Page 1

The

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

p2

Adapting crops to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide

p10

Land management and erosion risk

ISSUE 03 • AUGUST 2012

p13

Meet the new Landcare Team

Impacts of broad leaved break crops MSF estimate the impact on Mallee farming systems p6


The

Mallee Farmer

Contents The season ahead

1

Adapting crops to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide

2

Making use of summer rainfall with summer crops 4 Production and environmental impacts of broad leaved break crops

6

Using break crops to increase Water Use Effieciency

Building a sustainable future The Victorian Mallee thrives through the resilient partnerships between volunteers, community members and local government organisations working together to ensure the sustainable management of our natural resources.

8

Land management and erosion risk

10

Rare bird makes an appearence

12

Meet the new Landcare Team

13-20

Increase productivity and profitability by targeting inputs to soil type 21 One million reasons to smile

24

Project to protect habitat at Neds Corner

26

Have your say on natural resource management 28

In this special edition of the Mallee Farmer newsletter, we have included a Landcare lift-out to take a closer look at Landcare across the region, we catch up with Kate Nickolls on what has been happening with the Murrayville Landcare group and introduce to you the four new Landcare facilitators at the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA): Daniel Huttig, South Western Mallee; Jess Cook, South Eastern Mallee; Kim Cross, Eastern Mallee; and Patrick Mickan, Northern Mallee.

Survey results establish link to better canola crop 30

We also bring to you the latest information on some of the projects and research underway throughout the region.

Local photographers snap Buloke woodland prize 32

Trust for Nature’s Greg Ogle updates readers on the habitat protection works

ISSN: 1839 - 2229

DISCLAIMER

Cover Image

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

Nodules on the roots of pulse crops such as vetch increase soil nitrogen which is leading to yield benefits in following crops. Story page: 6

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

underway at Neds Corner Station; Heather Drendel from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) provides insight to the findings of the 2012 Mallee Land Management and Soil Erosion survey; Kate Reilly from BCG explains how making use of summer rainfall and summer crops in the Mallee can benefit your property; Mallee Sustainable Farming’s Michael Moodie details the benefits of break crops; and we hear about the exciting achievement from the Environmental Management Action Planning (EMAP) program, covering one million hectares of landholdings. In addition to this, we also update you on the 2012-18 Mallee Regional Catchment Strategy (RCS), with the draft now available for public comment. On behalf of the Mallee CMA Board and staff, I thank all those who have supported this edition of the Mallee Farmer newsletter as we continue to produce this valuable resource for our dryland farmers. I hope you enjoy this edition of the Mallee Farmer and look forward to the next one in March 2013. 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.


The

Mallee Farmer

The season ahead As I write these notes on the last day of June, I am very conscious that the Mallee will do what it does best, and that is it will rain (or not) when it wants to. By

Rob Sonogan, DPI, Swan Hill. To date it is extremely dry and crops are really struggling on both heavier soils and in the northern Mallee, - even to germinate in some situations. Many have described the situation as a `jigsaw’, in both describing the sporadic nature of the staggered germination and in the huge variability of crop development across the region. I have seen early sown vetch and canola crops that look a picture and are 30 centimeters tall with complete ground cover, to bare soils where the seedlings have not even emerged as yet. The frosts late in June have added to our woes but again are not unusual for winter. The year’s rainfall to date is very similar to that of 1994 and that year we got about 50 per cent of average yields. As you know I am not a weather forecaster and although moisture is tight, we do have reasonable sub-soil moisture

which should be a great help in spring if the winter remains on the drier side and of course that the plants roots can access it. The spring rainfall will always ‘make or break’ the season in the Mallee, so I have my fingers crossed. As crop managers you have done all you can to get the crop off to a good start, it is now out of your control and up to nature to progress it onto the next management phase.

The Soil

This year we do have a slightly greater area of soils that are relatively bare of protective stubbles and these are going to need every bit of surface cover maintained to minimise soil movement. While it is always very tempting to graze failed crops the actual feed value from this option is mostly very limited. A crop has never failed until it is dead, and with that in mind I always urge managers not to graze, for the recovery ability of crops with spring rainfall in the Mallee is truly a miracle.

Other Issues

Dry winters can test the most seasoned of us and with our ever increasing vigilance of crop monitoring (often with great assistance from our advisors) this season I have seen and heard of issues that are usually related to low soil moisture rather than insect, fertiliser or chemical damage. Often with drier years our crop insect and disease issues are generally minimal, this is one small bonus. The `jigsaw’ effect of germinating crops can however present a challenge to manage issues, especially weeds. The coming weeks will be crucial and I can only hope that rainfall does improve. I suggest you keep talking to your advisers and friends to assist in placing what you are seeing on your property into perspective, as most will also be witnessing what you are.

Contact

Rob Sonogan, Farm Services Victoria. T: 03 5036 4804 E: rob.sonogan@dpi.vic.gov.au

1


The

Mallee Farmer

Adapting crops to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide In the Australian Grain Free Air CO2 Enrichment (AGFACE) program, scientists are studying the responses of field grown crops to elevated carbon dioxide (CO2). The aim of this study is to lay the foundation for crop production and agro-ecosystem management practices that are well adapted to future climates.

By

Justine Severin, BCG. By 2050, CO levels are predicted to rise by almost 50 per cent and according to scientists; this will have both positive and negative effects on grain production. Faced with this prospect, the impact of rising atmospheric CO2 levels on grain yield and quality is being closely examined. 2

Researchers involved in the AGFACE program – a joint initiative of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and the University of Melbourne – have revealed that because CO2 acts as a fertiliser for many crops, raised levels may increase water use efficiency, growth and yield, but grain quality could be compromised. International research has shown that current cultivars do not take advantage

2

of increasing levels of CO2 to maximise yields and maintain quality. To address this, AGFACE was established in 2007 to investigate how the grains industry might realise the potential of the ‘CO2 fertilisation effect’ while maintaining grain quality and under which conditions it will be beneficial. If the Australian grains industry is to adapt to and profit from rising levels of CO2, information must become available about how to alter crop management and about which traits need to be selected to maintain productivity.

What is CO2?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colourless, odourless, non-flammable gas that is emitted naturally through the carbon cycle and through human activities. It is the most prominent greenhouse gas in the earth’s atmosphere and is responsible for global warming. A large portion of CO2 in the atmosphere

is absorbed by the oceans and other water bodies, and some is used by forests and other vegetation for growth. In the past, this process kept a balance of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, however, the global atmospheric concentrations of CO2 began to increase at the beginning of the industrial revolution and are now rising faster than ever before. By 2050, scientists predict CO2 levels will rise by 45 per cent from the current level of 380 parts per million (ppm) to 550 ppm. While there has been much public discussion about the secondary effects of elevated CO2 levels which can lead to changes in climate, such a large change in the prime source of plant growth will also have impacts on crop production by and in itself. In other words, regardless of associated climate change, elevated CO2 will impact plant growth on its own and growers will need to adapt.

The AGFACE program

The AGFACE program seeks to gain knowledge about cultivar traits and cropping systems capable of performing under elevated atmospheric CO2 and to provide tools and information to the grains industry, policy makers and prebreeders that will enable yield and grain quality to be maintained or increased despite changes in climate. Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) is involved in


The

Mallee Farmer an extension capacity – charged with the task of raising awareness about the AGFACE program and the work being done to address issues that will emerge as a consequence of rising CO2 levels. Through the AGFACE program, researchers are addressing a range of issues with six separate projects currently being conducted. These include: • Cultivars for the future – Researchers are aiming to identify plant traits responsive to elevated CO2 so that wheat cultivars that are better adapted to future conditions can be developed; • Grain quality – Changes in grain nutritional qualities and grain chemical composition which may also impact bread and noodle making traits are being actively studied; • Pulse-wheat rotations – Researchers are assessing crop physiology, grain quality, plant nutrition and pest and disease dynamics in a long-term field pea-wheat rotation system under rainfed and irrigated regimes; • Pest and diseases – Researchers are studying crown rot, barley yellow dwarf virus and insect pests in wheat and ascochyta blight in field peas to determine whether there are direct changes in pest pathogen behaviours or their interactions with the crop; • Simulation modelling – To ensure AGFACE research is relevant to all Australian grain growing regions, crop simulation models are being used to help ascertain the future effects of elevated CO2 on crop production across Australia; • Below-ground processes – A complimentary project, Soil Free Air CO2 Enrichment (SoilFACE), is looking at the effect of three soil types on a field pea-wheat rotation with intact soil cores under field conditions. Researchers are aiming to identify any direct elevated CO2 effects on the rhizosphere and agronomic carryover effects on soil nitrogen from the pea crop to wheat.

Method

AGFACE research involves fully replicated wheat and pea trial plots grown under elevated CO2 levels (550ppm) and compared with plots grown under the current CO2 concentration (370ppm). Initially, trials were conducted at Walpeup and Horsham, but now all the research takes place at a purpose-built facility at Horsham and crop modelling is used to apply the findings to cropping zones outside of the Wimmera. The AGFACE field lab achieves elevated CO2 levels with a cleverly engineered system that sees CO2 injected into the atmosphere from pipes circling the

research plots. The CO2 is injected into the atmosphere on the upwind side, through 0.30 mm laser drilled holes (on stainless steel tubes) at supply line pressures of up to 500kPa. The CO2 is then quickly mixed with air and transported across the ring by the prevailing wind. The concentration and direction of the gas is regulated by an infrared gas analyser (IRGA) in the centre of the trial plots, which turns individual outlets on and off to retain a set 550 ppm of CO2. The Horsham facility is one of only six such sites operating in agro-ecosystems internationally and the only one in the southern hemisphere. It is also the only FACE site in the world representing low rainfall, rain-fed grain production. Plant sampling is carried out during vegetative growth, at flowering and at maturity. Soil water and nitrogen are measured at the beginning and end of the season and non-destructive measurements taken between these dates allow scientists to quantify growth, development, stress response and soil status. Pest and disease dynamics are studied in the AGFACE facility and in growth chambers. Grain quality factors are also analysed.

Results and Impacts

AGFACE project leader Glenn Fitzgerald said that according to data collected so far, wheat and pea yields grown under raised CO2 conditions at Horsham are consistently yielding on average 25 per cent higher than their counterparts grown in ambient CO2 conditions. However, Dr Fitzgerald pointed out that these results were being achieved under current temperatures. As reported in BCG’s 2011 Research Results handbook (‘Adapting crops to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, pp4144), whether future yields increase will depend largely on rainfall and temperature changes. Dr Fitzgerald said crop modelling shows that due to predicted higher temperatures and changing rainfall patters, by 2050 wheat yields could decrease by about 10 per cent in low-rainfall zones such as the Mallee and increase by about 10 to 20 per cent in higher rainfall zones such as the south west. In terms of quality, early AGFACE trial results saw wheat protein decrease by four to 14 per cent, meaning more food may be required to maintain protein intake. Nutrients important to humans such as zinc and iron also decreased under elevated CO2.

This would particularly affect consumers in poorer regions who have insufficient micronutrients in their diets. Results have also shown that bread and noodle making characteristics will be negatively impacted under higher CO2 levels, potentially affecting the classification of premium wheat grades. Other early findings have pointed to a possible increase in fertiliser demand in the future, with heavier crops taking up between 25 and 60 per cent more nitrogen. Researchers are also seeing crown rot fungus in wheat producing higher fungal biomass under elevated CO2 which could lead to a greater prevalence of this disease at a greater cost to the industry.

Where to from here?

Maintaining productivity in the future will require new crop cultivars that can maintain yield and grain quality under elevated CO2 in conjunction with changes in rainfall patterns and increasing temperatures. Because it can take up to 20 years for new cultivars to become available commercially, growers can accelerate this process by engaging with pre-breeders and funding bodies to ensure that they are available when needed. In those regions in which biomass is predicted to increase, greater application of nitrogen fertiliser may be required to take advantage of increased yield potential; legumes in rotation might be able to supply at least some of this. As the AGFACE program continues and more data is collected and analysed, knowledge of crop traits that can address the challenges of the future will be delivered. Early results with crop modelling indicate that growers in the future may be able to take advantage of different temperatures and rainfall patterns by adapting crop management, altering sowing times and choosing longer season cultivars. If nothing is done now, Australian agricultural productivity may continue to decline. The AGFACE program is a collaborative venture between the DPI Victoria and the University of Melbourne, with crucial additional funding from the Grains Research Development Corporation and the Australian Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

For more information

Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre website at: www.piccc.org.au/AGFACE.

3


The

Mallee Farmer

Making use of summer rainfall with summer crops in the Mallee Over the past two seasons, a series of trials have been sown in northern Victoria to assess the potential of a range of crop types for their grazing and/or grain production over the summer. By

Kate Reilly, BCG. This work has been jointly funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Caring for Our Country through the Northern Victoria Grain and Graze II project, and managed by the Victorian Irrigated Cropping Council and Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) as part of the ‘Forages for a Future Climate’ project. Initially, two tactics were employed based on what researchers surmised would work best. The first was a low cost option using seed that was cheap or on hand (such as millet or winter cereals) while the other option looked at using summer crops (such as sorghum, maize and summer pulses). In 2010/11, trials were sown at Kooloonong, Kerang and Tungamah. The Kooloonong site was sown into different pastures on November 17, 2010 with 60 kg/ha DAP. Sowing rates were as per Table 1.

4

Summer crops were sown at typical rates but the winter cereals were sown heavier than normal, working on the theory that if rainfall did occur, crops would need the maximum number of plants established to make use of the moisture before it evaporates and the plants die. Rain fell shortly after sowing, but low numbers of locusts saw some crop types preferentially grazed off despite being treated with appropriate insecticides. However, the other sites didn’t suffer from locust damage and so information on establishment and persistence was not unduly affected. Rain didn’t stop for most of the 2010/11 summer season, resulting in some very large forage quantities being produced. Grain harvest was hampered by mice. The site was sown to wheat following harvest. At this time soil moisture levels were fairly similar where the pulses and grasses (such as millets and sorghums) had been grown, but not surprisingly, nitrate levels were higher under the pulses and very low under the grasses.

Wheat following the grasses was lower tillering and yielded as low as a quarter of the wheat following the pulses or fallow (failed summer plots). The trial was repeated in 2011/12, with less emphasis on the winter cereals and more on a range of tropical forage legumes. Sowing was later on December 16, following the wheat crop being harvested. The winter cereals again failed, and poorer rainfall over the summer reduced overall forage yields and made grain harvest difficult on two counts: reduced height of the pulses and variable maturity due to growth flushes following rainfall events. Note that as the following results have very large variability in the data (CV % greater than 20); trying to compare one crop type against the other as to what produces the best quantity of forage is impossible. However, the data does show what survived and went on to produce useful amounts of forage or grain.

Observations from the site

Summer crops suit summer conditions. Although winter cereals sown in summer could be relatively cheap to sow, the plants suffered from the summer conditions despite abundant rainfall in 2010/11. Plants did establish but most


The

Mallee Farmer Table 1: Kooloonong Summer Forage & Grain Crop Trial Summary, 2010/11 and 2011/12.

Crop Type

Variety

Summer 2010-11

Winter 2011

Sowing Rate (kg/ha)

Forage DM (t/ha)

Wheat (t/ha)

Forage DM (t/ha)

Grain (t/ha)

^

2.24

1.1

0.31

Summer 2011-12

Millet

Shirohie

10

Millet

French

10

3.7

2.3

2.3

0.66

Millet

Pearl

10

13.3

1.7

1.9

0.57

Forage Sorghum

Sprint

10

25.8

0.5

3.4

0.4

Canola

Taurus

2

^

2.8

0.2

^ 0.09

Mung Beans

30

4.0

2.4

1.4

Barley

Hindmarsh

50

^

2.3

ns

Barley

Hindmarsh

100

^

2.4

ns

Barley

Urambie

50

^

2.6

ns

Wheat

Yitpi

50

^

2.8

^

^

Wheat

Yitpi

100

^

2.4

^

^

Grain Sorghum

Pacer

10

10.4

1.3

3.6

0.51

Sweet Sorghum

Hunnigreen

8

ns

3.6

^ ^

Maize

25

^

2.024

^

Forage Brassica

Bouncer

3

^

2.85

^

Soybeans

Djakal

50

^

2.84

0.5

^

Soybeans

L023B-23

50

^

0.7

0.09

25

ns

1.0

0.31

Pigeon Pea LabLab

Ronagi

25

ns

2.2

-

Cow Pea

Red Caloona

15

ns

1.1

0.22

DM - dry matter

P

<0.001

0.003

<0.001

0.01

LSD (P<0.05)

1.15

1.02

1.15

0.25

CV %

38

27

38

39

^ - sown but failed to persist

failed to thrive, with some survivors producing small spindly plants that rapidly matured. A similar result occurred in 2011/12. An exception was the winter canola Taurus which actually survived the 2011/12 summer and remained vegetative rather than bolting to seed. Theoretically Taurus then would have gone into the winter as a canola crop but its late maturity would still see it as a risky option in the Mallee for canola grain.

If it rains, it can grow.

Looking at the 2010/11 results, the forage sorghum produced approximately 25 tonnes of dry matter per hectare, but this was achieved in decile nine and 10 growing conditions. Although the summer of 2011/12 didn’t have quite the same rainfall as the prior summer, there was still enough growth to yield quite useful forage amounts, particularly in some of the pulse crops.

You don’t get something for nothing

Plant growth requires moisture and nutrients. As was demonstrated in 2010/11, plants are extremely proficient

ns - not sown

at scavenging any nutrients from the soil, but this can impact on the subsequent crop. Adopting a summer annual system could give growers an opportunity to make use of early summer rainfall and produce feed. It can then be terminated early enough to (hopefully) provide sufficient time to build up some soil moisture before sowing.

Is a grain harvest realistic?

Useful amounts of grain were produced in 2010/11, and there were harvestable yields in 2011/12 but there were also issues which would make a commercial harvest far more difficult. The first was the variation in maturity, mainly due to rainfall events stimulating a flush of growth. Many of the grain crops had some shoots ready for harvest while others were still quite green. The second issue pertained to the lack of height achieved by some of the pulses, making commercial harvest almost impossible.

Future

The small plot trials have given us a good idea of what has potential on a farm scale. Of particular interest is the Lablab, which will be compared with dryland lucerne this coming summer.

Top: Kooloonong site, summer 2010. Middle: Kooloonong site, summer 2011-12 Bottom: LabLab in Feburary 2012 Far left: A field walk in 2011.

Acknowledgments

• Grain & Graze 2 (GRDC and Caring for Our Country) • McQueen family (co-operators) • Andrew McDonald (Bean Growers Australia) • HSR Seeds • New Edge Microbials • Landmark Kerang • Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) Queensland • DPI NSW • Victorian Irrigated Cropping Council

5


The

Mallee Farmer

Production and environmental impacts of broad leaved break crops in the Mallee Broad leaf break crops are increasingly being used by Mallee farmers as they seek to improve the sustainability of their farming systems. Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF), with funding from the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), undertook a project in 2012 to estimate the impact of break crops on Mallee farming systems. By

Michael Moodie, MSF. Landholders were surveyed to evaluate the impact of prior broad leaved break crops on the productivity of cereal crops in 2011. A survey was completed for 29 paddocks in the Victorian Mallee where broad leaved break crops were grown in 2010. Furthermore, 20 paddocks that were planted with a range of break crops in 2011 were assessed for erosion potential during the summer and autumn period of 2012. Farmers surveyed felt broad leaved break crops such as canola and pulses grown in 2010 have had a positive impact on Mallee farming systems. Farmers have adopted break crops primarily due to an increase in grass weeds as a result of the widespread adoption of intensive cereal cropping systems. Broad leaved break crops have

6

proven to be a profitable alternative to cereal crops and Mallee farmers have observed positive break effects in cereal crops where both canola and pulses had been grown in the previous year. Farmers were asked to compare the yields of cereal crops grown in paddocks where a broad leaved break crop was grown in 2010 with the yields of the same crop grown in a similar paddock but where a broad leaved break crop had not been grown in 2010. Farmers were also asked to differentiate yields according to soil type: sandy/dune; loam/ midslope; or heavy/swale. Figure 1 shows the yield of the cereal crop following a broad leaved break crop compared to the yield of a corresponding cereal following a cereal crop across all soil types. In most instances, the cereal crops following break crops yielded higher than cereal crops following another cereal. Interestingly, the yield of

cereals was always enhanced following a pulse crop; however, a break effect was not always observed following canola. Most farmers reported that the broad leaved break crops grown in 2010 increased yields of cereal crops in 2011 by up to 1t/ha relative to cereal crops grown on cereal stubbles in 2011. Yield benefits greater than 1t/ha were reported by very few farmers and break effects of this magnitude were generally limited to the heavy (swale) soil types. Across all broad leaved break crop paddocks surveyed, the average break effect was 0.41, 0.50 and 0.59 for the sand/dune, loam/midslope and heavy/swale soil types respectively. Furthermore, 80% of the break effects identified were between 0.05– 0.80t/ha for the sand/dune, 0.14 –1t/ha for the loam/midslope and 0.08 – 1t/ha for the heavy/swale soil type. The average break effect following brassica crops was 0.39, 0.52 and 0.56 t/ha for the respective sand/dune, loam/midslope and heavy/swale soil types. Farmers generally observed more consistent break effects following pulse crops. The average break effect following pulse crops was 0.42 t/ha for the sandy dune, 0.48 t/ha for the loam/midslope soils and 0.62 t/ha for the heavy/swale soils. Farmers are noticing positive effects of including break crops in their rotations such as fewer weeds, less disease,


The

Mallee Farmer

Key points • Management of grass weeds is the primary reason for Mallee farmers adopting broad leaved break crops • In 2011, cereal crops following broad leaved break crops yielded on average 0.41, 0.50 and 0.59 t/ ha more than continuous cereal crops for the respective sand/ dune, loam/midslope and heavy/ swale soils types • Erosion risk following canola crops was negligible in 2011 while pulse crops increased the risk of erosion on some of the sandier soils

Figure 1: Comparison of cereal yields in 2011 where the crop was preceded by a cereal crop or a broad leaved break crop.

Acknowledgements

MSF would like to acknowledge the Mallee CMA for providing funding for this project through the Victorian Investment Framework. MSF also acknowledges support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) through the Water Use Efficiency Initiative and GRDC and South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) through the Low Rainfall Crop Sequencing project.

For more information Figure 2: Observed differences in 2011 cereal paddocks that were following broad leaved break crops compared to cereal following cereal paddocks.

improved grain quality and generally healthier crops (Figure 2). Farmers were also asked to list any other noticeable differences they observed in cereal crops where break crops were grown the previous season. Overwhelmingly, farmers commented on the visual health of crops following broad leaved break crops with these crops having greater biomass and being greener throughout the growing season. There is a perception that broad leaved break crops can increase the risk of wind erosion. Erosion risk monitoring of 20 break crop paddocks in late summer 2010 -early autumn 2011 found that all soil types following canola had at least a low erosion risk. However, many paddocks sown to pulses in 2011 had a moderate to very high risk of erosion on

the most vulnerable part of the paddock. One third of the pulse crops (chickpea, lentils, lupins and field pea) monitored had an unacceptable risk of erosion on the dune soil. In some paddocks, this elevated risk of erosion was also observed on midslope soils; however, erosion risk was generally much lower at monitoring locations on swale soils. While the data suggests that erosion risk was elevated following pulse crops, a majority of the pulse crops had a very low risk of erosion across all soil types, thus demonstrating the pulse crops can be grown in the Mallee without increasing the risk of soil erosion. In conclusion, broad leaved break crops such as canola and pulses grown in 2010 have had a positive impact on

Visit www.msfp.org.au or call (03) 50219100 to become a free MSF member. Mallee farming systems. Farmers have needed to adopt break crops primarily due to an increase in grass weeds as a result of the widespread adoption of intensive cereal cropping systems. Broad leaved break crops have proven to be a profitable alternative to cereal crops and Mallee farmers have observed positive break effects in paddocks where both canola and pulses have been grown. Moreover, farmers are noticing positive effects from including break crops in their rotations such as fewer weeds, less disease, improved grain quality and generally healthier crops. Broad leaved break crops can also be successfully grown in the Mallee without necessarily increasing the risk of soil erosion.

7


The

Mallee Farmer

Using break crops to increase Water Use Efficiency in the Mallee region Research over the past three seasons at Ouyen (Victoria) and Karoonda (South Australia) is showing that including break crops in Mallee cropping rotations can increase productivity and profitability. By

Michael Moodie, MSF. At Karoonda, trials conducted by the CSIRO have shown that brassica (canola and mustard), grain legumes (peas and lupins), volunteer medic pasture and cereal rye can all have positive impacts on the yields of both the first and second wheat crops that follow the break crop. Furthermore, both the performance of the break crop and the break effects (yield increase in the wheat crop following the break crop) differ according to the soil type where the break crop was grown. Break crops grown in 2010 resulted in significant yield increases in the 2011 wheat crop (Figure 1). Yield increases for wheat in 2011 after 2010 lupins were 0.6-0.9 t/ha across all soil types, while cereal rye had a variable effect on wheat production: the only significant increase in wheat yields was 0.5 t/ha at the midtop position. The wheat yield increase following canola in the swale was 0.7 t/ ha compared with the continuous wheat, while increases on the other soil types were not significant. Wheat yields in 2011 following pasture in 2010 showed

8

yield benefits of 0.6 – 0.9 t/ha across all soil types, with the greatest benefits measured on the light soils and mid-top position. Wheat yield benefits from second year break crop (break crops sown in 2009) were measured on the swale following peas (0.64 t/ha), pasture (0.56 t/ha) and grazed rye (0.66 t/ha), and on the mid-top soil type position after volunteer medic-based pasture (0.56 t/ha). A similar trial is being undertaken by DPI Victoria at Ouyen. In this trial, significant increases in 2011 wheat yields were measured on the sandy ‘dune’ soil type where lupins and canola had been grown in 2010. The yield increase in comparison to the continuous wheat crop was 0.67 t/ha following high input canola and 0.78 t/ha following high input lupins. No significant break effects were observed in wheat yields on either the slope or swale soil at Ouyen in 2011. However, the nitrogen fertiliser applied to the continuous cereal crop on these two soil type may have been adequate to lift continuous wheat yields to those following break crops. It is possible that break effects may have been observed if no additional nitrogen fertiliser was used.

There are a number of biological (nutrient and disease related) and chemical (nitrogen and phosphorus availability) factors that may be responsible for the break crop benefits observed in the wheat crops. At Karoonda, microbial activity and catabolic diversity (the ability of microorganism to utilise various carbon substrates) in the topsoil were highest after rotational crops such as canola, lupins and pastures, potentially increasing nutrient turnover. Measurements showed that nitrogen mineralisation potential and the soil biological processes involved in the

Key points • Soil specific break crops responses of 0.5-1 t/ha following lupins, canola and pasture were measured at Karoonda in 2011; • Wheat yields on the sandy dune soil at Ouyen were higher after break crop strategies than after wheat; • Crop rotation significantly influenced the microbial activity, diversity, nitrogen supply potential and the size of the Rhizoctonia pathogen inoculum in soil.


The

Mallee Farmer release of phosphorus from unavailable soil pools were significantly higher after legume crops, canola and rye compared to continuous wheat treatments. However, canola, mustard and lupins reduced the levels of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal fungi (which can increase the access of plant roots to soil P) in the soil, but the levels recovered after one or two years of wheat. Cereal crops were shown to promote the build-up of Rhizoctonia inoculum, whereas mustard and canola provide practical rotation options to reduce inoculum loads in a multiyear cropping sequence. Following 2010 crops, Rizoctonia inoculum was lowest after the canola crop and highest after the wheat crop in all three soils (Figure 2). Furthermore, disease incidence in 2010 was lowest in the wheat crop that followed mustard, but there were no significant differences in disease incidence in wheat after cereal rye, pasture and wheat on the swale and midbottom treatments. Disease incidence in the 2011 wheat crop was lower than in 2010, mainly due to lower inoculum levels at sowing as a result of the regular rainfall events during the 2010/2011 summer. Yield benefits of rotational crops for wheat crops can be attributed to a reduction in Rhizoctonia disease incidences coupled with improved soil biological activity in terms of nitrogen supply potential, nitrogen inputs from legume nitrogen fixation and changes in biological activities involved in phosphorus availability and uptake.

More information

The break crop research at Karoonda and Ouyen can be found at http://www.msfp.org.au/research. php?page=compendiums. The article titles are as follows: • ‘Break crop benefits across soil types’ (Davoren et al) • ‘The benefits achieved from break crops are influenced by soil type and management of the following crop’ (Clough et al) • ‘Soil biology and Rhizoctonia disease management update – Break crop experiments at Karoonda’ (Gupta et al) • ‘Break crops influence phosphorus availability in Mallee soils by changing soil microbial communities.’ (Gupta et al) • Soil-specific strategies for cerealbased rotations (McBeath et al) • Better medic for the Mallee (Howie et al)

Figure 1. 2011 continuous wheat yields (black boxes) and the yield gain in the 2011 wheat crops that followed various break crops grown in 2010 at Karoonda. LSD (P<0.05): Swale = 0.42 t/ha; Mid-Bottom = 0.41 t/ha; Mid-Top = 0.49 t/ha; Hill 0.53 t/ha.

Figure 2. Rhizoctonia solani AG8 inoculum levels in soils under different crops at the end of 2011 crop season (Gupta et al. 2011 in collaboration with GRDC project CSP00150 – Managing Rhizoctonia disease risk in cereal).

The trials at Karoonda and Ouyen are being undertaken as part of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Water Use Efficiency Initiative. Projects will continue in 2012 with field days to be held at Karoonda September 4 and at Ouyen in October.

For more information

Please visit the website at: www.msfp.org .au or call (03) 5021 9100. Become a free member of Mallee Sustainable Farming contact us for more details.

Acknowledgements

Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) would like to acknowledge the researchers and technical staff who are undertaking the trials at Karoonda and Ouyen, and the local farmers and advisors involved: Karoonda: Rick Llewellyn, Therese McBeath, Bill Davoren and Vadakattu Gupta (CSIRO). Ouyen: Angela Clough, Mick Brady, Chris Davies, Dave Monks (DPI Victoria) and Ben Jones (Mallee Focus).

9


The

Mallee Farmer

Land management and erosion risk in the Mallee Wind erosion has been recognised as an issue in the Mallee for more than 60 years and reducing its impact remains a priority for both dryland farmers and natural resource management organisations, however, wind erosion continues to be a significant threat to the region.

By

Heather Drendel, DPI. The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Farm Services Victoria (FSV) and the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) carries out the Mallee Soil Erosion and Land Management Survey each year. This involves monitoring 157 sites across the dryland Mallee three times during the year. The survey aims is to capture changes in how land is managed and the influence this has on the risk of erosion. Soil erosion is short lived in nature and highly variable both in time and location and, as such, is difficult to measure directly. The Mallee Soil Erosion and Land Management Survey therefore focuses on

10

determining the risk or potential for soils to erode. Historically, the highest risk for wind erosion is when sites have been conventionally prepared for sowing and immediately after sowing when the ground disturbance is at its highest. Late summer is also a peak exposure time for soil as the dry conditions of summer can lead to declining soil cover. Actual erosion will occur when soils susceptible to erosion are exposed to climatic conditions such as strong winds. This article presents the results of the 2011-2012 survey. The survey was undertaken during: • Post sowing: 6 -17 Jun 2011; • Spring: 17 - 28 Oct 2011; and • Late summer: 27 Feb - 9 Mar 2012. At each site, land management practices are recorded including: the pasture or crop type; livestock presence; method of fallow; stubble management (e.g.

Key Points • A total of 157 sites were surveyed in the dryland cropping area of the Mallee to monitor land management practices and erosion risk. • During the 2011 growing season, 78% of sites monitored were in crop and of these 77% were sown using no-till or minimal till farming techniques. • During the highest risk period immediately following sowing, 88% of sites were reported at low risk of erosion. • Conventional fallow was recorded at only 7% of sites during the summer 2012 surveys.


The

Mallee Farmer The late summer 2012 survey reported only 7% of sites in a conventional fallow phase, the remaining sites were either chemically fallowed (65%) or were in a voluntary or improved pasture management phase (28%). Conventional fallowing during summer has been recorded at less than 10% of the sites surveyed for the last four years (Figure 2). The survey also recorded the methods in which crops were sown i.e. either conventional farming or no-till/minimal till. During 2011, conventional farming practices were recorded at 23% of the cropped sites with the remaining 77% of cropped sites sown either by a no-till/ minimal till farming method.

Conclusion

Figure 1: The percentage of sites surveyed in the Mallee under different management techniques during spring since 1985. Historical data was collected using the drive by methods from 1985 to 2006 (Wakefield 2008). Since 2007, the methods were redesigned to include an in-paddock assessment of erosion risk and land management (Drendel 2012).

There are many influences on land management phases and practices and while Mallee dryland farmers are continuing to improve their management practices to reduce wind erosion, outside factors such as climate (drought and floods) can still influence the risk. Other factors include: incidence of disease; weeds and pest animals (such as rabbits, mice or locusts); which all potentially reduce cover of vegetation and increase the risk of wind erosion. Reducing the risk of wind erosion in the Mallee remains an ongoing priority for farmers and natural resource management organisations. DPI and the Mallee CMA will continue to work in partnership with local farmers to reduce the risk and impacts of wind erosion across the Mallee region.

References

Figure 2: Percentage of sites under different land management phases, observed during late summer 2009-2012 survey periods (Drendel 2012).

standing or burnt); and practices of no-till/ minimal till or conventional cultivation. Vegetation cover and height and soil dry aggregate are also measured to calculate the erosion risk.

Results

The risk of erosion was highest at sites immediately after sowing and lowest during spring and summer. However, more than 88% of sites were only at a low risk of erosion during all periods. Erosion risk, particularly during spring, is influenced by ground cover and cropping intensity. When compared to historical records, there has been a significant increase in cropping intensity over recent years; from 3550% of sites cropped each year from 1985-2006 to more recently where over 70% of sites are cropped (Figure 1).

Cereals were the predominant crop over the past four years (2008-2011), recorded at 63% to 68% of survey sites. In 2011, legumes and oil seeds occurred at 15% of sites, an increase on recent years where these crops were present at less than 10% of sites. Pasture decreased from 18% of sites in 2008 to 13% of sites in 2011 (Figure 1). The extreme high rainfall event experienced during the summer of 2010/11 may have impacted on land management decisions for the 2011/12 cropping season and good soil moisture at the start of the season may have encouraged landholders to expand the use of alternative crops such as legumes and oil seeds.

Drendel, H. (2012). Mallee soil erosion and land management survey â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Late summer 2012 report. Department of Primary Industries Wakefield, L. (2008). Mallee soil erosion and land management survey - Post cropping and spring 2007 report. In. Department of Primary Industries

For more information

For a copy of the survey report, contact Heather Drendel, DPI Hopetoun phone: (03) 5083 2205 or email: heather.drendel@dpi.vic.gov.au

Acknowledgements

The Victorian Department of Primary Industries and the Mallee CMA undertake the Mallee Soil Erosion and Land Management Survey with funding from the Victorian Government.

11


The

Mallee Farmer

Rare bird makes an appearance in the Mallee The rarely-seen Australian Painted Snipe (Rostratula australis) has recently been observed in two significant locations in the Victorian Mallee.

By

Thea Douglas, Mallee CMA. The threatened species has suffered a significant decline in the past 30-50 years and researchers believe only very limited numbers remain in Australia. However, the small bird has graced the Mallee with Keith and Helen Barber recently spotting as many as eight birds near a wetland on their property, just outside Birchip. “We’ve seen them every day and most evenings,” Keith said. “We are very excited to have them on our property, especially considering they are such a rare sight in Australia.” While Keith and Helen have been

12

keeping a close eye on their special visitors, they say it’s not clear if the secretive species are breeding in this area, due to ambiguous behavioural actions. “When disturbed, one raised its wing, perhaps suggesting it was protecting its young, but it is difficult to tell,” Mr Barber said. Meanwhile, Merbein birdwatcher Len Jeffers also recently spotted four Australian Painted Snipe in the Merbein Common and he believes they are nesting there. “It looked as though there were two adults and two young, but it was hard to tell from a distance,” Mr. Jeffers said. The appearance of the Australian Painted Snipe in the local region

has been welcomed by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), with Board Chairperson Sharyon Peart saying it is exciting news. “We have been working to protect wetland habitats throughout the Mallee and it is so pleasing to see that some of these wetlands are now supporting rare bird populations such as the Australian Painted Snipe,” she said. Water availability for the wetland on the Barber’s property has been assisted by the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline Wetland Connection Project, which is supported by the Mallee CMA. The Mallee CMA was also involved in delivering environmental water to Merbein Common wetlands in recent years. “To see rare species such as the Australian Painted Snipe enjoying wetlands in our region really shows that projects such as the Wetland Connection Project and the delivery of environmental water is having a positive affect,” Ms Peart said.


The

Mallee Farmer

Biodiversity Sustainability Education Opportunity

“Together we can make a difference”

MEET THE LANCARE TEAM 13


The

Mallee Farmer

Left to right: Kevin Chaplin, Daniel Huttig, Tom Fagan, Jess Cook, Patrick Mickan, Kim Cross and Glen Sutherland, Community Coordinator.

Landcare’s revival in the Mallee By Kev Chaplin, Regional Landcare Coordinator, Mallee CMA

Welcome to a very special edition of the Mallee Farmer Newsletter. This edition will focus predominantly on Landcare and its renewed enthusiasm within our region. In the following pages you will be introduced to the new faces of Landcare in the Mallee and you will hear what they have in mind for the advancement of Landcare in your communities. Landcare is an amazing grass roots movement that has harnessed the enthusiasm and energy of individuals and groups across the Mallee for over 20 years under the ethic of caring for the land and with the objective of raising awareness of the many and varied environmental problems facing Australia at both a local and regional scale. Landcare volunteers undertake a wide range of activities, including on-ground projects; research; and community awareness programs focusing on natural resource management and its connection to environmental, social and economic values. They also provide a strong social network across communities that are united by a common purpose and a sense of responsibility to heritage land and our natural resources. In the Victorian Mallee, 23 Landcare groups span the 3.9 million hectares that make up the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) region. Landcare groups set their own agenda, undertake works as often as they like and are ultimately in control of their own destiny and impact on the environment in which they live and work.The Mallee CMA has supported Landcare on an on-going basis through many changes in government policy and direction through the facilitation of a Regional Landcare Co-ordinator, whose role is to provide leadership and advocacy support for Landcare at both a regional and state level. As promised during the last election, the State Coalition Government has now provided support funding for facilitators to Landcare groups with the Mallee being fortunate enough to secure five of the possible 68 positions available. We now have a dedicated level of support that will help to ensure the long term viability of Landcare groups in the Mallee, but there is a time limit to this support. It is now up to all of us to use this time to maximise the benefits to our community for the long term. History has shown on many occasions, there is only one constant in life and that is change! This is reflected in this new government

14

facilitator initiative. Under the old Co-ordinator arrangement, the Landcare Co-ordinators would mostly work independently with individual groups. This arrangement resulted in groups operating at a much more localised level and often left groups competing with Landcare neighbours for resources such as contractors and equipment at critical times. As opposed to the previous Co-ordinator positions, the new Landcare Facilitator positions will operate at a Consortium level where an association of Landcare groups operate and access the facilitator under agreed roles and responsibilities captured within a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Mallee CMA and the consortium Landcare group members. This approach will lead to more cooperation across Landcare groups and will maximise both the use of limited funding and resources, ultimately resulting in extensively co-ordinated onground outcomes across the region.

Facilitator roles and responsibilities

The primary objective of this new Victorian Local Landcare Facilitator Initiative (VLLFI) is to build group capacity to the point where, after the term of the Facilitator funding arrangement expires, groups can continue to function as a fully autonomous organisation. Each facilitator position is currently funded for three years and will expire June 30, 2015. The operational criterion for a facilitator is based around an administrative role with limited ‘hands-on’ group involvement. The role descriptions are based around the following requirements:

Administration support and advice

• Actively seek out funding opportunities through Government and Private sector support grants; • Convening meetings – assisting group executives with convening meetings by producing and posting notices, booking venues, arranging catering; • Writing grant submissions – assisting with the writing of grant applications in conjunction with the nominated group representative/s who are the respective project manager/s of the funding being applied for; • Writing reports - assisting with the writing of grant reports, both interim and final, with the nominated group representative/s who are the respective project manager/s of the funding being reported on; and • Group OH&S compliance - general administration assistance and advice to the respective group OH&S representative.


The

Mallee Farmer Project development, planning and Facilitation

• Project scoping and development (in full consultation with groups); • Project progress monitoring in conjunction with the respective project manager/s; • Contractor engagement in conjunction with the respective project manager/s; and • Updating management plans and strategies at both group and consortium levels.

Community group engagement

• Sustainable junior Landcare development; • Engagement of external partners (both public, private and corporate);

• Group profile awareness (i.e. group website maintenance, media and newsletters); and • Group and individual capacity building. As you can see, the clear focus for facilitators is less about a direct hands-on role in the management of programs and projects and more about providing support and assistance to community members who will be responsible for those implementation roles. Landcare in the Mallee has a long and proud history. It has managed to change people as well as landscapes. It has encouraged farmers, long known for their strong sense of individualism, to actively form groups to work together, with industry and government, for the greater good of their community, as well as for their own benefit. This new facilitator initiative is just another step along that rewarding road that leads to stronger and more capable, resilient Mallee communities.

3. Undertaking community engagement and building partnerships. 4. Assisting with planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting. 5. Securing project grants and other funding.

Where we are up to

I am currently attending regular meetings with the Landcare Consortium to assist in developing good governance procedures and with the members’ involvement, the creation of a long term plan for the future.

In the future

I will be working closely with the Eastern Mallee Consortium to indentify priority needs in the region, including pest and weed control. Some groups within the consortium have been undertaking successful pest and weed programs.

Kim Cross

Landcare Facilitator for the Eastern Mallee Region My name is Kim Cross and I have recently been employed by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) as local Landcare facilitator for the Eastern Mallee Region. I will be working with six Landcare groups including: Nyah West/ Swan Hill West; Manangatang; Kooloonong-Natya; Waitchie; Sea Lake; and Robinvale.

The Eastern Mallee has unique flora and fauna and I will enjoy providing opportunities to protect and enhance these assets, while adopting a long term biodiversity plan with the Landcare Consortium. Junior Landcare education programs will be developed in the schools across the Eastern Mallee region and I will ensure it encourages young people to play an active role in securing the safe future of their environment. It will also enable kids of all ages to become involved with their local Landcare group and work on a range of environmental projects. Acquiring funding is essential for all Landcare groups to be self sustaining and I will endeavour to assist and source funding opportunities relevant to the priorities of the consortium, while providing workshop and training opportunities.

The establishment of a Local Landcare Facilitator in the Eastern Mallee region was due to the government recognising that the skills, local knowledge and determination of community based organisations and networks are essential to achieving the outcomes and targets outlined in Caring for Our Country and to ensure the good management, including sustainable use and protection of Australia’s natural resources continues.

I will work towards developing partnerships and networks with local community and Government agencies that will strengthen the Landcare consortium while providing benefits to the broader community.

My roles and responsibilities

Contact

1. Support Landcare Groups in successfully planning and delivering projects. 2. Building local community capacity to enable groups/ networks to be self sustaining.

This is an exciting and rewarding position and I look forward to being involved with Eastern Mallee Landcare members who are passionate, dedicated, focussed and driven. For more information please contact me: Office Location: McGradie Street, Piangil. Phone: 0427 883 100 Email: kim.cross@dpi.vic.gov.au

15


The

Mallee Farmer

Lalbert Landcare Group covers an area of 67,700ha Nullawil Landcare Group covers an area of 75,500ha Ultima Landcare group covers an area of 33,500ha

Where we are now

The groups currently have a range of priorities including: • pest plant and animal control; • threatened species monitoring and protection; • revegetation; and • new farming practices. Pest plant and animal control currently has a main focus on the control of rabbits, horehound, cactus and boxthorn, due to the current impact and abundance of these species.

Jess Cook

South-Eastern Landcare Facilitator Hi everyone, my name is Jess Cook and I am the new Local Landcare Facilitator for the South-Eastern Mallee. My position is part of the State Government’s Victorian Landcare Facilitator Initiative and is part-funded by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA). I have just moved from Ballarat after completing a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Management) at the University of Ballarat. I have previously worked with Landcare through an internship I did with the Lismore Land Protection Group as part of my degree. Through my internship, I found that I have a passion for Landcare work and enjoy working with farmers and groups to provide assistance, information and support. I have a background in native flora and fauna, pest species control, project management and ecosystem processes. I am looking forward to working with each of the groups to assist them with projects and group maintenance and I am very interested in restarting Junior Landcare groups in the schools. I am based in Birchip, in an office at the back of the Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) building.

Consortium overview

My role is to support the South-Eastern Mallee Landcare Consortium, which is made up of six Landcare groups within my area: Berriwillock; Birchip; Culgoa; Lalbert; Nullawil; and Ultima, with activities including grant identification and writing, the organisation and running of meetings and field days, as well as information sessions, guest speakers and much more. I am also involved in bringing back Junior Landcare groups to the schools within my area: Birchip P-12 School; Lalbert Primary School; Nullawil Primary School; and Ultima Primary School. The main Landcare Groups have expressed a desire to see Junior Landcare groups re-established in schools and the schools have been eager to get some projects and programs started.

Group stats

The total area covered by the consortium is 445,100ha Berriwillock Landcare Group covers an area of 71,600ha Birchip Landcare Group covers an area of 145,800ha Culgoa Landcare Groups covers an area of 51,000ha

16

The consortium area is dominated by agricultural land, but it also covers many natural assets such as Lake Lalbert, Tchum Lake North, the Tyrrell and Lalbert Creeks, and numerous Flora and Fauna Reserves and wetlands. These areas provide habitat for a range of threatened fauna such as the Carpet Python, Bush Stone Curlew, Brown Treecreeper, Lace Monitor, Plains Wanderer and the Fattailed Dunnart. The area also covers threatened vegetation communities and threatened plants such as Chariot Wheels and Slender Darling-pea. The groups also run projects such as the Birchip Landcare Groups wetland and stormwater treatment area at Pump Hut Reserve and Nullawil Landcare Groups three year, $75,000 no-till machine conversion trials; as well as receiving grants for equipment such as GPS units, spray units, three-tine rippers, trailers and tree planters.

Future direction

The groups plan to stay focused on pest plant and animal control, looking for grants and sponsorship to help battle the established and emerging threats. Rabbits, foxes, boxthorn, cactus, and horehound continue to impact both environmental and agricultural areas, and the groups are committed to on-going control of these species. The groups will also continue their threatened species works with future plans for surveys of threatened species and the continued protection and planting of native vegetation. The Berriwillock, Culgoa, Lalbert and Ultima Landcare groups are looking at forming a network to help with management issues, and to deal with neighbouring issues across borders.

More information

More information on the groups and their past and present projects can be found on the South-Eastern Mallee Consortium Landcare Gateway page. This page links to each of the separate Landcare groups’ pages which contain all the groups’ general information and is updated regularly with meeting dates, upcoming events, and projects. http://mallee.landcarevic.net.au/groups/semln

Contact

If you have any questions, are interested in coming along to a meeting or event, or would like to join one of the Landcare groups in the South-Eastern Consortium, please contact me. Phone: 0409 615 846 Email: jessica.cook@dpi.vic.gov.au


The

Mallee Farmer

profile of Landcare across my area and the facilitating of Junior Landcare programs. There are however, many other tasks, varied in nature, that come up regularly and keep my job interesting. The main activity undertaken across this area is broad acre farming, and I am keen to see how I can keep Landcare relevant to both landholders and this industry.

Group stats

The total area that I work in is 173,800 hectares or 429,469.2 acres for those more familiar with the old imperial system. This is broken down into: • Beulah Landcare Group - 33,100 ha (81,791.9 acres); • Hopetoun Landcare Group - 42,200 ha (104,278 acres); • Rainbow and District Landcare Group - 32,200 ha (79,567 acres); and • Woomelang and Lascelles Landcare Groups - 66,300 ha (163,830.9 acres).

Daniel Huttig

Landcare Facilitator for the SouthWestern Mallee Consortium My name is Daniel Huttig and I am a Landcare-aholic. I am also well renowned for inappropriate/ill-timed jokes, as you’re now fully aware. I am the new Landcare Facilitator for the South Western Mallee Consortium, based out of the Hopetoun DPI office - an interesting workplace to say the least. Just a bit of background on me quickly: I grew up and still live on a farm at Rosebery, approximately half way between Hopetoun and Beulah. I attended school in Hopetoun and promptly cleared off to Melbourne to study at University as soon as I got my year 12 results. I studied commerce/ science at Deakin and after 4 years away, I returned to work on the farm with my dad and complete my final university units online. When this job became available, I felt that it was both a great opportunity to become active within the broader community and an opportunity to apply skills that I had acquired at University.

I am keen to see how I can keep Landcare relevant to both landholders and broad acre farming industry. The South Western Mallee Landcare Consortium is made up of the Beulah, Hopetoun, Rainbow and District and Woomelang and Lascelles Landcare groups. The forming of this consortium arrangement, in conjunction with the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) earlier this year, saw them successfully secure a new Landcare Facilitator as part of the Victorian State Government’s commitment to the Victorian Landcare program. The Mallee CMA conducted interviews, along with an impressive panel of Landcare group executives from across the district, and I was chosen to ‘fill the void’. My role is to support these four groups through the organising and running of meeting as, applying for funding and all the paperwork that follows, raising the

The main issue across the whole of the South Western Mallee Consortium is pest plants and feral animals. Rabbits, foxes and weeds such as bridal creeper, boxthorn, horehound, silver leaf nightshade, and so on, are going to continue to plague the area for some time to come. I look forward to assisting with the trialling of new control methods and applying some innovative approaches to these problems, in conjunction with more traditional methods. Landcare has often been turned to as a capable ally by landholders in the past for these kinds of works and I would like to see this continue into the future. Due to the somewhat declining population within my consortium, memberships are always going to be an issue of concern. This simply means adapting Landcare to become something that is going to appeal to a wider variety of people. Alternatively, opening up partnerships with other like-minded community groups and businesses is another way of ensuring that Landcare will continue to thrive and develop. There are plenty of opportunities for this to occur both locally and from further afield. Some of the other future projects and events that have been proposed by the groups include: field days and field trips; Junior Landcare programs; reclamation and revegetation; training days; and information sessions. This certainly is an exciting time for Landcare in the Mallee and interest levels are higher than ever. Anyone requiring further information (or photographic evidence) on any past projects from these groups is invited to have a look at the South Western Mallee Consortium Landcare Gateway page. Links can be followed from this page to each of the separate Landcare groups’ for general information, upcoming projects, and upcoming events. http://mallee.landcarevic.net.au/groups/ southern-mallee. I am slowly finding my feet in this role, and becoming more familiar with what exactly a Landcare Facilitator does. I look forward to holding individual meetings with each of the towns and getting to know as many people as I can.

Contact

If you have questions, are interested in coming along to a meeting or event, or would like to join one of the Landcare groups, please contact me by phone: 0409 655 646, or email: daniel.huttig@dpi.vic.gov.au. Should anyone wish to find me, my office is located at 152 Lascelles Street, Hopetoun.

17


The

Mallee Farmer

Patrick Mickan Northern Mallee Landcare Facilitator

I was born in Natimuk (west of Horsham) but grew up in Sydney. After finishing school, I trained as a carpenter and ran a construction business for a number of years. Wanting a new challenge, I enrolled in the Bachelor of Environmental Science at the University of Canberra, with a focus on ecology and natural resource management. While studying in Canberra, I worked part time for the University in a number of roles providing support for field work and research and monitoring programs for endangered species. I began the role as the Northern Mallee Landcare Facilitator at the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) in April 2012 and it has been a busy time helping to coordinate community events, meeting new people and learning about this diverse role and the many challenges that volunteer groups face when trying to achieve their goals. It has been satisfying to have been able to provide support to Landcare and other community groups to get their projects up and running and build strong relationships along the way. I look forward to providing continued support and meeting more of the groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s members in the near future.

Consortium overview

The Northern Malllee Consortium currently consists of four Landcare groups: Millewa-Carwarp; Yelta; Kulkyne Way; and Red Cliffs. Each of the groups have different priorities and interests, depending on where they are based and the interest of the membership. The Millewa Carwarp Landcare Group is located in the North West corner of the Mallee region, consisting of 85 farming enterprises. The groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s current focus is on integrated rabbit

18

management using a range of control methods and a trail of native perennial species to assess their potential grazing value. On-going projects include the adoption of minimum till farming practices, containment and eradication of the regionally prohibited weeds Silverleaf Nightshade and Hardheads, and the reclamation of eroded and degraded farming areas. The Yelta Landcare Group is located west of Mildura bordered by the Murray River to the north, Meridian Road to the west, Sturt Highway and Ontario Avenue to the south and an imaginary line extending Fifteenth Street through Lake Ranfurly to the Murray River in the east. The group focuses on addressing local environmental issues such as salinity and land degradation. Current projects include a new walking track in the Merbein Common that will link existing walking tracks, and a revegetation and environmental monitoring project in the Wargan Bushland Reserve. Kulkyne Way Landcare group is located south east of Mildura between Karadoc and Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. The eastern boundary is the winding Murray River with its floodplain, which is largely crown land. The group was formed by residents of the Karadoc, Iraak, Nangiloc, and Colignan communities. The major focus of the group is weed control and revegetation on public and private land and providing support to the wider community. The group is currently assisting schools in the area to complete environmental management plans. On completion of the plan, schools receive funding from the group to complete environmental projects. Red Cliffs Community Landcare Group formed in 2011 and meets at the Red Cliffs Secondary College. The school is integrating Landcare activities into their curriculum. The groups main focus is developing a no dig garden with chickens and fruit trees and the produce from the garden will be used by the schools food tech classes. Students are developing important life skills and are able to apply science in a practical environment. In the future, the group plans to develop links and carry out projects with members of the wider community.


The

Mallee Farmer Regional Landcare Facilitator map

Group stats The Northern Mallee Consortium The Millewa Carwarp Landcare Group Kulkyne Way Landcare group The Yelta Landcare Group

526,000 hectares 425,000 hectares 90,000 hectares 10,000 hectares

Where we are now

The groups priorities and scale of projects are quite diverse with projects ranging from: • construction of new walking tracks; • wildlife and salinity monitoring; • land revegetation; • control of pest plants and animals; and • school veggie gardens. This is an exciting time with many groups looking to increase their activity, given the extra support that a full time facilitator can provide. Landcare groups are in the process of planning and prioritising their projects and developing strategies for the next three years.

Future direction

Landcare and other community groups will continue to work together to achieve outcomes that benefit the whole community and the possibilities of what can be achieved are endless. The range of activities and projects that the groups can undertake is only limited by their imagination. Landcare groups may work with schools, community groups and private organisations sharing skills and resources while achieving common goals. Pest plant and animal control is a major priority in the dryland cropping areas and these projects are on-going. There is also the possibility of obtaining funding to trial new agricultural practices and production systems, hold workshops and engage professionals to present on specific topics that are of interest to group members. Opportunities exist to work with schools to develop junior Landcare groups, engaging youth at an early age to foster an interest in the environment and land management in general. Funding may also be sought to improve local assets and infrastructure of communities, protect cultural heritage and increase community capacity.

More information

Further information on Landcare groups and their past and present projects can be found on the Northern Mallee Consortium Landcare gateway web page, which links to all the current Landcare groups in the Northern Mallee Consortium; http://mallee.landcarevic.net.au/groups/nthmallee

Contact

If you have any questions or are interested in joining a Landcare group, attending a group meeting or working with Landcare in the Northern Mallee, then I would love to hear from you. Please contact me by phone, Office: 5051 4320 Mobile: 0427 540 468 or Email: patrick.mickan@dpi.vic.gov.au

Groups and contact details Kevin Chaplin - Regional Landcare Coordinator

Phone: 03 5051 43670 or Email: kevin.chaplin@dpi.vic.gov.au

Patrick Mickan - Northern Mallee Landcare Facilitator

• Millewa-Carwarp Landcare Group; • Yelta Landcare Group; • Kulkyne Way Landcare Group; and • Red Cliffs Landcare Group. Phone: 03 5051 4320 or Email: patrick.mickan@dpi.vic.gov.au

Daniel Huttig - South Western Mallee Consortium Landcare Facilitator • Beulah Landcare Group; • Hopetoun Landcare Group; • Rainbow and District Landcare Group; and • Woomelang and Lascelles Landcare Group. Phone: 0409 655 646, or email: daniel.huttig@dpi.vic.gov.au

Jess Cook - South Eastern Landcare Facilitator

• Berriwillock Landcare Group; • Birchip Landcare Group; • Culgoa Landcare Group; • Lalbert Landcare Group; • Nullawil Landcare Group; and • Ultima Landcare Group. Phone: 0409 615 846, or email: jessica.cook@dpi.vic.gov.au

Kim Cross - Eastern Mallee Landcare Facilitator

• Nyah West/Swan Hill West Landcare Group; • Manangatang Landcare Group; • Kooloonong-Natya Landcare Group; • Waitchie Landcare Group; • Sea Lake Landcare Group; and • Robinvale Landcare Group. Phone: 0427 883 100, or email: kim.cross@dpi.vic.gov.au

Kate Nickolls - Murrayville Landcare Facilitator

• Murrayville Landcare Group. Phone: 0477 550 161, or email: murrayvillelc@hotmail.com

19


The

Mallee Farmer

Landcare network, and look forward to working with the new coordinators to promote Landcare in the Mallee. The Murrayville Landcare group is approximately 220,000 ha in size, with 120 members. The land use is predominately dryland agriculture; cropping and livestock, with areas of irrigated horticulture in the north of the township, predominately potato growers. We have a unique setting with the Murray-sunset National Park to the north group and the Big Desert Wilderness area to the south as our Landcare group boundaries, as well as the South Australian state border to the west and the locality of Boinka to the east. We have had a rich and diverse past of works and projects which has been recognised at state level, and our group is looking to the future, currently revising the Local Area Action Plan and planning for future events.

Kate Nickolls Murrayville Landcare Facilitator

Hi, my name is Kate Nickolls and I am the Landcare Facilitator for the Murrayville Landcare Group. I am employed directly by the Landcare group on a part time basis and my position is funded through the State Government Landcare Facilitators Initiative. Previously, I have worked for the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) (2006 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 2010) as the Landcare Facilitator at Murrayville, and as the Western Mallee Community Support Officer. I have spent the last two years at home being mum to two tractor-obsessed little boys and I am excited to be back on deck in a part-time role. Along with my husband Chad, brother and sister in-law and parentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in-law, we have a broad acre cropping farm at Pinnaroo; half our land is in Victoria and half in South Australia so we really straddle the border!

Our main focus is on pest animal management and promoting sustainable farming practices within our district. I have enjoyed being part of the Mallee Regional Landcare network, and look forward to working with the new coordinators to promote Landcare in the Mallee. I have a Bachelor in Agricultural Science from Melbourne University and have previously worked for the South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) at the Waite Institute in Farming Systems Research, undertaking trials in crop nutrition, summer crops and soil amelioration. I have also spent 12 months as the district Saltland Agronomist based at Keith, focusing on soil monitoring and rehabilitation after the Upper South East drainage program was completed. I have been directly involved in Landcare in the Mallee for the past six years, both as a coordinator, group executive and a landholder. Our main focus is on pest animal management and promoting sustainable farming practices within our district. I have enjoyed being part of the Mallee Regional

20

The group has a number of major projects happening, including:

Protection of the Cowangie Rail Reserve

The Cowangie Rail Reserve contains significant woodland species and native grasslands unique to the surrounding area. Jointly funded by Landcare Australia, VicTrack and the Mallee CMA through funding from the Australian Governments Caring for Our Country, the project involves the erection of a rabbit proof fence and the implementation of extensive rabbit and weed control programs and the revegetation of the reserve. Flora and fauna surveys have just been completed to further understand the ecology and importance of this reserve. Activities will be held with the local school and community groups to collect and propagate seed collected from the site, along with community planting days planned for 2013.

Pest plant & animal program

The Landcare group endeavours to undertake an annual pest plant and animal program focusing on the control of rabbit & fox populations and the eradication of cactus, boxthorn and bridal creeper. This is generally achieved through the Second Generation Landcare Grants Rabbit Ripping Program, where landholders pay 50 per cent of roadside costs, coordinated fox baiting programs and contracted weed control. In March this year, the group held a spotlighting event to encourage alternate control methods and had 40 participants, with 188 rabbit, 179 fox and 29 cat tails presented at the presentation BBQ. The group also secured funding for a fox bait subsidy, with 1,250 being laid in the district.

Future directions

Junior Landcare will be a focus and I will be working alongside the Murrayville Community College throughout the year on various projects. New and existing walking trails are to be upgraded and signage erected to promote the beauty and diversity in our backyard. Sustainable farming and now carbon, is always on the agenda, and we are planning field days, information sessions and crop walks so we can move forward looking after the land and our livelihood in the best ways possible.

Contact

If you have any questions or are interested in knowing more about the Murrayville Landcare group, please contact Kate. Phone: 0477 550 161 Email: murrayvillelc@hotmail.com


The

Mallee Farmer

Increase productivity and profitability by targeting inputs to soil type The Mallee Water Use Efficiency Project is evaluating fertiliser strategies across a number of soil types at Ouyen (Victoria) and Karoonda (South Australia). By

Michael Moodie, MSF. There has been widespread use of continuous cereal in the Mallee over the past decade and one of the major issues associated with this system is the risk associated with the high nitrogen requirements of intensive cropping. By identifying soils and conditions where continuous cereal systems perform best and where inputs can be most effectively targeted, there is an opportunity to reduce risk and increase profitability. Two experiments are being conducted by CSIRO at Karoonda. The cereal strategies trial was established in 2009 and is comparing high input continuous cereal systems to low input continuous cereal and pasture-crop rotations across a wide range of soil types (Table 1).

A second fertiliser response trial has evaluated crop responses to a wide range of nitrogen and phosphorus rates across three soil types (dune, slope and swale) in 2010 and 2011. At Ouyen, Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Victoria has also established experiments on three soil types (dune, slope and swale) where phosphorus rates (0.6 and 12 kg P/ha) and nitrogen application strategies (upfront and in-season) are being evaluated. The trial at Ouyen commenced in 2010. Rainfall in 2010 was well above average for both sites with decile 10 rainfall falling in the spring. The 2011 season at both sites was characterised by high summer rainfall leading to high stored soil water levels, however, growing season rainfall was below average.

At Karoonda, grain yield (wheat) was measured at nine positions along the dune-swale system to capture the effect of soil type on treatment response, with position 1 being at the base of the trial in the swale and position 9 being in the sand dune (Figure 1 and 2). In 2011, high nitrogen inputs at seeding increased grain yield relative to current district practice (50 kg/ha of DAP) and the nil fertiliser treatment on the sandy soil zones (positions 5-9). High nitrogen inputs the previous season (2010) increased yields relative to the nil fertiliser treatment from positions 3-9, however additional nitrogen inputs above DAP only increased yield on the sandiest soils (positions 6, 7 and 9). In both seasons, the higher nitrogen rates led to particularly high yield responses when applied on the deeper sands. Furthermore, in 2011, applying nitrogen upfront tended to be more effective at increasing grain yield than in-crop nitrogen applications, however, there were no significant differences

21


The

Mallee Farmer between application strategies in 2010. The trial found that the yield advantages achieved through higher nitrogen fertiliser inputs were surpassed by maintaining a pasture phase in the rotation on some soil types. The 2011 wheat yields immediately following a one year pasture break were significantly higher than the yields achieved when an extra 30 kg N/ha was applied at sowing on the swale and midslope soil zones (positions 1-6, excluding position 2). A similar result was found in the previous season, with a pasture break increasing wheat yields more than all other treatments on the flat and midslope (positions 1-6). The fertiliser response trial at Karoonda also showed significant responses to both nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers on the dune and midslope soil types (Figure 3). On the dune soil, the response to nitrogen fertiliser was 15 kilograms of grain per kg/ha of nitrogen applied and 12 kilograms of grain per kg/ ha of nitrogen applied on the midslope in 2011. These responses were lower than what was achieved on these soils in the wet (decile 10) season of 2010 with nitrogen application returning 24 and 27 kilograms of grain per kg/ha of nitrogen for the respective midslope and dune soils. In the wet 2010 season, there was also a response to additional nitrogen on the swale soil (12 kilograms of grain per kg/ha nitrogen), however there was no yield gain from nitrogen fertiliser on the swale in 2011. Applying no phosphorus fertiliser to the high yielding swale soil type led to a reduction in grain yield of six percent in the wet year of 2010. A response to phosphorus was measured on the swale between 0 kg P/ha (4.44 t/ha) and 10 kg P/ha (4.73 t/ha) but there Table 1: Treatments for the Karoonda â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Continuous systems for soils trialsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 2010-2012.

was no significant phosphorus response between 10 and 20 kg P/ha. Following the high yields of the previous season, in 2011 there was also a response to increasing phosphorus fertiliser rates on the dune and midslope (30 kilograms of grain per kg/ ha of phosphorus) but no response to increasing phosphorus rates on the swale. A simple analysis of the returns on investment in fertiliser shows that there were pay-offs in 2011 for using high rates of nitrogen on the sandy soil types but losses from nitrogen application on the heavy swale soil (Table 2). Similarly, losses were made with the application of phosphorus to the swale but profit was gained from adding phosphorus to the sandy topsoil. The returns from investment were consistent on the midslope but tended to be variable on the dune. Using the 2011 results from Karoonda, if variable rate technology was used on a 100 ha typical Mallee paddock (containing 20% swale, 50% midslope and 30% dune) in 2011, applying 40 kg/ha of nitrogen and 10 kg/ha of phosphorus fertiliser on the dune and midslope only and applying no fertiliser on the swale would increase the paddock return by $3412 compared to a blanket rate of 20 kg/ha of nitrogen and 10 kg/ ha of phosphorus across all soil types. However, using the best-performing fertiliser rates in 2011 on each soil type gave returns of nearly $10,000 more for variable rate fertiliser than blanket low fertiliser input for the paddock in 2011. Soil type-specific fertiliser responses were also found in the trial at Ouyen. In 2010, nitrogen application increased yields on the dune by 15.8 kilograms Table 2: Estimated return ($/ha) on N and P fertiliser (cost used was $620/t urea, $750/t DAP, Jan 2011, and return was $210.85/t APW grain ex-Pt Adelaide, average of prices November 21, 2011) including only fertiliser cost and grain prices.

Threat

Description

2011 Fertiliser

1

Pasture 2009-Cereal 2010-2012

10P, 9N (50 kg DAP)

2

Cereal 2009-Pasture 2010- Cereal 2010-2012

10P, 9N (50 kg DAP)

3

Continuous cereal- district practice fertiliser

10P, 9N (50 kg DAP)

Swale

1

-41

-57

-101

Continuous cereal- no fertiliser

0P, 0N

Mid-slope

19

45

44

28

Continuous cereal- high sowing N inputs

10P, 40N (50 kg DAP, 67kg Urea)

Dune

9

75

130

219

P rate (kg/ha)

5

10

20

6

Continuous cereal- extra N with positive spring (67 kg/ha Urea Aug 15)

10 P, 40 N (50 kg DAP, 67kg Urea)

Swale

-25

-51

-62

7

Continuous cereal- cut for hay (Sep 29).

10P, 9N (50 kg DAP)

Mid-slope

37

31

54

Dune

16

6

83

4 5

22

N rate (kg/ha)

10

20

40

80

Return ($/ha)= $ for Grain above zero N Fertiliser-Fertiliser Cost

Return ($/ha)= $ for Grain above zero P Fertiliser-Fertiliser Cost

of grain per kg/ha of nitrogen, however nitrogen did not influence yields on the slope or the swale. In 2011, nitrogen application had a positive effect on grain yield on the swale returning 16 kilograms of grain per kg/ha of nitrogen, however there was no response to extra nitrogen applied to the dune and slope soil types, where there were agronomic problems such as weeds and possible micronutrient deficiencies. Therefore timing and the amount of nitrogen applied were of secondary importance where other agronomic factors affected normally productive soil types. The Ouyen trial also investigated phosphorus fertiliser inputs and found that there was a significant grain yield response to high phosphorus fertiliser inputs on the dune soil type. Grain yield in the 12 kg P/ha treatments was 0.4 t/ha higher than the yield of the nil and 6 kg P/ha treatments. Soil testing at the site prior to sowing in 2010 revealed that phosphorus levels were more than adequate, however good yields in 2010 and high summer rainfall led to much lower phosphorus soil test (Colwell) values in 2011 (Table 3). Leading into sowing in 2011, the soil test indicated that Colwell phosphorus levels were marginal on the dune but still adequate on the other soil types, therefore the soil tests corresponded with the yield response observed. Farmers in the Mallee are now eligible for complimentary membership of MSF. Anyone wishing to become a member of MSF may visit www.msfp.org.au or contact the MSF office on 5021 9100 or admin@msfp.org.au Table 3: Colwell P (0-10cm) for soils at Ouyen before treatments were applied at the end of March 2010 and for 12P strategic and upfront nitrogen treatments in March 2011.

Year 2010

2011

Soil Dune

Treatment

Measured

Critical

21

15

Slope

44

21

Swale

35

21

InSeason

15

15

Upfront

16

15

InSeason

22

21

Upfront

24

21

InSeason

26

21

Upfront

23

21

Dune Slope Swale

n/a

Colwell P (mg/kg)


The

Mallee Farmer

Key points

Figure 1. Karoonda cereal strategies trial results in 2010. Wheat yields across the landscape positions for the nil fertiliser, 50 kg DAP and the two 50kg DAP+54kg Urea treatments. Landscape positions are 15m apart. The black dashed line represents the water use efficiency (WUE) for the extra N topdressed treatment.

• Over the past two seasons at Karoonda, increased nitrogen inputs have been highly profitable on sandy soil types but there has been no yield response on the heavy swale • At Karoonda, the yield advantages achieved through higher nitrogen fertiliser inputs were surpassed by maintaining a pasture phase in the rotation on some soil types • Soil testing at Ouyen successfully predicted a grain yield response to phosphorus fertiliser in 2011 on the sandy dune soil

For more information

http://www.msfp.org.au/research. php?page=compendiums. The article titles are as follows: • Soil-specific strategies for cereal based rotations (McBeath et al) • Variable N and P rate responses (McBeath et al) • Phosphorus on Mallee continuous cereal paddocks – if the Colwell P is high, can we leave the phosphorus? (Jones et al)

Figure 2. Karoonda cereal strategies trial results in 2011. Wheat yields across the landscape positions for the nil fertiliser, 50 kg DAP and the two 50 kg DAP+67 kg Urea treatments. Landscape positions are 15 m apart.

Acknowledgements

Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) would like to acknowledge the researchers and technical staff who are undertaking the trials at Karoonda and Ouyen, and the local farmers and advisors involved. Karoonda: Rick Llewellyn, Therese McBeath, Bill Davoren and Vadakattu Gupta (CSIRO). Ouyen: Angela Clough, Mick Brady, Chris Davies, Dave Monks (DPI Victoria) and Ben Jones (Mallee Focus).

Figure 3. Average grain yield response to additions of nitrogen and phosphorus (kg/ha) on the three soil types in 2011. Regression model response with N and P as separate factors, P<0.001 on swale R2=0.25, mid slope R2=0.7 and dune R2=0.9.

The trials at Karoonda and Ouyen are being undertaken as part of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Water Use Efficiency Initiative. Projects will continue in 2012 with field days to be held at Karoonda September 4 and at Ouyen in October.

23


The

Mallee Farmer

One million reasons to smile A combined effort between landholders and local organisations across the Victorian Mallee has achieved over one million hectares of agricultural land covered through the Environmental Management Action Planning (EMAP) program. By

Simone Cramer, Mallee CMA The program, regarded nationally as one of the leading property planning programs, provides landholders in the Mallee with a coordinated approach to addressing natural resource management issues in a farming context. The EMAP program was first developed in 2005 by a team of regional partners including the Mallee Catchment

24

Management Authority (CMA), Department of Primary Industries (DPI) - Farm Services Victoria (FSV), SunRISE21, Sunraysia Institute of TAFE and Landcare to provide whole farm planning that focused on the needs of Mallee farmers. With funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country and the State Government’s Victorian Investment Framework, landholders have continued to develop action plans for their farms to help protect the regions natural resources.

Mallee CMA Board Chairperson Sharyon Peart said EMAP is unique in its approach to natural resource management in the Mallee and covering over one million hectares was a huge achievement for the region. “A great success of this program has been building community capacity to plan and undertake action. Covering over one million hectares of land with an EMAP whole farm plan could not have been achieved without the resilient sustainable partnerships that have been established across the region,” she said. “The continued support from landholders to the program year after year demonstrates the increasing demand and value of the program in the region,” “A major component of EMAP is the personal case management support


The

Mallee Farmer given to landholders and workshops that focus on natural resource management to assist and provide them with the skills and training to develop environmental and action plans suited to their own properties. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Landholders feel empowered by these workshops to undertake works on their properties they may not have felt they had the support or resources to do themselves,â&#x20AC;? Ms Peart said. The program was initially conducted in the Lake Tyrrell and Ouyen regions, where salinity and the threat of shallow water tables were identified as significant concerns. It has since continued into the Millewa/ Carwarp, Murrayville and Underbool target areas with stronger focus on soils prone to erosion and adapted to be delivered within the irrigation zones of the region. The EMAP program has now entered into its ninth phase with workshops to be delivered in both the Hopetoun and Birchip areas of the Southern Mallee. All images: Whole farm planning - EMAP workshops. Photos: DPI.

For more information

Environmental Management Action Planning (EMAP) program, contact the Mallee CMA on 5051 4377 or Peter Hamence, DPI-FSV on 03 5051 4352.

In brief

DVD - Stock containment areas on your farm During dry periods, retaining vegetation cover is a major issue in the Mallee to protect the soil from wind erosion. With a stock containment area on your property, stock can be removed from vulnerable areas to help retain cover during these periods. A stock containment area is a carefully selected part of a property set up to hold, feed and water livestock. Look out for the DVD and find out more about the benefits of building a stock containment area and how to manage stock on your farm. To order a free copy of the DVD contact the Mallee CMA on 03 5051 4377 or visit the website at: www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

Project partners:

Mallee CMA; BCG; Ag Excellence Alliance; Grain & Graze; Productive Nutrition and Victorian Investment Framework.

25


The

Mallee Farmer

Project to protect habitat at Neds Corner Trust for Nature is carrying out a project to help threatened species of the Murray Mallee region, including the majestic Regent Parrot, on Victoria’s largest private property, Neds Corner Station.

By

Greg Ogle, Trust for Nature. The project ‘Restoring landscape links & habitat for threatened wildlife at Neds Corner Station’ is funded through Trust for Nature, the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country initiative, Lower Murray Water (LMW) and the Mildura Rural City Council (MRCC). Regent Parrot habitat Regent Parrots are declared Vulnerable under the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

26

According to the Regent Parrot National Recovery Plan, the total adult breeding population of eastern Australia is estimated at 1,500 pairs, with only 500 in Victoria, 600 in NSW and 400 in South Australia. Regent Parrots (sometimes known as “Smokers”) are reluctant to fly over open areas where they are vulnerable to predation by raptors. Corridors of vegetation between nesting and foraging sites are therefore essential for bird movement. Birds will use remnant woodlands along roadsides or farm paddocks for movement and occasionally foraging, and rarely use

more extensively cleared areas (BakerGabb & Hurley, 2011). Trust for Nature is revegetating feeding areas and flight corridors between the Murray River and the Sturt Highway, in areas of Neds Corner Station where semi-arid woodland vegetation once existed. Trust for Nature has also retired over 500ha of cropping land on the property adjacent to the Sturt Highway. This area will be actively regenerated as part of the project, by replanting and direct seeding local plant species, as well as controlling grazing pressure to encourage natural regeneration. The Neds Corner Station staff Peter and Colleen Barnes and Anthony Pay, are trialling establishment of seedlings with dripper systems, fed by 1000 litre shuttles. This saves watering time by simply refilling the shuttles with the water cart.


The

Mallee Farmer

Station Manager Peter Barnes and Ranger Anthony Pay are also coordinating local indigenous Land Management Trainees to participate in various areas of the project on the property. The Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) has also funded several revegetation projects on Neds Corner Station over the past several years; these projects will also improve habitat for Regent Parrots and many other fauna and flora species. This year, 3000 tree seedlings have been planted, as well as 10 hectares of direct seeding.

Vegetation

In partnership with Parks Victoria, rabbit baiting on Neds Corner Station and on the neighbouring National Park over the past three years is playing a major part in contributing to the ‘Mallee Woodlands Bouncing Back’ initiative, funded by both the State and Federal Government. Peter Sandell, the local Parks Victoria Ranger in Charge, says a major goal of the initiative is to attain “Rabbit-free status” north of the Sturt Highway to the Murray River. Monitoring sites have been established to determine the presence of rabbits and their affect on vegetation. Trust for Nature staff will monitor the success

of direct seeding and also the grazing pressure by kangaroos on young trees. This grazing pressure will be compared to control sites that have been fenced to exclude kangaroos.

Surrounding areas

The project also has the ability to help with coordinated rabbit control works and habitat improvement on roadsides and farms between Neds Corner Station and the Werrimull – Meringur area. An expression of interest has been offered to landowners in the area. MRCC is funding several kilometres of rabbit control work and revegetation work on Neds Corner Road. Lower Murray Water is funding fencing and rabbit control work on a channel reserve adjacent to a farm conservation area near Werrimull. To promote the project and the Regent Parrot, Trust for Nature and the Meringur Pioneer Museum are encouraging people to create art of any form and medium that depicts the Regent Parrot or other wonderful wildlife of the district, and/or the landscape and social fabric of this amazing area of Australia. We will celebrate the art with an exhibition at the Meringur Pioneer Museum Open Day on October 7, 2012.

Above - left: Indigenous trainees Mick and Lucy planting woodland trees species. Photo: TFN. Above- top: Regent Parrots at a nest hollow. Photo: Mallee CMA. Abovt - bottom: Male Regent Parrot in flight. Photo: Mallee CMA. Opposite page: DSE Indigenous Trainees members Lucy, Mick, Zac, Jermain and Neds Corner Station staff Colleen Barnes, Peter Barnes and Anthony (Blue) Pay. Photo: TFN

Key Dates

Trust for Nature is holding “Spring into Nature” Open Days at Neds Corner Station on Friday October 12, and Sunday October 14. Tours of the project area as well as more art displays will be included in the days events.

For more information

Visit Neds Corner Station website www.nedscorner.com.au or contact a Trust for Nature staff member: Greg Ogle Phone: 50302494 or 0408 550 186 Email: grego@tfn.org.au Colleen Barnes Phone: 50283244 or 0427 236 462 Email: colleenb@tfn.org.au

27


The

Mallee Farmer

It’s time to have your say on the future management of the Mallee’s natural resources The Draft 2012-18 Mallee Regional Catchment Strategy is now available for public comment. Community and industry groups and individuals are invited to provide feedback on what will be the key planning document for the future management of natural resources in the Victorian Mallee. By

Michelle Kelly, Mallee CMA Released for feedback on Wednesday August 1, the Draft 2012-18 Mallee Regional Catchment Strategy (RCS) has been developed in consultation with a number of government, industry and community stakeholders across our region.

28

The primary goal of the RCS is to provide organisations, groups and individuals with a shared direction for the management of our land, water and biodiversity assets; and enable both regional and local action to occur in the areas of greatest need, achieving cost effective outcomes for government and community.

Role of the Regional Catchment Strategy

The Victorian Mallee Region covers approximately 20 per cent of the State

and is home to a diverse range of flora, fauna and habitats, including the Ramsar listed Hattah Lakes and remnant Buloke woodlands. With a population of over 60,000 people, the region’s natural resources provide a number of important services and are key to the ongoing prosperity of the region, supporting agricultural production, tourism and a range of manufacturing and service industries. The Draft 2012-18 Mallee RCS proposes targets for the future condition of our region’s land, water and biodiversity assets on both public and private land. It also identifies the broad management measures required to achieve these goals, proposes priority landscapes for targeting delivery, and outlines the roles and responsibilities of all regional stakeholders in delivering the RCS.


The

Mallee Farmer

Above: Mallee farmers participating in a field day. Photo: Mallee CMA. Left: An example of Local Assets identified through RCS engagement processes. Opposite page: Community consultation workshop. Photo: Mallee CMA.

How to have your say

Community members and organisations can provide feedback on the Draft 201218 Mallee RCS by: • Participating in online forums at: www.rcs.malleecma.vic.gov.au • Providing a written submission: • Post: Mallee CMA, PO Box 5017, MILDURA VIC 3502; • Facsimile: (03) 5051 4379; or • Email: rcs@malleecma.vic.gov.au

Regional partnerships are crucial for the delivery of the RCS and your feedback on the Draft Strategy will help ensure that these continue to be strengthened through shared goals and priorities for natural resource management (NRM).

The Draft 2012-18 Mallee Regional Catchment Strategy

The RCS is not a static document, but rather, one that has the ability to be modified as new information becomes available, or improved natural resource management techniques emerge. As such, the draft document has been developed as a high level strategic plan with further detail and background being made available through the dedicated RCS website: www.rcs.malleecma. vic.gov.au. This includes Catchment Condition Reports, detailed information about Catchment Assets (priority areas for NRM which were identified by stakeholders and experts in a series of workshops), and regular updates on the progress of the RCS. Relevant Federal and State Legislation has been considered within the Draft RCS where it applies, as have national or international agreements and local government instruments which can and do influence NRM in our region. Importantly, strategies and plans developed by non-government organisations, such as Landcare, Mallee Sustainable Farming, Birchip

Cropping Group and other industry and special interest groups, have also been recognised as these groups play an important role contributing knowledge, undertaking projects and providing considerable resources to various NRM initiatives. Advice from community, industry and government representatives has also been fundamental to the development of the Draft 2012-18 Mallee RCS. A Steering Committee comprising of community representatives and partner agencies has been overseeing the development and providing information for the RCS. This has been coupled with a series of stakeholder engagement activities across the Mallee Region which have provided important information on cultural heritage sites, locally important habitat for threatened species, planned future activities and relevant strategies and plans of community and industry groups. Viewing the Draft 2012-18 Mallee Regional Catchment Strategy The Draft 2012-18 Mallee Regional Catchment Strategy and accompanying documents can be viewed at: www.rcs. malleecma.vic.gov.au. Alternatively, hard copies can be made available by contacting the Mallee Catchment Management Authority on (03) 5051 4377 or email rcs@malleecma. vic.gov.au.

Submissions on the Draft 2012-18 Mallee RCS will be received until 4.30pm Friday August 31, 2012. Once all submissions have been reviewed, the completed document will be required to be endorsed by the Mallee CMA Board before being sent to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change and Minister for Water for approval in October 2012.

Key Dates Wednesday August 1, 2012 Draft 2012-18 Mallee Regional Catchment Strategy released for public comment Friday August 31, 2012 Submissions close at 4.30pm October 2012 – Final 2012-18 Mallee RCS document sent for Ministerial approval.

For more information

Visit the Mallee RCS Website: www.rcs.malleecma.vic.gov.au or contact the Mallee CMA Phone: 5051 4377 or Email: rcs@malleecma.vic.gov.au

29


The

Mallee Farmer

Survey results establish link to better canola crops A rapid expansion in canola cropping in the Mallee has been accompanied with problems in achieving satisfactory crop establishment and large costs to landholders with reduced yields.

By

Ivan Mock, Dodgshun Medlin In a bid to reduce the on-going problems with canola establishment, the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) contracted Dodgshun Medlin Agricultural Management to investigate the extent of the problems and factors contributing to unsatisfactory establishment. Mallee CMA chairperson Sharyon Peart said many Victorian Mallee farmers struggled to establish their canola crop last year. “2011 saw a rapid increase in the area

30 30

of the Mallee sown to canola, however; problems with poor crop establishment cost canola growers millions of dollars,” she said. “This also increased the risk of wind erosion as there was little ground cover to protect the soil surface.” she said. A total of 42 growers who sowed canola in 2011 were surveyed as part of the study undertaken by Dodgshun Medlin and their responses from the survey have been compiled and are now available. The 42 growers in the survey sowed 25,156 ha of canola, averaging 600 ha per farm. These landholders reported that approximately 20% of canola sown

did not establish successfully although no remedial action was taken on most of this area, 35% was re-sown to canola and a further 9% was re-sown to wheat. The locations of establishment problems were most common and severe on sand hills and rises and on corresponding light sandy soils. Flats with clay soils and summer weeds sites were also frequently associated with poor establishment. Research and Development Leader at Dodgshun Medlin, Ivan Mock said dry conditions at and following sowing was the most common and serious factor identified by landholders contributing to poor establishment. “Dry surface soils at sowing delayed germination and increased the length of exposure to mice damage. This was exacerbated on sands with low water storage capacity and clays with reduced water availability to plants,” he said.


The

Mallee Farmer Mr. Mock said mice and other pests, mainly rabbits, were the next most frequent response and the heavy stubble and associated seeding depth control were also frequently associated with poor establishment, although the impact of these was less severe than pests and dry conditions. Sowing time was listed as a factor by 16% of respondents, but the average difference between good and poor emerging crops was 1.5 days and only two growers sowed after May 4PthP. Those surveyed indicated they planned to reduce canola area by 10% in 2012, which would still make it the second largest canola planting in the Mallee. Mr Mock said that agronomic practices that increase moisture available to the canola seed will reduce establishment problems. These include weed control, seeding depth and potentially sowing time if there are limited periods when surface soils are wet enough to ensure germination. Selected crops will be monitored in 2012 to expand knowledge on critical factors for canola establishment. The results would assist to develop a guide for growers to reducing the risks of poor canola establishment.

This project is supported by the Mallee CMA, through funding from the Australian Governments Caring for our Country. Above: Lower plant numbers on sandy soil. Left: Canola. Photos: Dodghun Medlin.

For more information

Contact Ivan Mock, Research and Development Leader at Dodgshun Medlin E: ivan.mock@dodgshunmedlin. com.au

Diary dates August 1-2

September 13

October 18-20

August 29

September 22 to October 2

October 21-27

Mallee Machinery Field Days Speed Contact Andrew McLean Phone: (03) 5084 1320 www.mmfd.com.au

BCG Women’s Agronomy Group All women are encouraged to go along to the meetings. Contact BCG Phone: (03) 5492 2787. www.bcg.org.au

September 4

MSF Karoonda Field Day Contact Michael Moodie Phone: 0448612892 www.msfp.org.au

BCG Main Field Day This event is held in-paddock within the research trials. Phone: (03) 5492 2787 www.bcg.org.au

Royal Melbourne Show Conducted by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria to promote and celebrate agriculture. www.royalshow.com.au

October 3

MSF North West Trial Site Ouyen Michael Moodie 0448612892 www.msfp.org.au

Mildura Show This year’s theme to honour the Year of the Farmer is Sunraysia’s Farmers on Show. www.mildurashow.org.au

National Water Week - Valuing our water An annual awareness week that aims to improve community understanding of water issues in Australia. www.awa.asn.au/nationalwaterweek

November 6

Melbourne Cup Day 152nd running of the race that stops the nation.

31 31


The

Mallee Farmer

Local photographers snap Buloke woodland prize

In April this year, local communities across the Mallee region were invited by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) to submit entries to the ‘Buloke woodlands in the Mallee’ photo competition and try their luck at snapping up a prize. By

Elizabeth Gosling, Mallee CMA The photo competition aimed to raise awareness of Buloke woodlands in the Mallee region, which are listed as endangered under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The woodlands are characterised by the Buloke, a distinctive tree belonging to the She-oak family that has long, wiry branchlets instead of leaves. Other trees that grow among the Bulokes include Slender Cypress-pine, Belah and Sugarwood. Eucalypts are not common in these woodlands. There were five categories in the competition: landscape; flora; fauna; our impact and junior (for entrants younger than 18); and the competition attracted over 110 entries from across the region. The photos submitted highlighted the diversity of plants and animals that

32

live in the woodlands, including grand old Buloke trees, wildflowers, Bush Bananas, Carpet Pythons, colourful Parrots and threatened species such as the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. Fiona Murdoch of Colignan won the flora category with her close-up of the vibrant Silky Swainson-pea, while Koorlong resident Lindsay Cupper won the fauna section. Mr Cupper perched atop a portable 20 metre wind-up tower to photograph (from a safe distance) a Peregrine Falcon feeding its chicks in the nest. Mr Cupper is a renowned cinematographer, who helped film the acclaimed documentary Australia - Land of Parrots. The competition also attracted a good number of junior entrants. Tyrrell College at Sea Lake incorporated the competition into its year 8 photography class, who jumped in a bus and spent an afternoon driving around photographing Buloke woodlands. The winning student Ella Barry from Culgoa was thrilled to receive the prize for her photo ‘Gateway to the Mallee’.

The winners of each category received a $500 gift voucher. Buloke woodlands were once widespread, but have been extensively cleared in the past. They were also harvested for fence posts and building materials, as Ouyen resident Kevin neatly captured in his winning photo ‘Stumped’. The main threat to Buloke woodlands is now rabbits, kangaroos and stock, which graze on seedlings and stop trees from regenerating.

The Mallee CMA offers a range of incentives for Land managers who have Buloke woodlands on their property, to help control pests in these areas and fence them off from stock to give Bulokes and other native species the chance to regenerate and recover.

For more information

For more information on Buloke woodlands or to view the winning photos, please visit the Mallee CMA website: www.malleecma.vic.gov.au


The

Mallee Farmer

‘Peregrine Falcon’ - winner of the fauna section. Photo: Lindsay Cupper, Koorlong.

‘Grand Tree’ - winner of the landscape section. Photo: Kevin Emmett, Ouyen. Gateway to the Mallee’ - winner of the junior section. Photo: Ella Barry, Culgoa.

‘Silky Swainson-pea’ - winner of the flora section. Photo: Fiona Murdoch, Colignan.

‘Stumped’ - winner of the our impact section. Photo: Kevin Emmett, Ouyen. Left; Lindsay Cupper (centre), with Mallee CMA Board representatives Sharyon Peart and John Arnold.


The Last Word We hope you have enjoyed this third edition of the Mallee Farmer newsletter. It’s hard to believe that 12 months have passed since we launched the first edition of the new look newsletter at Speed field days. Since then, over 7000 copies have been circulated throughout the Victorian Mallee Region and feedback has been very positive. I would like to thank the individuals and organisation who have supplied the articles that make up the Mallee Farmer newsletter. This type of information is a great resource for our farmers to access information, explore new concepts and generally keep up to date with activities taking place in the Victorian Mallee region. The Mallee Farmer is produced by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), in partnership with organisations across the region such as the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Birchip Cropping Group (BCG), Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) and specialist consultants. Funding is provided by the Australian Government’s Regional Landcare Facilitator Project. If you would like to submit any ideas, comments or suggestions for future editions please contact Mallee CMA.

Carbon Farming in the Mallee

YouTube

The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) was passed by the Australian Government on August 23, 2011.

“Sustainable stories of the Mallee” is a suite of YouTube videos developed to promote sustainable land management practices on dryland farms and to help farmers make informed decisions.

The CFI allows farmers and land managers to earn carbon credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land. These credits can then be sold to people and businesses wanting to off-set their emissions. The CFI also helps the environment by encouraging sustainable farming and providing a source of funding for landscape restoration projects. Participation in the CFI is voluntary; farmers and landholders can choose whether or not to be involved. Part of my role as the Regional Landcare Facilitator (RLF) at the Mallee CMA is to assist in the roll out of CFI communication activities throughout the Victorian Mallee to keep our farmers up to date on any new information that will assist them to make informed decisions about the CFI. Carbon farming road shows have been taking place around Australia. The Mallee CMA hosted one recently at the Roxy theatre in Ouyen and over 70 people attended to hear Corey Watts (The Climate Institute), Graeme Anderson (DPI) and Ben Keogh (Australian Carbon Traders) deliver a comprehensive explanation of the CFI and how it impacts farmers in the Mallee.

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

Local organisations such as MSF, BCG and the Mallee CMA joined forces to produce the web-based episodes. The ‘webisodes’ were produced with funding from the Australian Government’s Regional Landcare Facilitator Program. The webisodes feature local farmers sharing their stories on how they have made changes to their farming techniques over the past decade to become more sustainable and ultimately more profitable. Farmers interviewed for the webisodes: • Colin and Chris Hunt (near Lake Cullulleraine); • Robert and Glennis McKee (Murrayville); • Kate Wilson (Hopetoun): and • Pat Hallam (near Hopetoun). To view type the following addresses into your web browser: www.youtube.com/mallee Tom Fagan Regional Landcare Facilitator, Mallee CMA T: (03) 5051 4575 E: tom.fagan@dpi.vic.gov.au

Mallee Farmer Edition 3  

In this special edition of the Mallee Farmer newsletter, we have included a Landcare lift-out to take a closer look at Landcare across the r...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you