and the growing season rainfall was 270mm, with more than half falling from August to October. (b) Soil water Water content in the top soil was similar for all soil types and increased with depth (P<0.001). The total water content to 100cm depth prior to sowing was 134, 156 and 171mm on the dune, slope and swale respectively. Observed differences in plant growth were not attributable to differences in initial soil water content possible due to the season having above average rainfall. (c) Residue loads Initial stubble load from the 2009 Yitpi wheat crop in the paddock ranged from 1285 kg/ha to 4626 kg/ha with no significant difference between soil types. This retained stubble was important early in the season for ensuring low soil erosion risk under low input break crops. Post-harvest residue load in late January 2011 was 1704 kg/ha, 1914 kg/ha and 1496 kg/ha for the dune, slope and swale experiments, respectively. There was no significant difference between any of the treatments in any of the experiments. However, there was a consistent trend for fallow to have less stubble present that the high input lupin treatment on all soil types whilst canola treatments tended to have more stubble than fallow in select experiments. Stubble in the fallow is attributed to the proceeding 2009 cereal crop.

Key Points

• Several break crop options were evaluated to determine their impact on soil erosion risk within the low rainfall Mallee; • The project assessed above ground biomass and stubble loads of canola, lupins and wheat grown for hay, relative to those achieved by wheat grown for grain, in a replicated field trial at Ouyen.

Unexpectedly, hay production (cut in October) was accompanied by no significant reduction in residue loads within soil types in January 2011 although there were downward trends. Lack of difference can partially be attributed to at least 50% of stubble remaining from the 2009 crop.

Results from the 2010 year showed that break crops can be grown in the Mallee but that their long term viability may be year and soil type dependant. Crop management may also need to be adjusted to meet a specific need of the farming system; such as weed or disease control.

(d) Plant density Most low input break crops had significantly lower plant densities than high input break crops, and most wheat treatments, on all soil types. As the crops grew, yellow leaf spot infected the wheat but there were no visible diseases in the break crops. This highlights the potential advantages of growing break crops to reduce disease incidence.

Within a wetter than average year it was demonstrated that soil erosion risk may be increased early in the season by sowing lupins or canola at low seeding rates, and late in the season by moving from grain to hay production.

(e) Crop biomass On each soil type, the lupin treatments had significantly less biomass than the canola treatments. Differences between high and low inputs for the same crop type were shown for both break crops on the swale and for canola on the slope. All wheat treatments, including hay, had similar crop biomass within the same soil type; except on the swale where the continuous wheat treatment was higher for an unidentified reason. At wheat flowering there were no significant differences in crop biomass (P>0.06) between any of the wheat treatments, including hay, within each soil type. Average above ground biomass was 4123 kg/ha, 4233 kg/ha and 5582 kg/ha for dune, slope and swale respectively. Consistent wheat growth within each soil type in 2010 provides a uniform background for all break crops established in 2011. (f) Harvest Grain yields, grain quality, selling prices around the time of harvest and N prices around the time of application were used to compare the economic viability of each crop. This provides a guide only, as prices change frequently; it does however provide insight into how economically feasible the introduction of these break crops are to Mallee cereal based systems. Overall wheat produced the highest grain yields and wheat, including hay, gave higher returns that the break crops. Hay also provided the added benefit of assisting with weed control.

Implications of the findings

This single year experiment has provided a first step in assessing the viability of introducing canola, lupins or hay production into a cropping system to reduce the impact of disease and weeds in the cereal phase, whilst maintaining ground cover.

Several years of experimentation and monitoring will be required before definitive recommendations on break crops can be made. This project will be continued in the 2011 season using the 2010 wheat as a background for break crops sown in 2011.

Recommendations

• Evaluate low input break crops in a year of different rainfall patterns to determine their viability in more than one season; • Monitor residue load before sowing and shortly thereafter to determine if ground cover from residue compensates for low plant density in break crops; • Measure the seasonal course of light interception to determine for how long break crops are able to maintain 50% ground cover; • Record crop residue immediately after harvesting brassica and hay to determine if early harvest makes the soil more susceptible for soil erosion; • Record crop residue at least three times between harvest and sowing to determine the rate of loss.

Acknowledgements

This project was supported by the Mallee CMA, through funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country and the GRDC and DPI.

Further Information

The information for this article has been taken from “Do break crops improve the soil health of Mallee cropping systems?” -- a report for the Mallee CMA by DPI Victoria Future Farming Systems Research. A copy of the report can be downloaded from the Mallee CMA website: www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

Contact

Angela Clough, DPI T: (03) 5336 6618

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Summer weed control strategies This article summarises the findings of field research conducted in 2010 to evaluate summer weed control strategies and their related impacts on soil health within the Victorian Mallee. By

Ivan Mock, Dodgshun Medlin Agriculture. Weed species that establish over the period from summer to autumn can be detrimental to grazing and the following winter crop. Cultivation and herbicides used to control these weeds reduce ground cover and may increase the risk of soil erosion by wind. To assist landholders with information on effective, low risk options for summer weed control, four herbicide strategies and a nil control were evaluated in a replicated large plot trial near Piangil. Data was collected over a 14 month period on weeds controlled, soil health implications and the productivity of the following wheat crop.

Background

Summer weeds are an inherent problem within most Mallee cropping systems and difficulties in controlling them will be compounded by the predicted increase

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over time in the proportion of rainfall outside the winter crop period. Common practice is to commence summer weed control after harvest which is usually too late for optimum soil water and nitrogen conservation. The established weeds then encourage more extreme control measures that exacerbate the risk of erosion. Alternative management options for summer weed control include herbicide selection, the timing and frequency of application, and newer technologies that selectively apply chemical to weedy areas only. There is, however, limited information currently available on the effectiveness of these options in relation to both crop production and soil health implications. This study aimed to evaluate a range of summer weed control strategies and assist landholders to select options which optimise the potentially conflicting objectives of crop productivity and the protection of the soil resource.

Methods

The evaluation site was located between Piangil and Manangatang on a typical Central Mallee cropping paddock with sandy loam – light sand soil and with a mixed population of summer weeds. The five summer weed strategies evaluated were: 1. No control over the summer weed period. 2. District practice – spray late, commencing after harvest (18/12 and 3/2). 3. Current best practice – spray early December and as required (4/12, 18/12 and 3/2). 4. Weedit® and Weedseeker® sensor technology to selectively spray weeds (4/12, 18/12 and 3/2). 5. Spray early but once only (4/12). Spray applications and seeding were done with commercial scale equipment on plots 16m wide x 50m long, with four replications of each treatment. The site was sown to Yitpi wheat and inseason crop management applied to the paddock by the farmer.

BELOW LEFT Summer melon, RIGHT Summer weed. PHOTOS Mallee CMA.


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Mallee Farmer but did not eliminate, summer grass, although was not significantly worse than spatially targeted applications except for broadleaf weed control. A single application of summer weed spray applied early was less effective against summer weeds, particularly summer grass, than a single application applied later despite containing residual herbicide. Heavy rain between the early and late applied herbicide may have reduced its longer-term effectiveness.

Spray application results

Results

(a) Rainfall Rainfall exceeded the long-term mean for the site by: • 80% for the 2009/10 summer weed period from November to March; • 166% for the winter crop season • (April–October); • 286% during November and December 2010, which delayed harvest. Total rainfall for 2010 was 629.7mm, the highest annual total ever recorded at this site. (b) Summer weed control Summer growing species recorded were summer grass, skeleton weed, melons and caltrop, with caltrop confined to the treatment where no herbicide was applied. Weed densities of each species present were recorded prior to the application of pre-seeding herbicides. Their combined density of 28 plants /m2 on the nil control was significantly more (P=0.05) than for any of the four herbicide strategies evaluated. Current best practice was effective at reducing summer weed populations although new sensor technology that applied herbicide where weeds were detected eliminated three of the four summer weed species and reduced the remaining Skeleton Weed to 1.2 plants/ m2. The late start and single application treatments were intermediate in their control of summer weeds. (c) Soil health All treatments had a low soil erosion risk when assessed by Leys method prior to cropping. Stable dry soil aggregates exceeded 60% and were largely responsible for the low erosion risk as ground cover only ranged from 16 - 28%. Soil water content in early May in the

0-60cm profile was inversely correlated with the population of summer weeds on the treatments. There was a similar but not significant trend with nitrate (N) in the 0-30cm profile. (d) Crop production and economic returns There were significant differences (at P=0.10) in grain yield between the “current best practice”, Weedit® and “spray once” treatments compared to the “no spray” treatment. Total herbicide used for the best practice was costed at $36/ha, plus three applications @$6/ha. Herbicide cost was less using Weedit® technology but application cost was more @ $11/ha. Herbicide for the “spray once” and “late spray” was approximately $20/ha plus $6/ha application. For the purpose of these comparisons wheat was valued at $200/t.

Discussion

(a) Herbicide treatment effect on weed populations Above average rainfall after the 2009 harvest provided soil moisture for weed germination and four common summer weed species established where no control was applied. The herbicide treatments all had significantly lower total summer weed populations than the control and eliminated caltrop as one of the four species. The spatially targeted treatment with Weed Seeker® and Weed It® technology controlled all summer weed species other than skeleton weed, which was reduced to of 1.2 plants/m2. It was also effective against an early germination of broadleaf crop weeds (wild turnip and Indian hedge mustard) that emerged in the autumn. Current best practice of starting early and repeated applications reduced,

(b) Soil health The potential for herbicides to expose soil to wind erosion by killing and accelerating the breakdown of vegetative cover on the soil surface was not observed. Soil erosion potential was assessed using Leys method and found to be low across all treatments despite variations in vegetative cover as soil dry aggregates > 0.85mm exceeded 60%. No til farming practices may have assisted in preserving soil aggregates in the sandy textured soil. Soil water content prior to sowing the 2010 crop was greater when summer weed control was more effective. Although this was significant at a profile depth of 60cm, the greatest difference measured in soil water content was between 90 -120cm. At this depth the control treatment, which was the only one with caltrop and had at least 2.5 times more melons than any other treatment, contained less than half the soil water of other treatments. (c) Crop viability The conventional best practice, sensor technology and early start treatments had a wheat grain yield of approximately 2.1 t/ha, which was significantly (P=0.10) more than the nil control at 1.7 t/ha. Higher yield from the treatment with one herbicide application early compared to late was not significant. Yields of 2.1 t/ha or less in a high rainfall season represent poor crop water use efficiency, indicating other constraints to yield that may have limited yield response. The $80/ha increase in the grain harvested (0.4 t/ha x $200/t) more than covered the $36 of herbicide and 3 applications @ $6/ha in the best practice treatment. Sensor technology reduced herbicide use but the exact reduction was difficult to calculate in a plot trail although can be up to 70% with low populations typical of summer weeds. More sophisticated equipment used increased application cost to approximately $11/ha/application. In this trial, the spray early and once treatment had the best economic return as yield was equivalent or better than other treatments and herbicide and application costs lower. Continued Page 10

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Mallee Farmer Continued From Page 9

The wetter than average growing season may have reduced the potential advantage to the crop on treatments where a reduction in summer weeds increased stored soil water at sowing. Similarly, any increase in available soil N related to weed control was less beneficial to the trial crop as increased in-season N mineralisation occurs with higher rainfall and farmer applied postemergent N fertiliser nullified treatment differences in available soil N at sowing.

Recommendations

Sensor sprayers are evaluated more extensively as a technology to reduce herbicide use and associated factors including management of

herbicide resistance and ground cover degradation. Results of the 2010 trial are promoted and validated at additional sites to encompass varied soil types and more average rainfall.

Acknowledgements

This project was funded by the Victorian Government, administered by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). The trial site was provided, sown and managed by Neville Taylor and his cooperation is gratefully acknowledged.

Further Information

The information for this bulletin has been taken from ‘Summer Weed Control Strategies and Related Impacts on Soil Health’, a report for the Mallee CMA by Dodgshun Medlin Agricultural Management. A copy of the report can be downloaded from the Mallee CMA website at www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

Contact

Ivan Mock, Dodgshun Medlin Agriculture M: 0427 329 919

Mallee Farming Research and Demonstration Projects - 2011 This article summarises the research and demonstration projects in the Mallee Catchment Mangement Authority (CMA) region in 2011. By

Stephanie Haw, Mallee CMA.

Key Points

In 2011, the Mallee CMA is supporting the delivery of on ground research and demonstration activities to identify and promote improved farming systems and management practices within the dryland agricultural areas of the region. A total of eleven separate projects have been funded which complement and extend the scope of existing government and industry investment in Mallee dryland agriculture, while ensuring that environmental considerations are effectively addressed. Funding provided through the Australian Government Caring for Our Country (CfOC) and the Victorian Investment Framework (VIF) represents an ongoing

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commitment by the Mallee CMA to support regional agency and industry groups deliver ‘locally’ validated information to the dryland farming community, which assists with informed decisions on both the environmental and economic sustainability of management practices and farming systems. Previously funded projects have evaluated the impact of management practices on soil erosion, soil health and crop water use; as well as their impact on farm productivity. A summary of activities funded for the 2011 season and contact details for further information are provided over the page.

Key Points • Support delivery of research and demonstration activities within dryland agricultural areas of the Victorian Mallee; • Assist with informed decisions on environmental and economic sustainability of management practices and farming systems.

Contact

Stephanie Haw, Mallee CMA T: (03) 5051 4377 E: Steph.haw@dpi.vic.gov.au


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Mallee Farmer TABLE Contact details and activities funded for 2011 season.

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The

Mallee Farmer

Profitable broadleaf crop sequencing This project will develop an improved understanding and implementation of management practices for Brassica, pulse crops, pastures and other options to reduce the risk of crop failure and improve whole farm profitability in low rainfall south-east Australia. By

Key Points â&#x20AC;˘ There is a need for noncereal crop and pasture options to provide profitable rotational crops, disease breaks and weed control opportunities for cereal production; â&#x20AC;˘ The outcome from this project will be more reliable and more productive low rainfall farming systems through the increased use of less risky broad leaved break phases. 12

Nigel Wilhelm, Low Rainfall Collaboration Project, SARDI, Waite Institute; and Michael Moodie, Crop Sequencing Project Coordinator, Mallee Sustainable Farming Inc, Mildura.

Why do the project?

In low rainfall regions of south-eastern Australia, farmers have increasingly adopted continuous cereal cropping strategies as non-cereal crops are perceived as riskier than cereals due to greater yield and price fluctuations. Broad-leaf crops make up only a very small proportion of the total area of sown crops. There is a need for non-cereal crop and pasture options to provide profitable rotational crops, disease breaks and weed control opportunities for cereal production.

The current alternative to cereals, poor performing volunteer annual grass dominant pastures, are havens for cereal pests and disease and often seen as having a negative impact on subsequent cereal yields and quality.

How is it being done?

This is a collaborative project between five farming systems groups (Eyre Peninsula, Upper North, Mallee Sustainable Farming, BCG and Central West). Over-arching guidance and support will be provided by the Low Rainfall Collaboration Project. Five major experiments are being undertaken in this project, one in each region of the five collaborating farming systems groups, but all combining the following features; 1. Located on long term wheat paddocks with a major problem (eg grassy weed (barley, brome or rye-grass), low N, high disease load (crown rot, rhizoctonia), resistant weeds). 2. Include break phases of two years in duration. 3. Include double plots as the basic experimental unit (one for grain yield, one for sacrificial monitoring and alternative


The

Mallee Farmer end use – grazing, hay, brown manure) 4. In years three and four, wheat will be seeded over the whole site – using early seeding, no till, inter-row in year four. 5. All plots to be established with no-till, stubble retained, even if grazed or cut. 6. Two continuous wheat treatments will be maintained in each experiment. This will be the benchmark against which all break options will be compared. All sites have been extensively characterised for initial soil fertility to depth, water holding characteristics, disease inoculum and microbial activity and weed seed banks. All break phase treatments are being monitored for establishment, early growth, peak biomass production and grain yield. In addition, dry matter cuts will be taken in appropriate subplots for simulated early grazing or hay cuts. In the final two years of cereal production, not only will crop performance be monitored but also impacts of previous break phases on weed seed banks, soil fertility including microbial activity and disease inoculum loads. Table 1 shows the two year break phases and possible end uses planned for the first year in the field experiment being conducted in the Millewa on a deep red sandy profile. The paddock has been in continuous cereal for many years and has brome grass and low N as management issues. All field activities are well under way now with the replicated field experiments about to be grass freed in the appropriate treatments and early grazing estimates taken. Data will be used to calibrate APSIM modules for break crops under local conditions, so that performance of break phases can be simulated in seasons and soil types different to those experienced in these experiments. Another separate activity in the project is that two commercial paddocks per targeted region will also be monitored. These paddocks will already be addressing a problem from a continuous cereal phase with at least two break options being tested in the same paddock. Similar protocols to those being used for monitoring in the five replicated field experiments will be undertaken in these commercial paddocks but with revised sampling intensities. Monitoring will be extended into the following cereal crops.

TABLE 1: Break options for wheat under investigation in the Millewa in a replicated field experiment.

Name of break option

Phase in year 1

Phase in year 2

End use option A

End use option B

Canola/Peas

Canola, TT

Peas

Grain

Hay

Canola/Chickpea

Canola, TT

Chickpea

Grain

Hay

Canola/Vetch

Canola, TT

Vetch

Grain

Hay

Peas/Canola

Peas

Canola, TT

Grain

Hay

Peas/Vetch

Peas

Vetch

Grain

Hay

Vetch/Canola

Vetch

Canola, TT

Green manure

Hay

Vetch/Peas

Vetch

Peas

Green manure

Hay

Chickpea/Canola

Chickpea

Canola, TT

Grain

Grain

Fallow/Canola

Fallow

Canola, CL

Grain

Hay

Fallow/Peas

Fallow

Peas

Grain

Hay

Fallow/Fallow

Fallow

Fallow

-

-

Improved Pasture/ Pasture

Pasture, High seed bank

Pasture, volunteer

Graze

Late Graze

Pasture/Pasture

Pasture, Low seed bank

Pasture, volunteer

Graze

Spray top

Wheat/Peas

Peas

Wheat

Grain

Hay

Wheat/Peas

Canola CL

Wheat

Grain

Graze

Canola+Peas/Wheat

Canola/Pea Mix

Wheat

Grain

Hay

Barley/Wheat

Barley

Wheat

Grain

Hay

Fallow/Fallow

Fallow

Fallow

-

-

Oats/Wheat

Oats

Wheat

Graze

Hay

Wheat/Wheat

Wheat

Wheat

Grain

Hay

Wheat/Wheat

Wheat

Wheat

Grain

Hay

Agronomic outcomes from this project will be examined for their economic and risk impacts through existing activities of each group. Extension of project outcomes will be achieved via the existing activities, networks and infrastructure of the five farming systems groups and the Low Rainfall Collaboration Project (another GRDC initiative) partnering in this project. A guide for improved decision making for the implementation and management of break phases in low rainfall south-eastern Australia will be developed and promoted to the regional communities as part of this project.

What will it mean?

The outcome from this project will be more reliable and more productive low rainfall farming systems through the increased use of less risky broad leaved break phases. This will be achieved through the promotion of the following outputs from the proposal in low rainfall regions of south eastern Australia: • More reliable management strategies for broad leaved production phases; • Identification of more reliable break phase options; • Guidelines to identify trigger points for when, for how long and which break phases to use for improved farming systems outcomes; • Reliable estimation of risks with break phases as well as their total impacts on following cereal crops.

ABOVE Early establishment of an oat/vetch mixture in the Millewa, for grazing or hay.

Acknowledgements

This project is funded by GRDC as part of their national crop sequencing initiative with support from low rainfall FS groups and Pristine Forage Technologies.

Contact

Michael Moodie, Mallee Sustainable Farming Inc. T: (03) 5021 9100 W: www.msfp.org.au

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The

Mallee Farmer

Crop insects: what to expect this spring With warmer temperatures approaching, farmers need to be aware of insect pests that are likely to be problematic this spring. However, not all crop insects are pests. There are many insects that are beneficial and play an important role in the biological control of pest insects. By

Paul Umina, cesar and The University of Melbourne.

Key Points

• Aphids are likely to be a problem in many parts of the Mallee this spring; • Other pests that could be problematic in some parts this spring are native budworm, diamondback moth and Rutherglen bugs; • Cereal, canola and pulse crops should be closely monitored for these and other pest insects.

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Aphids are likely to be a problem in many parts of the Mallee this spring. Aphid populations survive over summer on alternative host plants such as weeds and grasses in roadside vegetation and verges. In autumn, winged adults move into crop edges where they build up in numbers before moving into other parts. The timing and number of aphid flights into paddocks are influenced by late summer- and early autumn- rainfall. Good rainfall - which was observed over summer - favours growth of suitable host plants and allows aphids to build up early in the season. Warmer temperatures in spring will trigger a rapid increase in the rate of aphid development. Other pests that could be problematic in some parts this spring are native budworm, diamondback moth and Rutherglen bugs. Numbers of these pests are largely dependent on climatic

conditions. Native budworm is a major pest of a variety of crops during spring to early summer. The larvae feed on buds, flowers, fruiting parts and seeds. They attack many crops including field peas, faba beans, lentils, chickpeas, lupins and canola. The diamondback moth is a damaging pest of canola and brassica crops. Many populations are resistant to insecticides and can be very difficult to control. The Rutherglen bug is a native insect that attacks a wide range of crops and weeds including canola, lucerne, wheat, sunflowers, safflowers, linseed and sorghum. Adults are 4 mm long and grey-brown in colour with clear wings folded flat on their back. In addition to directly attacking crop plants, Rutherglen bugs often cause issues at windrowing and can be a grain contaminant. Australian Plague Locusts will again be one to watch and prepare for. Cereal, canola and pulse crops should be closely monitored for these and other pest insects. Remember that some pests such as aphids often form colonies on individual plants before moving onto surrounding plants; therefore infestations often occur in patches or ‘hotspots’ within paddocks. Effective monitoring of insects is one of the most important tools for making informed decisions around


The

Mallee Farmer pest management, and it is important to consider numbers of beneficial insects before deciding on control. Naturally occurring beneficial insects - also referred to as ‘natural enemies’ - play a vital biological control role in many cropping systems. Most species are highly mobile and will move from crop to crop if left unsprayed. They can play a key role in pest control when low to moderate numbers of pests, such as aphids and caterpillars, are present. Whilst there are organisations that breed beneficial insects for release, the most effective strategy is likely to be the preservation of those already in the system by reducing the amount of unnecessary chemical sprays. Other factors involved in supporting beneficial insects include the provision of alternate food sources (e.g. nectar sources, non-pest hosts) and refuge habitat (e.g. shelterbelts, remnant vegetation, trap crops).

OPPOSITE PAGE: LEFT Brown Lacewing, OPPOSITE PAGE: RIGHT Ladybird Beetle. THIS PAGE: TOP Hoverfly, BOTTOM Damsel Bug. PHOTOS Andrew Weeks, cesar.

Many beneficial insects build up in numbers and become prevalent in spring. Those likely to be encountered this spring include: Ladybird beetles – both adults and larvae consume prey including aphids, leafhoppers, thrips, moth eggs and small caterpillars. Adults are round or oval in shape, shiny and typically have patterns of black on a red, orange or yellow body. Larvae are generally elongated and mostly grey or black with orange markings and black legs. They are found in most crops. Lacewings – adults are 6-20 mm in length, have long antennae and wings with numerous veins giving them a lacy appearance. Their wings are held over the abdomen in an inverted ‘V’ shape. Larvae vary in shape and size but all have a tapered body and prominent, sickle-shaped mouthparts. They attack aphids, thrips, caterpillars and moth eggs. Damsel bugs – adults are 8-12 mm long and move quickly when disturbed. They have a slender light-brown body with long antennae and large protruding eyes. Juveniles are similar but smaller in size. Damsel bugs feed on a range of softbodied prey items including moth eggs, aphids, small caterpillars and mites. They have a long curved ‘snout’ that is carried under the body when not feeding. Hoverflies – adults are 4-10 mm long and have dark-coloured flattened bodies with black and yellow markings. As the name suggests they ‘hover’ over objects and look similar to bees and wasps.

Larvae are legless, green in colour, 8-10 mm long and appear grub-like. They can be mistaken for pest caterpillars such as diamondback moth. Hoverflies attack a range of soft-bodied insects, but prefer aphids. They are common in flowering crops such as canola. Parasitic wasps – adults vary in size (1-80 mm long), and colour, ranging from bright orange to completely shiny black. They have two sets of wings that are clear or dark coloured. Female wasps often lay their eggs into host larvae or eggs. The developing wasp larva feeds inside the host, usually aphids or pest caterpillars. Aphid ‘mummies’ (bronzecoloured, bloated/enlarged aphids) indicate the activity of aphid parasitic wasps that are small, usually dark in colour and difficult to detect.

cesar is a science based company that works with government and private organisations to develop and promote sustainable pest control strategies for broadacre cropping systems in Australia. They do this by conducting research; delivering educational presentations and training workshops; and working directly with growers and their advisers to develop integrated solutions to pest problems.

By

Paul Umina, cesar and

The University of Melbourne T: (03) 9349 4723 E: pumina@unimelb.edu.au

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The

Mallee Farmer

Landcare links...

Changing people as well as landscapes Welcome to the first Landcare Links article of the new Mallee Farmer. Through this contribution I hope to keep you informed of what is happening around the region in all things Landcare and to help you inform others with what is happening on your patch.

By

Kevin Chaplin, Mallee CMA.

Key Points • As large areas of the north west start to dry out Landcare groups are gearing up for what looks like a busy year ahead; • The 2011/2012 Victorian Landcare Grants have just been released with funding now available for Landcare groups. 16

The Mallee has experienced a number of ups and downs over the last few years with drought, locusts, rain, mosquitoes, bumper harvests, water logging and mice! It was not that long ago having too much water would have been the least of anyones worries, then we got a heap all at once and now we are back to what looks like dryer conditions ahead. It really is just as Dorothea Mackellar wrote, “A land of droughts and flooding rains”. As large areas of the north west start to dry out Landcare groups are gearing up for what looks like a busy year ahead. The 2011/2012 Victorian Landcare grants have just been released with funding now available for Landcare groups that wish to conduct on-ground works, capacity building activities and/ or experimental trials in the region. It is expected that there will be a heavy focus on rabbit control this year due to the good season and high numbers of rabbits reported.

Rabbit numbers have been kept relatively low over the last 6-8 years due to dry conditions, targeted landholder and group control programs and the calicivirius; but this year has seen a rapid increase and if not contained, rabbits will once again be a major headache for farmers and the environment. A number of Landcare groups have these bunnies in their sights and are preparing to implement their rabbit ripping programs very soon to hopefully keep the numbers at bay. With all the extra moisture around, groups that have indicated they will be tackling weeds will also be kept very busy. The momentum of Landcare groups in the Mallee region has been slow and steady for a number of years now as a result of a number of factors, not the least of which is volunteer fatigue and population decline. Despite this, many groups remain positive and active and have continued to carry the Landcare banner in their communities. An example of this is the Dunmunkle Creek protection project currently being conducted by the Sea Lake Landcare group. This project has integrated 10 landholders along 8 kilometres of the


The

Mallee Farmer and advocating for them to consider the concept of forming a Landcare group with the purpose of engaging the community as a whole. One such school that has taken up this challenge is the Red Cliffs Secondary College. The Red Cliffs Community Landcare group is now the new kid on the block in the Sunraysia region and has adopted a very unique approach. Essentially it is a ‘whole of school’ concept where the senior students have formed the group’s executive, with a shadow adult executive as mentors; the accountancy students run the books; the technology and woodwork students design and produce project construction plans; and the agriculture students take care of the agronomy and botany. The school hopes to develop the group, in conjunction with the greater community, to not only raise its profile locally but to then place it in a position where it can conduct activities around the Red Cliffs area and help develop a greater sense of community pride and ownership. A number of other schools in the region are now watching this development closely, with the intention of mirroring the concept if it proves successful.

ABOVE a Landcare group gets a lesson in propagation. BOTTOM Remnant vegetation fencing. OPPOSITE PAGE Landcare Coordinator, Kev Chaplin answers questions at the BCG Expo.

Dunmunkle Creek linking the lower end of Lake Tyrell to Green Lake. The project has involved the fencing off of the creek line to exclude stock and to protect and enhance remnant Buloke woodlands, a priority habitat for the Inland Carpet Python and the White Browed Tree Creeper. Examples of other Landcare projects happening around the region include

the planting of more than 3500 trees by the Yelta Landcare group throughout the Merbein area, west of Mildura, and multiple programs by many groups to control pest plant and animals. In an effort to revitalise Landcare in the Mallee, particularly on the peri urban fringe of our larger population centres, I have been actively engaging schools to become more involved with Landcare

It will be very much a case of ‘watch this space’ and with a bit of good luck and good management, the new Red Cliffs Community Landcare group may very well be seen as an alternative way to engage the greater community in Landcare. It may prove to be a very effective way of injecting a new sense of enthusiasm and purpose into groups that maybe wondering about future direction and, by actively engaging young people, it could help new and existing Landcare groups to remain active for many years to come. If you are interested in developing a similar concept with you local school, or know of someone who might be, please let me know and together we can get things happening and help Landcare to continue to be an important social movement in the community that can change people as well as landscapes.

Contact

Kevin Chaplin, Mallee CMA, Regional Landcare Coordinator T: (03) 5051 4670 M: 0428 370 175 E: Kevin.chaplin@malleecma.vic.gov.au

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The

Mallee Farmer

Revegetation works Improve biodiversity of Buloke Woodlands This article summarises the achievements of the Buloke Woodland Revegetation program. Project Background

Native vegetation is an essential component of all ecological communities as it provides shelter, feeding, breeding and roosting sites for native animals, while also preventing the degradation of land and water resources. Vegetation in the Mallee has undergone significant changes since settlement and the landscape is highly fragmented, with less than five percent of the original extent of vegetation remaining on private land in the region. Under the 2010/11 Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Land and Biodiversity program, funding was available to revegetate Buloke woodlands of the Riverina and Murray Darling Depression Bioregions. Buloke woodlands of the Riverina and Murray Darling Depression Bioregions are listed by the Australian Government as endangered under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999. Although once widespread in the landscape,

18

By

Narelle Beattie, Mallee CMA.

the woodlands have been extensively cleared for agriculture. The 2010/11 Buloke Woodland Revegetation program worked in partnership with the landholders to revegetate areas to improve habitat for native plants and animals, recreate links between existing remnants, and improve connectivity and habitat quality in high value vegetation communities.

Putting the project into action

The planning for the revegetation works started in Spring 2010. This planning ensured the sites were prepared and the tubestock and seeds were ordered, ready for the planting to being in late autumn 2011. The plants and seeds for the sites were selected to represent the past or present Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs) occurring at the project site. Seeding Victoria Inc was engaged to source and provide the seed to be planted at the sites, while tubestock was provided by Mildura Native Nursery.

At least 50% of seed was treated to improve germination success rates by applying cold treatment, boiling water and smoke water. By treating 50% of seed it is anticipated that there will be an initial germination if soil is moist, whilst the remaining seed was left natural to provide a nucleus should conditions be unfavourable. Landholders provided in-kind contributions in the form of site preparation, including deep ripping of tree lines and pest animal and plant control. They also assisted with tree planting and follow up watering. Some sites were sprayed by the landholder as many as two or three times to reduce weed competition.

Acknowledgements

This project is supported by the Mallee CMA, through funding from the Australian Governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Caring for our Country. The project was undertaken by the Mallee CMA and the project team would like to thank the Mallee landholders involved in the program.


The

Mallee Farmer Planting began in April 2011, initially with direct seeding, followed by the tubestock planting in the first week of June 2011. All sites were completed by early July 2011. The direct seeding program encountered very few problems, other than the vines of Paddy Melons at a few of the sites. An initial run with the seeder was completed without the press wheel down and seeder box in drive to cut a path via the offset disc in the area that was to be seeded. A follow-up pass was completed where the initial pass had been made to allow for seeding. This process was favourable, as opposed to harrowing, because of the high potential for weed growth providing competition for the seed planted. The direct seeding was completed in between tubestock rows to ensure that there was a balance between overstorey and understorey species. Tubestock planting was conducted using a number of methods to improve the survival of the vegetation, including the use of mechanical planters, pottiputkis and water jetters. All plants had ‘wells’ dug around them to maintain water capture during the watering process. At a number of sites, tree guards were also installed to protect the tubestock. The works were co-ordinated and implemented by the Mallee CMA Land and Biodiversity Unit, in conjunction with the landholder.

Significant outcomes

As part of the 2010/11 Buloke Woodland Revegetation Program, a total of 17 sites totalling an area of 104 hectares were revegetated to EVC Benchmark Standards. This involved completing 128 km of site preparation, including ripping and spraying undertaken by landholders and suitability qualified contractors; the planting of 77 kg of seed and 30,810 tubestock. A total of 11490 tree guards were installed to protect plants planted as part of this project. Soil moisture has had a significant impact on this project, with above average rainfall received during spring 2010 and summer 2011. Assessments at the sites planted indicate that the lower soil profile still has high soil moisture content; however the soil surface is drying up. The Mallee CMA will continue to monitor the sites and work with landholders to undertake additional watering if required.

Implications of the findings

The 2010/11 Buloke Woodland Biodiversity Revegetation Program was critical to improving degraded woodland communities by linking together

ABOVE and LEFT: Tree plantings on the McQeen property June 2011.

isolated patches of remnant vegetation and providing an array of avenues for biodiversity movement across the landscape. Furthermore, it allowed for partnerships to be developed between a wide range of stakeholders throughout the region.

Further information

For more information on this program visit www.malleecma.vic.gov.au or for a summary of the 2010 monitoring program see the article ‘Monitoring the success of revegetation in the Mallee’ on page 22.

Contact

Gareth Lynch, Biodiversity Project Officer, Mallee CMA, T: (03) 5051 4377 E: Gareth.lynch@malleecma.vic.gov.au

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The

Mallee Farmer

A profitable and sustainable feed source A field trial evaluated 16 different forage shrubs at Walpeup, as part of the nation-wide Enrich project.

Key Points • Native perennial shrubs other than Old-Man Saltbush are showing promise as alternative feed sources in a research trial located in the Central Victorian Mallee; • Preliminary data showed that Mallee Saltbush has great promise in terms of edible biomass production, grazing preference and shrub survival in the central Mallee. • Old Man, Silver and River Saltbush produced the highest amount of edible biomass. 20

By

Rob Harris, DPI. Enrich explores the use of perennial shrubs as a feed source for profitable and sustainable grazing systems in low to medium rainfall areas. Selecting forage shrubs suited to the Victorian Mallee has the potential to deliver many benefits to mixed grazing system, such as: • Supplementing the quantity and quality of pastures for grazing livestock; • Providing a diversified feed base for sheep, and reducing the cost of supplementary feeding over the summer and autumn months; • Providing alternative management options for marginal and unproductive land; • Providing shade and shelter to livestock and maintaining soil cover; • Increasing rainfall use and reducing water leakage into groundwater and associated salinity; • Increasing on-farm biodiversity; • Providing more consistent feed supply under more variable climatic conditions.

Trial details

Sixteen species of shrubs were planted as tube stock in July 2008 after the site was deep ripped (30-50cm deep) and weeds chemically controlled. Fifteen of the 16 species were planted in monoculture; Pink Bindweed was planted in mixture with Old Man Saltbush. Each species was planted in plots of 36 seedlings, with each species replicated four times to account for soil, weed and germ plasm variation across the site. Shrubs were hand watered (1–2 litres each watering) on four separate occasions over the late winter spring period in the year of establishment. The site was not grazed in 2009 to allow the shrubs time to establish. In 2010, after the opening autumn rains, livestock were introduced to quantify shrub performance under grazing. Twenty Merino ewes with lambs at foot were grazed at a stocking rate of 77 sheep/ha. Low quality hay was provided ad libitum throughout the grazing period. Each replicate was grazed separately by the same animals in sequence, with each replicate grazed over a three to four week period. Sheep grazing preference and shrub recovery after grazing were assessed. Ongoing measurements over the life of the trial will monitor shrub


The

Mallee Farmer

FIGURE 1 Distribution of volumetric soil water under the shrubs compared with an adjacent annual crop on the 27 May 2008 (left graph) and the 12 November 2010 (right graph) at the Walpeup Enrich field experiment.

survival and growth, both before and after grazing. Changes in soil water under the forage shrubs are also being monitored by means of comparison with an adjacent annual crop system.

Preliminary findings

In the first autumn after planting, shrub survival was around 90% for all species, except for the Pink Bindweed and Tall Verbine. By autumn 2010, populations of Tall Verbine had declined further, with a mortality rate approaching 50%. Measurements in November 2010 after the site was grazed showed a continuing decline in the populations of Tall Verbine and Tree medic, but most notable was the dramatically low survival rate in the Creeping Saltbush. Recent data suggests that Creeping Saltbush has made a recovery with the survival percentage apparently improving to 58%; although this may reflect that this species is a biannual, with prolific seedling recruitment aided by above average summer rainfall recorded at Walpeup between the sampling times. Shortly before grazing the site in May 2010, edible biomass was assessed for all shrub species; Old Man Saltbush produced significantly more biomass (1800g DM/plant or approx. 4t DM/ha) than all other species. The Silver and River saltbushes also produced over 1000g DM/plant (2.5–3t DM/ha). On the other end of the scale, the Tree Lucerne, Tree Medic and Tall Verbine shrubs produced less than 62g DM/plant (0.15t DM/ha). Sheep showed a preference for grazing Tree Medic, Tree Lucerne, Emu Bush, Creeping Saltbush, Mallee Saltbush and Tall Verbine. However, all species with the exception of Fragrant Saltbush were well grazed by the end of the grazing period. The sheep had difficulties accessing all of the available feed on the Old Man Saltbush as it had grown out of their reach. Grazing some of the larger shrubs (Old Man Saltbush, Silver Saltbush and River Saltbush) could have

occurred earlier, perhaps even during the first autumn after establishment. Changes in soil water over time at the Walpeup Enrich trial site have shown that the forage shrubs are very effective at drying and maintaining a dry soil profile in comparison with an annual plant based system, such as annual cropping. The soil profile under the shrubs began to dry in September 2009, and has remained drier thereafter, compared with the annual crop system. The distribution of soil water down the profile has changed markedly since the introduction of forage shrubs In May 2008 before the planting of shrubs, there was little difference in soil water distribution, but by November 2010 (28 months after planting the shrubs) there has been a large divergence in distribution, with a drier profile under the shrubs compared with the annual crop system.

Where to next?

Measurements of shrub survival and growth will continue in 2011 when livestock will be introduced to the site a second time, and longer-term shrub

performance under grazing will be assessed. Relative preferences by sheep for the different shrub species will also be assessed – this is an important consideration since diet selection by animals can tell us about nutritional and ‘extra-nutritional’ effects of plants that cannot be easily measured in the laboratory. Assessments of conventional forage quality will also be conducted and together with the long-term survival and growth data, provide more conclusive information on which to base shrub selection for the Victorian Mallee environment. Shrub size and its early growth performance are important traits, but are unlikely to be the only criteria assessed when considering new forage species for grazing systems.

Acknowledgements

This project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority, through funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country. The research was undertaken by the Department of Primary Industries (Future-Farming Systems Research Division) and was an initiative of the Future Farm Industries CRC.

Contact

Rob Harris. DPI T: (03) 5573 0963 E: Rob.harris@dpi.vic.gov.au

ABOVE Sheep grazing at one of the Enrich trial sites. OPPOSITE PAGE Measurements being taken for reporting.

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The

Mallee Farmer

Monitoring the success of revegetation in the Mallee This article summarises the findings of the three, six and nine month monitoring of the 2010 planted revegetation sites. By

Stephanie Haw, Mallee CMA. The Mallee region’s biodiversity is unique and contains a range of highly specialised plants and animals. Vegetation clearing has had a significant effect on reshaping the biodiversity within the region. This has resulted in major changes to the way in which flora and fauna have developed over the past 100 years. These changes have included large declines in species richness and have resulted in localised extinctions of some species. These revegetation works have focussed on improving connectivity and increasing habitat values from a biodiversity protection and enhancement perspective.

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To monitor the success and long term impact of these works it is essential that an effective methodology be employed over an extended period.

Method

During 2010 a monitoring methodology was developed by the Mallee CMA to evaluate the effectiveness of different revegetation methodologies within the Victorian Mallee environment. The monitoring is undertaken prior to revegetation, during planting and after the revegetation works have been completed, to capture information on the ongoing condition of the revegetation site and the survival of the revegetation. During the 2009/10 revegetation program a total of 17 sites were established covering 200 hectares. The sites have since been monitored at three, six and nine months. Five sites were unable to be monitored for at least one of the periods and can therefore not be used in the collation of these monitoring results. The following information is recorded at the sites during the post works monitoring: • Survival rate (tubestock and direct seeding);

• Vegetation condition; • Presence of threats including; weeds, rabbits, stock, kangaroos, goats, hares, and pest insects; • Salinity impacts; • Observations of threatened flora and fauna; • Management of site. Photos are also taken from permanent points to capture visual changes at each site.

Results

Tubestock The survival rate of the tubestock at sites that were revegetated in June 2010 averaged a survival rate of 97% at the three month monitoring, 85% at the six month monitoring, and 82% at the nine month monitoring, (see Figure 1). Since planting in June 2010 above average rainfall has been experienced in the Mallee region, this may have aided in the high survival of the planted tube stock. Tubestock was initially watered following planting, and limited follow up watering was required during 2010-2011. Direct Seeding Monitoring for direct seeding found variable results. Some sites had no germination at three months, whereas


The

Mallee Farmer

FIGURE 1 Percentage of tube stock survival.

some sites had above average germination within a 10 metre sample of the seeding line. An increase in germinate growth was evident at some sites at the six month monitoring, however one site recorded a loss of direct seeding at the six month monitoring. This result is not unexpected as a percentage of the seed planted (both treated and untreated seed) will not germinate, or will germinate and die off over time. Two sites had no direct seeding planted. Threats Weed cover within the revegetation site is an issue for the developmental stages of both the tube stock and direct seeding lines. Ongoing management of weeds in order to reduce competition for soil moisture and nutrients is important. Results from both the three, six and nine month monitoring found that weed coverage of revegetation sites was very high, with majority of sites reporting greater than 50% weed cover and an average of 77%, 84% and 86% at the three, six and nine month monitoring periods, respectively (see Figure 2). This may be due to the above average rainfall across the catchment over spring and summer 2010/11. Rabbit abundance was also recorded at the revegetation sites with rabbit numbers reported as low on most sites

In brief

Children under the age of 16 now have the chance to try and grow Australia’s heaviest watermelon!

As part of the Yates Junior Landcare Watermelon Challenge, a free packet of Yates Candy Red Watermelon seeds will be sent to everyone who registers on the challenge website by September 25, 2011. The free seeds will be sent out in October and can be planted anytime from October through to December.

FIGURE 2 Percentage of weed cover.

during the three, six and nine month monitoring periods.

Conclusion

It is important to consider that there are many influences on revegetation success and on the contribution to improving biodiversity within the Mallee. The monitoring of the revegetation works is an important factor in ensuring the best possible outcome for the works that have been undertaken. The information obtained from monitoring these sites will not only quantify the impact of the works that have had on the condition of the site but also help to evaluate if this method of revegetation is the best practice for future programs.

Further information

The information for this article has been developed from ‘Monitoring the success of revegetation works in the Mallee 2010: Development of a monitoring framework to assess the impact of revegetation works on improving biodiversity value at targeted works sites’ report, available from the Mallee CMA. Further information is available from the Mallee CMA on 03 5051 4377. This project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the

Victorian Government and Caring for Our Country. The Mallee CMA would like to acknowledge the landholders participation in undertaking revegetation works throughout the Mallee and providing ongoing access to these sites to monitor their survival.

Contact

Stephanie Haw, T: (03) 5051 4377 E: Steph.haw@dpi.vic.gov.au

Acknowledgements

This project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority, through funding from the Victorian Government and Caring for Our Country. The Mallee CMA would like to acknowledge the landholders participation in undertaking revegetation works throughout the Mallee and providing ongoing access to these sites to monitor their survival.

Register for your free seeds and participate in the Watermelon Challenge by visting www.juniorlandcarechallenge.com.au

Participants contribute 35 per cent of the cost of the approved course to be eligible for a FarmReady Reimbursement Grant of up to $ 1,500 per financial year.

Registrations close on September 25 and the winners will be announced on March 5, 2012.

Funding of up to $500 each financial year is also available to assist with excess travel, accommodation and child care expenses.

Primary producers

can undertake training through the support of the Australian Government’s FarmReady Reimbursement Grants program.

For more information visit: www.farmready.gov.au

23


The

Mallee Farmer

Grazing cereals in the Victorian Mallee 2010 Cereal crops offer a potential forage source to fill the late autumn/ early winter feed gap. Higher rainfall cropping regions, such as south-west Victoria and south-east NSW, can successfully graze cereals without compromising grain production if stock are introduced after GS13 (3=leaf stage, plants anchored by secondary roots) and are removed before GS30 (stem elongation, emergence of 1st node). Lower rainfall environments which have more variable spring rainfall, such as upper Eyre Peninsula in SA, often suffer yield penalties but factor in many other system benefits when measuring success, such as the ability to: • maintain stock numbers at a time when feed availability is low; • defer grazing on volunteer pasture paddocks, allowing medic and other slow growing; • pastures time to establish and produce more forage before introducing stock; • provide a feed paddock for stock when legume based pasture paddocks are unable to be grazed

24

during withholding periods following grass selective herbicide application; • provide an opportunity to value-add to crops if they have the ability to recover from grazing; • maintain weed control of continuously cropped paddocks and maintain or increase the proportion of cropped land; • reduce lodging in barley and reduce stubble loads; • offer risk management strategies: a back up fodder bank option if pasture feed runs out, or an alternative enduse for a failed crop. Currently in the Victorian Mallee region there is very little grazing of crops that are intended for grain production (sown late April onwards), particularly wheat. More information is needed about the ability of cereal varieties to recover from grazing in this region, and the response to different seasons. This work follows on from a trial conducted at Woomelang and farmer demonstrations at Rainbow in 2009 (BCG 2009 Research Results, pp 46-51 and pp 52-55 respectively).

By

Alison Frischke, BCG.

Key Points

• In 2010, barley and wheat crops provided nutritious fodder for livestock in July; • Early grazing and above average rainfall in spring enabled grazed barley and wheat varieties to recover and maintain yields and quality, regardless of variety or maturity. Buloke barley and Yitpi wheat had the highest feed value and gross income; • Further evaluation of season, time of sowing and grazing is needed to substantiate the practice of grazing cereal crops in the Mallee and Wimmera.


The

Mallee Farmer Method

Location: Culgoa Replicates: 4 Sowing date: 23 April 2010, resown 2 June 2010 after locust damage Seeding density: 150 plants/m² Treatments: (grazed vs ungrazed) x variety Crop type/s: Wheat: Axe, Derrimut, Correll, Gladius, Lincoln, Yitpi Barley: Hindmarsh, Buloke, Gairdner Seeding equipment: knife point, press wheels, 30cm row spacing Rainfall: Annual GSR 237mm, 2010 GSR 248mm Initial soil fertility: 34kg/ha total N, 34mg/ Kg (Colwell P) Fertiliser: 50kg/ha MAP (at 1st sowing), resown with 43kg/ha Urea Top-dressed with 50kg/ha urea on 24 June This replicated small plot trial was sown at Culgoa on 23 April following 26mm rainfall for the month. Despite two applications of Alpha-Cypermetherin (a third application was not conducted due to the withholding period risk for grazing), locust damage was so great that the trial had to be sprayed out and resown on 2 June after 19mm, this time with urea only. A seed shortage meant that Urambie barley was replaced by Axe wheat in the second sowing. Dry matter (DM) production and feed tests were measured at GS13, just prior to grazing. This was used to calculate the potential dry sheep equivalent (DSE) grazing days, calculated as follows: DSE grazing days = dry matter (kg/ha) – 30kg/ha (physically unavailable DM) x feedtest metabolisable energy (ME) / 8MJ, which assumes that each DSE requires 8MJ/day. On 6-9 July grazed treatment plots were fenced and five ewes (equivalent to 98 DSE/ha) were placed inside for three days, during which time they ate the crop down to 3cm. Once sheep were removed, crops were grown through to harvest. Dry matter was measured during flowering (barley varieties and Axe on 14 October, remaining wheats on 20 October) and again at crop maturity. Heads were also counted at maturity. Grain yield was measured using a plot harvester (barley on 23 November, wheat on 15 December), and grain quality analysed. Grain yields were adjusted to 11% moisture for barley and 11.5% moisture for wheat.

Results

Dry matter and feed value at grazing Crops were grazed at the 3-leaf stage (GS13), earlier than the trials in 2009

which were grazed at GS14 (June 23), and much earlier than the recommended 1000kg/ha. Though re-sowing meant that crops were sown into colder soil and plant growth was slower, they were well anchored and grazed at this stage in order to fulfil their role of providing an alternative feed source during the early feed gap (late autumn, early winter) and still had time left in the season to recover.

Hindmarsh (P=0.016). For wheat, Axe produced the greatest biomass, but suffered when grazed, as did Gladius and Derrimut. Grain yield and quality Grain yield was the same for all barley varieties, despite a lower head density for Gairdner at 363 heads/m2 compared with 516 and 536 heads/m2 for Buloke and Hindmarsh respectively. There was no effect of grazing on barley head density or grain production.

Buloke barley and Yitpi wheat were the

TABLE 1 Comparison of grazing days at for barley and wheat varieties, at GS14 for Woomelang 2009 and GS13 for Culgoa 2010. Crop

Variety

Barley

Gairdner

Wheat

GS13 DM (kg/ ha) 42.3

ME (ML/ha) 172

DSE grazing days 22

Hindmarsh

36.0

85

11

Buloke

83.0

763

95

Correll

61.7

428

53

Axe

56.2

325

41

Yitpi

79.0

681

85

Gladius

42.7

174

22

Derrimut

40.0

139

17

Lincoln

46.3

214

27

* Grazing days calculated prior to grazing at GS13, using dry matter measurements and feed tests for metabolisable energy, assuming 1 DSE consumes 8MJ/day.

two highest feed value cereals (Table 1). Hindmarsh barley performed poorly in feed value, in contrast to last season’s trial at Woomelang. All crops had high nutritional value with crude protein well above 16% (range 34.2-36.6%), neutral detergent fibre greater than 30% of DM (range 34.240.0% of DM), metabolisable energy greater than 11MJ kg/DM (range 12.414.4MJ/kg DM) and digestibility above 75% of DM (range 75.9-85.6% of DM), providing nutrition above minimum requirements for lactating ewes and their lambs (McInerney, 2007). While only 7mm of rain fell after sowing in June, after grazing in July rain fell almost weekly (except a four week spell from 11 September to 6 October) for the next five months, ensuring good soil moisture and conditions for plant recovery. Dry matter at flowering Dry matter production at anthesis, a key growth stage to determine grain yield, was on average greater for barley than wheat by 2070kg/ha, but was high across all varieties in 2010. Grazing reduced biomass for barley by 851kg/ ha (P=0.062) and wheat by 676kg/ha (P=0.001). Buloke produced on average 1369kg/ ha more biomass than Gairdner and

For wheat, yield differences were measured between varieties (see Table 2, next page), but again grazing had no effect on final grain yield. Wheat head density did not vary (average 252 heads/ m2). In 2010, grain quality characteristics for wheat and barley were affected mostly by variety, but there was some effect of grazing on protein. For barley, protein was higher in grazed crops (10.4%) compared with ungrazed (9.6%) (P=0.002, LSD 0.47, CV=5.4%). Barley screenings were low and were not affected by grazing, but did vary between varieties (Table 2). Barley test weights were adequate. For wheat, protein, and test weight were influenced by variety. Protein was affected by grazing, which like barley was higher for grazed (10.1%) than ungrazed (9.7%) wheat crops (P=0.003, LSD=0.25, CV=4.2%), while test weight was not. Screenings again were below 5%, were not affected by grazing, but varied between varieties. Gross income of crops As barley was harvested earlier, it maintained its intended MALT 1 receival grade (exception was two Buloke plots downgraded to Feed1). Wheat, harvested following Continued Page 26

25


The

Mallee Farmer Continued From Page 25 TABLE 2 Grain yield and quality of varieties (grazed and ungrazed) in grazing cereals trial, Culgoa 2010. Crop

Barley

Variety

Maturity

Grain yield (t/ha)

Protein (%)

Test weight (kg/hl)

Screenings (%)

Hindmarsh

Very early

4.73

10.0

68.2

2.1%

Buloke

mod early

4.65

9.9

65.4

2.8%

Gairdner

mid-late

4.64

10.1

67.2

2.7%

NS

NS

P<0.001 0.46 1.4

P=0.002 0.18 13.9

Sig. Diff (variety) LSD (P<0.05) CV%

Wheat

Correll

mid-late

3.42

9.5

68.0

2.6

Axe

early

3.44

10.1

66.5

1.6

Yitpi

mid

3.33

9.9

69.8

1.8

Gladius

mid

3.09

10.1

66.4

1.8

Derrimut

early-mid

3.24

9.9

67.9

4.0

Lincoln

mid

2.84

9.6

66.5

4.5

Sig. Diff (variety) LSD (P<0.05) CV%

P<0.001 0.24 7.3

significant rainfall on ripe crops, was all downgraded to AGP1 or FED1 due to low test weights. Subsequently, variance in quality had a large impact on gross income. Gross income was not affected by grazing, but differed between wheat varieties (P=0.003, LSD=83, CV=12.5%) (Table 3).

P=0.021 0.4 4.2

P=0.016 2.1 3.1

P<0.001 1.0 36.6

Interpretation

However, in 2010, despite a dry period during September, well above average rainfall thereafter meant barley and wheat crops did not suffer a yield penalty from grazing, regardless of variety and maturity. It is likely that the early grazing meant less biomass removed and more time for plant recovery. Grain quality was maintained in grazed crops, with protein even increasing.

In 2009 early maturing crops were clearly more affected by grazing.

Buloke barley and Yitpi wheat were the best varieties to graze, offering greatest feed value and recovered grain income. There were other varieties that handled grazing well. This was different from the 2009 trial at Woomelang, (drier season with a poorer finish) in which Hindmarsh barley (greatest biomass, suffered grain yield penalty but still highest yielding barley), Wyalkatchem and Derrimut wheat (maintained yields and no screenings penalty) were shown

At the commencement of grazing, feed value was low due to the early stage of the crop. However, it still offered some grazing value and would have contributed towards the ‘mixed farming system’ benefits. Both barley and wheat crops provided adequate nutrition for livestock before GS30, meeting the needs of pregnant and lactating ewes and lambs.

Barley

GI from grazed DM* ($/ha)

GI Grazed Grain ($/ha)

Total GI Grazed ($/ha)

GI Ungrazed Grain ($/ha)

Gairdner

4.6

1183

1188

1166

Hindmarsh

3.9

1075

1075

1086

Buloke

9.1

1183

1192

961

Correll

6.8

672

679

695

Axe

6.2

606

612

722

Yitpi

8.7

717

726

725

Gladius

4.7

601

606

603

Derrimut

4.4

660

664

703

Lincoln

5.1

580

585

Variety

Sig. Diff

Wheat

Sig. Diff

26

While protein, fibre, energy and digestibility needs are met by cereals, beware of other animal health issues. Lush cereals are high in water content: ensure a slow introduction to grazing cereals to prevent scours. Also be aware of low magnesium which may result in grass tetany (cattle) or grass staggers (sheep), or lower growth rates under more marginal deficiencies. Low magnesium can be induced by increased demands for magnesium during late pregnancy and lactation, and by pastures with low levels of magnesium. Wheat forage commonly has marginal magnesium, as well as high plant tissue levels of potassium and low salt which reduces magnesium absorption in the rumen. A 1:1 mix of Causmag (MgO)/salt and the provision of sun cured hay are recommended to prevent these conditions. If animals are in late pregnancy or lactating, it is recommended that ground limestone be added to the ration.

References

Grains Research and Development Corporation (2009) ‘Dual Purpose Crops’, Fact Sheet: July. McInerney, E. (2007) ‘Why is testing feed value important for sheep?’. Eyre Peninsula Farming Systems 2007 Summary. Pp 84-85. Nuske, K., Hunt, J. and Best, F. (2010). ‘Grazing Cereals’. BCG 2009 Season Research Results. Pp 46-51.

Acknowledgements

TABLE 3 Gross income (GI) of grazed and ungrazed cereals, Culgoa 2010 Crop

to be the best cereals to graze (Nuske et al, 2010). The economic suitability of varieties for grazing is very dependent on how the season plays out, and the effects of grazing on grain quality.

NS

533 NS

This project is supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority and Northern Victoria Grain & Graze II, through funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country and the GRDC.

Contact

Alison Frischke, Birchip Cropping Group T: (03) 5492 2787


The

Mallee Farmer

Paddock zoning and Yield TM Prophet combined BCG in conjunction with the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and the National Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative is working with local farmers from both the Sea Lake and Waitchie Landcare groups to address ways to reduce production risk during the season. Paddock zoning, soil testing, Yield ProphetTM and climate forecasts are being investigated. By

De-Anne Price, BCG.

Method

zones were based on production and determined by EC and the grower’s experience of yield in the paddock. Each zone was sampled separately to 130cm depth on March 23.

Key Points • Ways to address production risks are being investigated in 2011 with Sea Lake and Waitchie farmers; • Tools such as EM38 surveys, paddock zoning and Yield ProphetTM are being applied to identify ‘low risk’ opportunities for increased yields across the paddock

Two paddocks, one each in Sea Lake and Waitchie, had previously been EM surveyed and different zones were identified. The zones were categorised depending on their level of EC (electrical conductivity). Low levels of EC in the subsoil is usually an indication that the soil has no constraints to root growth, while high levels of EC tend to indicate a soil with high levels of constraints to root growth. If root growth in the subsoil is limiting it means that crops cannot take up nutrients and water down at depth which in most seasons results in a loss of potential yield. At Sea Lake the paddock

FIGURE 1 EM survey map (black= high EC, lighter = lower EC.

FIGURE 2 Paddock zones. 1=high production zone, 3=lowest production zone.

27


The

Mallee Farmer and therefore no benefit of applying any nitrogen.

Results TABLE 1 Soil core analysis. Depth cm

Zone 1

Zone 2

Zone 3

N ppm

EC dS/m

Cl ppm

water grav%

N ppm

EC dS/m

Cl ppm

water grav%

N ppm

EC dS/m

Cl ppm

water grav%

0-10

12

0.12

3

5

16

0.16

3

8

21

0.15

17

11

10-40

1

0.09

5

11

4

0.20

6

19

6

0.18

14

18

40-70

2

0.14

1

16

2

0.38

1

20

6

0.43

36

21

70-100

2

0.20

4

15

3

0.58

84

19

8

0.58

50

18

100-130

2

0.28

27

17

3

0.82

309

20

12

0.75

50

16

Note: N = nitrogen, EC = electrical conductivity, Cl = chloride TABLE 2 Colwell P, PBI and Critical Colwell P. Colwell P (ppm)

Colwell P (ppm)

Colwell P (ppm)

zone 1

22

49

21

zone 2

30

71

24

zone 3

36

129

31

Trends from the soil tests

• One reason for the high soil nitrates on Zone 3 is that the uptake of nitrate has been low at depth because the roots struggle to get down to depth because of soil constraints. • For each zone the Colwell P level exceeded the Critical Colwell P which means P nutrition has been adequate. • Sulphur levels were low (<6ppm) in the topsoil but at higher levels in the subsoil for zones 2 and 3 (lower production areas).

These soil results were entered into Yield ProphetTM to work out a potential yield and assess the response and risk of applying N fertiliser during the season.

What does this mean?

Low EC Zone (1): The Yield ProphetTM output showed that subsoil moisture was excellent (highest moisture for many seasons) with 119m. Nitrogen stress was moderate. Applying an extra 30kg/ ha of N would increase yield by almost 1t/ha (at 50% probability). The extra N would cost $42/ha (based on $650 for 1 tonne urea). While 1t/ha of APW wheat at current prices would return about $220 on farm. However, at the time this output was produced Sea Lake had received 58mm of rainfall for the growing season (decile 2). Even though the seasonal climate outlook was neutral (chances of above and below average rainfall all being equal) deciding whether to topdress or not would be made much easier with an extra 20mm of rainfall in the bank. High EC Zone (3): The yield prophet output showed that soil constraints had reduced the ability of the roots to access moisture. There was no nitrogen stress

TABLE 3 Yield Prophet output generated for the Sea Lake paddock on July 13.

Managing this paddock in zones rather than by applying a blanket application of fertiliser will be beneficial.

Acknowledgements

BCG would like to acknowledge the Mallee CMA, NAMI and the input and generosity of the local farmers from Sea Lake and Waitchie involved in the project.

Contact

De-Anne Price, BCG T: (03) 5492 2787 E: deanne@bcg.org.au

Diary dates

Field Days are coming up at Carwarp, Underbool and Waitche, focussing on the on ground works local farmers can complete through the Mallee Land Protection Incentive Scheme (LPIS). Guest speaker is San Jolly (specialist in sheep nutrition) who will speak about what do to with a saline area and how to utilise stock containment areas. The field days will be held as follows:

Carwarp

Monday 15th August 2011 12:30 to 5:00 pm

Underbool

Tuesday 16th August 2011 9:00am – 1.15pm

Waitche

Tuesday 16th August 2011 2.00 to 6.30 pm For more information on any of these sessions, please contact:

Contact

Jodie Price Project Officer - Grains Services Department of Primary Industries T: (03) 5051 4359 M: 0428 354 720

28


The

Mallee Farmer

The Mallee’s Hidden Treasures Primary schools across the region are being encouraged to get involved in the Mallee CMA’s Mallee’s Hidden Treasures Enviro-Stories Competition. This competition involves schools in environmental education, with a focus on science, literacy and establishing a “sense of place” within the local environment. Mallee’s Hidden Treasures celebrates the unique biodiversity of the region, while raising awareness for its threatened species. Students are being asked to write a 15 page illustrated story about biodiversity or threatened species. These stories can be about anything to do with the Mallee’s Hidden Treasures theme and can range from personal experiences to fictional interactions of the plants and animals living there. Winning entries will then have their stories published and distributed to schools across the Mallee area. All you need to know about the competition is available in the Getting Started Pack and the Education Kit, available on the Mallee CMA website at www.malleecma.vic.gov.au See what other students have achieved by reading the e-books online at the Enviro-Stories website: www.envirostories.com.au To register your involvement in the “Mallee’s Hidden Treasures” Enviro-Stories Competition:

Contact

Peter Coleman, PeeKdesigns M: 0411 729 444 E: admin@envirostories.com.au

For local advice and support, or to arrange someone to talk to the students about biodiversity and threatened species:

Contact

Lauren Murphy, Mallee CMA T: (03) 5051 4331 E: Lauren.murphy@dpi.vic.gov.au


The

Mallee Farmer

Flood-affected farmers helping the environment The Mallee CMA is delivering the Mallee Flood Recovery Environmental Employment Program (FREEP) to help food and fibre producers across the Mallee region to recover from the devastating floods earlier this year. By

Glen Sutherland, Mallee CMA.

The program started in May and is currently employing 28 people, who are all irrigators from the Sunraysia region that have been affected by the flood and rainfall events experienced in February. Participants receive training in a range of areas, including occupational health

and safety, first aid and other handson qualifications that will help them find employment after the program concludes. The work crews will be working in dryland areas of the Mallee CMA region during the next six months on various jobs including: • watering of revegetation sites; • assisting with the repair of flooddamaged areas of the Meringur Pioneer Settlement;

• helping local Landcare groups to carry out extensive pest plant and animal surveys and eradication works. Applications for the employment program are still open and can be downloaded from the Mallee CMA website: www.malleecma.vic.gov.au or to have an application pack posted out to you phone the Mallee CMA reception on (03) 5051 4377.

Contact

Glen Sutherland, Mallee CMA T: (03) 5051 4308 M: 0417 396 973 E: Glen.sutherland@dpi.vic.gov. au

The Last Word We hope you’ve enjoyed the first edition of the new-look Mallee Farmer newsletter. We have tried hard to present a good selection of interesting articles, but if you have any ideas, comments or suggestions for future editions, please contact: Tom Fagan Mallee Regional Landcare Facilitator Mallee CMA T: (03) 5051 4575 E: tom.fagan@dpi.vic.gov.au It is important The Mallee Farmer includes articles and information that

farmers across the region are interested in, so please feel free to send Tom your thoughts and ideas.

your name and postal address to Tom Fagan at the email address provided.

The next edition of The Mallee Farmer will be published in March 2012.

An electronic version of The Mallee Farmer is available on the Mallee CMA website at www.malleecma.vic. gov.au/resources/newsletters

If you would like to submit articles for the next edition, please contact Tom to discuss deadlines and details about how content and photographs should be submitted. To make sure you don’t miss out on the next edition of The Mallee Farmer, please join the mailing list by emailing

The

Mallee Farmer Contact

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

www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

The Mallee Farmer is edited by Lauren Murphy, Co-ordinator Catchment Information and Communications, Mallee CMA. To contact Lauren, phone (03) 5051 4331 or 0427 501 513 or email Lauren.murphy@dpi.vic.gov.au

Mallee Farmer - August 2011  

Provides Mallee farmers with important information on research, projects and events across the Mallee region. Bi-annual publication.

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