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The

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

P7

DPI continues to target rabbits

P10

Mallee Landcare gets a boost

ISSUE 02 • APRIL 2012

P14

Growth and grazing of perennial shrubs

Using summer rainfall to improve yields BCG researchers share latest research


The

Mallee Farmer

Contents Healthy soils with break crops

2

Conserving moisture during summer

4

Minimising soil erosion risk

6

DPI continues to target rabbits

7

Mallee crop sequencing

8

Mallee Landcare gets a big boost

10

Get involved in land and water management

11

Perennial options for filling feed gaps

12

Growth and grazing of perennial shrubs

14

Working together for our farming future The Victorian Mallee has a lot to be proud of when it comes to dryland farming. Not only are farmers in the region quick to adapt to new technology and sustainable practices, but there’s also a lot of support for all the local research that goes in to informing the way we continue to farm sustainably.

EMAP 16 Mallee Research Station 18 Management options for

herbicide resistant ryegrass 20

Improving remnant vegetation 22 Groundwater bore monitoring 24 Threatened species in the Mallee

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New mapping has value for farmers

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In this edition of the Mallee Farmer newsletter, we take a look at some of the most exciting research and demonstration projects that are underway across the region. Angela Clough, from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) looks at the value of break crops in cereal-based cropping systems; Dr Dave Monks examines the role native shrubs can play in grazing; and Johnathon Hopley, from Future Farming Systems Research, gives readers an insight into the latest developments in land unit mapping in the Victorian Mallee.

ISSN: 1839 - 2229

DISCLAIMER

Cover Image

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

BCG Trial Coordinator Claire Browne demonstrating height difference between moisture conservation treatments. Story page: 4

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

In addition to this, leading researchers from the Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) share their research on the importance of capturing, storing and making the best use of summer rainfall to improve crop yields in low to medium rainfall environments; while Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) takes a look at trials currently underway into profitable break crop systems; and local Landcare Coordinator Kevin Chaplin talks us through the recent resurgence of support for Landcare in the Victorian Mallee, with special emphasis on the return of Landcare Facilitators and the role they will play to help bolster efforts to look after our region. Thank you again to all the organisations that have supported this edition of the Mallee Farmer newsletter – it is inspiring to see so many people committed to the farming sector and improving our future in farming. I hope you enjoy this edition of the Mallee Farmer and look forward to the next one in August this year. 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

Photo: Canola crop in flower. Credit: Mallee CMA

The season ahead Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Communications Agronomist Rob Sonogan and Mallee Sustainable Farming Agronomist Michael Moodie share their thoughts on the season ahead. By

Rob Sonogan and Michael Moodie.

Season

With the 30 to 70mm of rainfall experienced across the region in early March, it is now ideally placed for satisfactory early weed control, nutrient mineralisation and a wider crop choice that comes with good sub-soil moisture levels. This has really taken the pressure off a season that up until then was looking very dry. The 2011 year showed the value of having sub-soil moisture leading into the season; what would have the year been without the summer rain? It is critical to control emerging weeds while they are young in this autumn period to prevent a number of detrimental issues from occurring. These are the obvious from sub-soil moisture loss to the physical weed growth blockage of seeding equipment and also the less obvious nutrient tie-up and potential root disease build-up such as Rhizoctonia that uncontrolled weed growth can deliver.

Soil Testing

A shallow 0-10cm and deep 10-60cm soil test carried out now is essential to make informed decisions upon. The economics of soil testing are a proven fact and to guess such things as the nitrogen, phosphorous and sulphur needs of a crop with their ever increasing and expensive price tag is difficult to understand. Many offer a service to carry out testing, or do it yourself and the cost of a basic analysis for each sample should be around $40.

Ready to sow

With a wider range of crops being planted throughout the Mallee, being ready to sow these crops at the optimum time is critical. Early establishment of canola in particular is critical to its success, therefore should be planted from early April to early May at the latest. Even with cereals, it is widely accepted that the risk of heat shock is greater than the risk of frost in the Mallee and getting the crop in the three week period from late April to mid May provides the best yield potential.

Agronomic issues

The run of a few good seasons has been a welcome change from the run of droughts during the naughties, however with this has resulted in a suite of agronomic issues. Grass weeds were a major problem for many growers in 2011 and you should have a plan to tackle weeds in 2012. You should also be thinking about herbicide resistance, particularly Trifluralin resistance, as surveys are showing this is a becoming a problem in the southern Mallee and is already a widespread problem in neighbouring districts such as the Wimmera. Leaf disease such as rust and yellow spot are again likely to be a problem, however these diseases have successfully been controlled with fungicides and growing a range of varieties. Regular crop monitoring and early prevention/control is the key to addressing agronomic issues.

Contact

Rob Sonogan, Farm Services Victoria. T: 03 5036 4804 E: rob.sonogan@dpi.vic.gov.au Michael Moodie, MSF M: 0448 612 892

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The

Mallee Farmer

Photo: Ground covered by stubble. Credit: DPI

Healthy soils with break crops By

Angela Clough, DPI Victoria.

Break crops can be important to soil health in the mallee, provided a few conditions are met. Background

Understanding the risk of soil erosion is a priority in the Mallee. There is also interest in changing the cereal-based cropping systems to include break cropping strategies. The inclusion of break crops may change ground cover production and maintenance, and therefore, susceptibility to soil erosion. This project aimed to evaluate whether various break cropping strategies might influence susceptibility of soils to erosion.

These were rotated in 2011 with wheat treatments from 2010 sown to canola or lupins (2 rates), fallow or re-sown to wheat. All break crop treatments from 2010 were sown to wheat in 2011. There was no grazing on the site during or between seasons.

material and size of soil aggregates. Ground cover was quantified using photographs processed with the software SamplePoint (Booth et al 2006). Soil erosion risk was classified according to the soil erosion risk matrix in McIntosh et al. (2006).

The approach taken in this project was to determine the risk of soil erosion using an evaluation based on the combined influence of ground covered by plant

Results

Soil aggregates Soil aggregates with a diameter > 0.85mm are at less risk of being

Method

The field site was located at Ouyen and included dune, slope and swale soil types. Experiments with the following treatments commenced in 2010 on each soil type: wheat (cv. Yitpi), lupins (cv. Mandelup) sown at low (50kg/ha) and high seeding rates (100kg/ha), canola (cv. Pioneer 43C80) sown at low (1kg/ ha) and high seeding rates (3kg/ha), wheaten hay and chemical fallow.

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Figure 1: Ground covered by stubble in January 2011 for three experiments - dune, slope and swale. Horizontal line indicates the percentage of ground cover required for the risk of soil erosion to be low according to McIntosh et al. (2006).


The

Mallee Farmer eroded by wind than smaller soil aggregates. Soil aggregates were measured in January and September 2011. The lowest proportion of soil aggregates > 0.85mm occurred in January on all soil types. These values were used to assess the erosion risk. Soil aggregate values of 22% on the dune, 23% on the slope and 32% on the swale, translated to a requirement for at least 25% ground cover on the dune and slope and 15% on the swale to meet the criteria for a low risk of soil erosion according to McIntosh et al. (2006). Ground cover between crops The proportion of ground covered by stubble in January 2011 was adequate in all treatments for the risk of soil erosion to be classified as low (Figure 1). Fallow treatments were reliant on stubble from the prior season (2009). Both fallow and hay treatments on the slope, and the low rate lupin treatment on the dune, only just produced enough stubble to place them above critical levels represented in Figure 1 as a horizontal line. Ground cover after sowing After sowing (July), carry-over stubble alone was insufficient to meet the minimum ground cover required for all but one treatment involving a break crop in 2010 (high seeding rate canola on the swale). At the same time, stubble from most wheat crops grown in 2010 was sufficient for the soil erosion risk to be classified as low (Figure 2). However, ground cover from stubble and crop combined was sufficient to maintain a low risk of soil erosion in all treatments and on all experiments. Thus the crop was an important source of ground cover early in the season.

Implications of the findings

It can be concluded from these experiments that the break cropping strategies can be included in cerealbased rotations in the Mallee with minimal risk of soil erosion provided a few conditions are met. Firstly, stubble must be retained. Stubble is critical in ensuring a low risk of soil erosion at times when there is no other source of ground cover. Secondly, soils need to be assessed for soil aggregation. The risk of soil erosion in the Mallee is highly dependant on the size of soil aggregates, which can vary over time. Thirdly, careful selection of the break cropping strategy is needed. Choosing fallowing or wheaten hay as a break in wheat production may lead to an elevated risk of soil erosion between crops when practiced on dunes and in the weeks either side of sowing. Sowing lupins or canola at low seeding rates did not adversely increase the risk of soil erosion over summer or early in the season of 2011 compared to using high seeding rates. However, stubble estimates for the

Figure 2: Percentage of area covered by stubble (white) and green material (grey stripe) and percentage of area with bare soil (black) in each treatment on the dune, slope and swale. Horizontal line indicates the percentage of ground cover required for the risk of soil erosion to be low according to McIntosh et al. (2006).

low lupins in April 2011 indicated that the risk of soil erosion may be elevated by sowing break crops at low seeding rates and this needs to be evaluated. The project is funded to continue in 2012.

References

Booth D.T., Cox S.E., Berryman R.D. (2006). Point sampling digital imagery ‘SamplePoint’. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 123: 97-108. McIntosh G., Leys J., Biesaga K., (2006). Estimating groundcover and soil aggregation for wind erosion control on cropping land. Farmtalk Fact sheet 26. Mallee Sustainable Farming Inc., pp2.

Acknowledgements

This project was supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority, through funding from Caring for our Country, GRDC and DPI Victoria.

Contact

Angela Clough, Victorian Department of Primary Industries. E: angela.clough@dpi.vic.gov.au

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The

Mallee Farmer

Conserving moisture during summer Capturing, storing and making the best use of summer rainfall is one of the most effective ways of improving crop yields in low to medium rainfall environments. By

Claire Browne (BCG), Dr. James Hunt and Dr. Therese McBeath (CSIRO) The value of storing summer soil moisture has been proven in recent years through various research projects, including Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) trials undertaken from 1999 to 2010. Results have shown time and time again the value of controlling summer weeds in terms of increased yield of the following crop. Even in the exceptional growing season of 2010, controlling weeds in the summer of 2009/2010 gave a substantial yield increase due to enhanced nitrogen availability to the crop (see BCG 2010 season research results p30).

Aim

BCG conducted a project during 2010-11 to quantify how paddock stubble load and weed burden during summer can affect available soil water, nutrients and subsequent crop yield.

Method

This field experiment was established 13km south-east of Hopetoun on Warrakirri’s Bullarto Downs property, on two soil types typical to the region, 2km apart. The sand site lay on top of an east-west dune with sandy topsoil and clay subsoil. The clay site was located on a low-lying flat with clay loam topsoil and moderate subsoil constraints. At each field site, six stubble treatments were established on 2 December 2010 into existing canola stubble loads: 5.3t/ha at the sand site and 4.8t/ha at the clay site. The treatments were: 1. standing stubble; 2. standing stubble and summer weeds; 3. slashed stubble; 4. bare earth; 5. bare earth and summer weeds; 6. cultivation.

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Stubble on treatments 3, 4 and 5 was slashed with a whipper-snipper; stubble was then removed from the plots in treatments 4 and 5. Two soil cores per plot (segmented into layers to a depth of 1.3m) were taken on 14 December 2010, 28 March 2011 and 2 December 2011. Plant available water (PAW) and mineral nitrogen were determined on the samples.

Following rain in December 2010 and January 2011, summer weeds (volunteer cereals, melons and heliotrope) emerged in all treatments. On 25 January 2011, treatments 1, 3 and 4 were sprayed with Amicide® 625 600mL/h and Companion® 1%. On 9 February and 11 March treatments 1, 3 and 4 were sprayed again with Roundup® 1.5L/ ha, Goal 75mL/ha and Hasten® 1%. Treatment 6 was cultivated on 25 January at both sites and the sand site was cultivated again on the 3 March due to subsequent weed emergence. Weeds in treatments 2 and 5 were allowed to continue growing throughout the summer. All treatments were sown to Correll wheat on 29 April 2011. Plots were kept weed-free throughout the season. Crop biomass was measured as Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) at GS15-22, GS30, GS65 and GS85 with a hand-held GreenSeeker® crop sensor (NTech Industries Inc., Ukiah, California). Dry matter production was measured at flowering and again at maturity. Grain yield was measured with a plot harvester and grain quality analysed (protein, moisture, screenings and test weight). After the 2011 harvest, all treatments were re-implemented and the experiment will be repeated again in 2012 for the final year of the five-year trial.

Key Points

• controlling summer weeds conserved both water and nitrogen and doubled wheat yields in 2011 on both sand and clay soil types; • retaining or removing stubble has only minor effects on wheat yield.

Results

At both sites, crop establishment was better when summer weeds were controlled (Table 1). Stubble retention also improved establishment at the sand site, but made no difference at the clay site (Table 2). Early growth was better where weeds were controlled over summer, at GS30 NDVI was higher in these treatments (Table 3). Table 1: Mean plant density for weedy and non-weedy treatments. Treatments

Sand

Clay

Weed treatments (2 and 5)

104

91

No Weeds (treatments 1, 3, 4, & 6)

139

113

P=<0.001 13 10%

P=0.010 16 17%

Sig. diff. LSD (P=<0.05) CV%

Table 2: Mean plant density for stubble retained and no stubble treatments. Treatments

Sand

Clay

141

105

No stubble (treatments 4, 5 & 6)

115

107

Sig. diff. LSD (P=<0.05) CV%

Hopetoun

Replicates:

4

Sowing date:

29 April 2011

Sowing rate:

70kg/ha

Crop type(s):

Correll wheat

Treatments

Inputs/fertiliser:

both sites – 55kg/ha MAP at sowing, 21kg/ha N top-dressed as ammonium sulfate on 1 July

Summer rain:

387mm

Growing season rain: 198mm

Plant density (plants/m2)

Stubble (1, 2 and 3)

Location:

Seeding equipment: knife points press wheels, inter-row sown, 30cm row spacing

Plant density (plants/m2)

P=<0.001 12 10%

NS

Table 3: Mean wheat NDVI at GS33 on 4 August 2011 for weedy and non-weedy treatments. Plant density (plants/m2) Sand

Clay

Weed treatments (2 and 5)

0.07

0.12

No Weeds (treatments 1, 3, 4, & 6)

0.12

0.26

P=<.001 0.03 28%

P=<.001 0.05 27%

Sig. diff. LSD (P=<0.05) CV%


The

Mallee Farmer Controlling summer weeds resulted in more PAW and mineral N prior to sowing and as a result doubled yields at both sites (Table 4 & 5). Cultivation and retention of stubble had significant but much smaller impacts on yield at both sites. At the sand site, the slashed stubble treatment out-yielded the standing stubble, bare earth and cultivation treatments. At the clay site, cultivation out-yielded both slashed and standing stubble treatments.

Interpretation

The results of this trial in 2011 have once again clearly demonstrated that controlling summer weeds has a much bigger impact on plant available water, nitrogen and crop yield than retaining stubble. This is the first season in which a small but significant effect of stubble management on yield has been found, and this worked in opposite directions at each site. The cultivation and bare earth treatments yielded more than the stubble retention treatments at the clay site, while the slashed stubble treatment yielded the most at the sand site. The increased yield due to stubble at the sand site may have been due to improved establishment. Reasons for the yield decrease at the clay site were less obvious. Return on investment in summer weed control in 2011 was excellent; this has been the case for two of the three years that the trial has run (Table 6). Modelling over 120 years of climate data has shown that years such as 2009, in which there is no return on investment from controlling summer weeds, are rare, occurring in only 29% and 3% of years at Hopetoun on clay and sand soil types respectively. Table 6. Mean additional PAW, nitrogen, yield and return on investment ($/ha) from controlling summer weeds at both sites 2009-2011. Crop type in 2009 was barley, 2010 canola and 2011 wheat Because controlling summer weeds results in more soil water and nitrogen, yield responses are very reliable. In seasons with high growing season rainfall (e.g. 2010), the yield increase is driven by additional nitrogen. In seasons with low growing season rainfall, the yield increase is driven by additional water, and in average seasons the yield increase is driven by both water and nitrogen.

Commercial practice: what this means for the farmer

• Growers and consultants are right to focus attention on summer weed control. Complete control of summer weeds is highly profitable and one of the safest input investments in broadacre grain farming.

• In north-west Victoria, there is no excuse for weedy paddocks over summer. Research by NSW DPI has shown that while complete control of summer weeds is preferable, delayed control is better than no control. • Weed control by cultivation is as effective at storing water and increasing yields as are herbicides. It should not be ruled out as an option, particularly on heavy soils and on bare paddocks (e.g. pulse stubbles etc.) where it is likely to reduce rather than exacerbate wind erosion. Weed control by cultivation can be begun within a few days of rainfall (longer is required for herbicides), and can be done when weather conditions prevent spraying. Because of this, it may have a role on farms where timely summer weed control with herbicides is difficult. • Retaining or removing stubble has only minor implications for yield.

The best reason for retaining stubble is to prevent wind and water erosion, and 70% cover (~2t/ ha) of cereal stubble is required to achieve this. Stubble levels should be managed on a paddock-by-paddock basis to ensure system benefits (prevent erosion, reduce labour, facilitate faster sowing, and improve establishment) and avoid system penalties (increased labour, delayed sowing, reduced pre-emergent herbicide efficacy, increased disease e.g. crown rot, yellow leaf spot).

Acknowledgements

This project was funded by GRDC projects BWD00012 Yielding benefits through partnerships and CPS00111 Identifying farm-scale opportunities to improve WUE: A nationally coordinated systems approach.

Table 4: Sand site mean plant available water (PAW) & mineral nitrogen at 28 March 2011 (0-130cm) for all treatments, yield, protein and gross margin. Treatment

PAW at 28 March 2011 (mm)

Mineral N at 28 March 2011 (kg/ha)

Yield (t/ha)

Protein (%)

Gross Margin ($/ ha)

97

131

3.7

9.9

$298

Standing stubble Standing stubble & summer weeds

78

77

2.2

10.2

$126

Slashed stubble

113

123

4.2

9.8

$346

Bare earth

101

105

3.7

9.6

$304

Bare earth & summer weeds

67

70

2.1

9.9

$84

Cultivation

96

101

3.7

9.2

$305

P=0.028 27 19%

P=0.003 29 19%

P=<0.001 0.3 6%

NS

P=<0.001 46 12%

Sig. diff. LSD (P=<0.05) CV%

Table 5: Clay site mean plant available water (PAW) & mineral nitrogen at 28 March 2011 (0130cm) for all treatments, yield, protein and gross margin. PAW at 28 March 2011 (mm)

Mineral N at 28 March 2011 (kg/ha)

Yield (t/ha)

Standing stubble

145

145

Standing stubble & summer weeds

99

97

Slashed stubble

133

Bare earth

125

Treatment

Protein (%)

Gross Margin ($/ ha)

2.6

12

$296

1.4

12.9

$58

123

2.8

11.8

$321

149

2.9

11.9

$351

Bare earth & summer weeds

97

111

1.4

12.2

$55

Cultivation

133

145

3.0

12.0

$369

Sig. diff. LSD (P=<0.05) CV%

NS

P=0.014 30 15%

P=<.001 0.2 7%

P=0.006 0.5 3%

P=<0.001 70 19%

Table 6: Mean additional PAW, nitrogen, yield and return on investment ($/ha) from controlling summer weeds at both sites 2009-2011. Crop type in 2009 was barley, 2010 canola and 2011 wheat. Site

Sand

Clay

Year

Mean additional PAW at sowing (mm)

Mean additional Nitrogen (kg N/ha)

Mean additional grain yield (t/ha)

ROI (%)

2009

26

-5

0.1

170

2010

40

45

0.4

205

2011

29

41

0.6

662

2009

10

10

0.0

6.6

2010

52

44

0.6

308

2011

36

53

1.4

909

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The

Mallee Farmer

Photo: Vegetation cover survey undertaken using a Levy point sampler. Credit: DPI.

Minimising soil erosion risk Wind erosion occurs naturally in the landscape and is an important part of soil genesis. By

Heather Drendel, Project Officer, DPI Hopetoun While many soils in the Mallee have formed by aeolian processes, wind erosion also causes adverse effects through the removal of large amounts of fine soil particles that result in a direct loss of nutrients from agricultural land, as well as sandblasting emerging crops (Leys et al 2007). Wind erosion also has considerable off-site impacts: the airborne particulate matter can cause adverse health effects and reduced visibility; while the deposition of soil can smother native vegetation, bury or undermine infrastructure and increase nutrient loads in waterways (Clune 2005). Wind erosion has been a recognised issue in the Mallee since at least 1945 (Clune 2005) and, as such, has been a priority of natural resource management (NRM) organisations for many years. This has resulted in extensive promotion

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and research of agricultural practices that minimise the risk of erosion.

In 1978, the Mallee fallow survey commenced after wind erosion became severe and widespread, particularly in areas with light soils (Boucher 2005). The objective of this original survey was to assess actual erosion and land use practices in the Mallee region of Victoria. The survey has continued using a number of different methods (Wakefield 2008b).

assessing the risk of wind erosion and recording land management practices and phases. The risk of wind erosion is determined from measurements of soil dry aggregates, vegetation cover and soil stability. The land management practices and phases recorded include the variety of crop grown, whether it is in pasture, chemical or conventional fallow, and presence or absence of livestock.

The current Mallee Soil Erosion and Land Management survey is conducted three times annually, during late summer (February - March), post sowing (June - July) and spring (October). Inpaddock assessments are completed at approximately 160 sites, from across six land systems (Central Mallee, Millewa, Tempy, Hopetoun, Culgoa and Boigbeat) within the Mallee region. Sites were stratified based on land systems, with the proportion of sites from each land system equivalent to the representation of the land system and landforms. The identity of the sites remains undisclosed to protect from potential influences of the management phase and practice within the sites. The focus of the Mallee Soil Erosion and Land Management survey is

Above: Levy point sampler, used for assessing vegetation cover.


The

Mallee Farmer The Mallee Soil Erosion and Land Management Survey shows that, for the sites surveyed, significantly more of them are being cropped in recent years. Trend data comparing survey results over time indicates a significant shift in land management practices in the last decade, moving away from conventional fallowing to alternative methods that leave the soil with significant ground cover. A vegetated ground cover of more than 50% reduces soil disturbance and greatly minimises a paddock’s risk or susceptibility to wind erosion (Drendel 2011).

Find out more

More information is available from Heather Drendel at the DPI Hopetoun office on (03) 5083 2205 or by visiting the Mallee CMA website at www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

DPI continues to target rabbits The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has begun a rabbit compliance program in the Berriwillock area to support control works undertaken by the Landcare Group.

References

Boucher, S. (2005). Recommendations for benchmarking and monitoring soil erosion by wind. Department of Primary Industries. Clune, T. (2005). Wind erosion in the Mallee. A milestone report for CMA project 04/133. PIRVic, Department of Primary Industries Victoria. Drendel (2011). Mallee soil erosion and land management survey, Spring 2011 Report. Department of Primary Industries Victoria. Leys, J., Heidenreich, S., Murphy, S., Koen, T. & Biesaga, K. (2007). Lower Murray Darling CMA Catchment Health Report Card - Wind Erosion. Department of Environment and Climate Change, NSW. Wakefield, L. (2007b). Monitoring Mallee Soil Erosion Summer Survey Final Report 2007. Department of Primary Industries Victoria

Acknowledgements

The Mallee Soil Erosion and Land Management Survey is conducted by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI)Farm Services Victoria (FSV), in partnership with the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), with funding provided by the Victorian Government.

Contact

Heather Drendel, DPI Hopetoun. T: (03) 5083 2205

Above: Increased rabbit population a concern.

DPI Biosecurity Area Manager Sharyn Williams said increased rabbit populations were a concern in the Mallee region. “This project follows a compliance project in the Manangatang area in November where DPI issued 30 properties with a direction notice for rabbit control,” Ms Williams said. “The Berriwillock Landcare Group has coordinated a rabbit control project with funding from the Mallee Catchment Management Authority and DPI will use enforcement powers to support that effort,” Ms Williams said. The group has used Landcare funding to employ a contractor to undertake rabbit control along roadsides in the area and the Buloke Shire Council will manage follow up works on roadsides to bolster the group’s efforts. Ms Williams said DPI staff would inspect 98 properties in the Berriwillock area covering about 26,000 hectares and, where required, issue directions notices to landowners for rabbit control.

“Landowners have a legal responsibility to manage pest plants and animals on their property to ensure they don’t adversely affect agricultural production on neighbouring farms or the natural environment,” she said. “Where landowners don’t control pests on their properties, they are liable for fines of up to $29,000. “DPI is supporting local efforts to control rabbits in the Mallee catchment and all members of the local community need to do their bit to help control this pest. Where this doesn’t occur DPI will step in”. “We have a clear message from the community that they want DPI to undertake action on priority species such as rabbits and bolster the community-led efforts.”

Contact

For more information about pest plant management visit the DPI website www.dpi.vic.gov.au or call the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

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The

Mallee Farmer

Photo: Some of the break crops included in the 2011 Mallee crop sequencing trial. In the middle is Field Pea (Twilight), to it’s left is Chickpea (Slasher) and to it’s the right is Barley (Commander). Credit: MSF.

Mallee Crop Sequencing:

Profitable Break Crops in 2011 In 2011, Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) in partnership with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and with funding from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), established a trial near Mildura as part of the Low Rainfall Crop Sequencing Project. By

Mike Moodie, Mallee Sustainable Farming. This was the first of a four year project where treatments incorporate a mixture of both one and two year break crop phases. The treatments in 2011 are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Mallee Crop Sequencing Trial Treatments in 2011. 2011 Treatment

Variety

End-uses

Field Pea

Twilight

Grain/Hay

Canola (Clearfield)

Pioneer 44C79

Grain/Hay

Canola (TT)

ATR Stringray

Grain

Chickpea

Slasher

Grain

Vetch

Rasina

Hay/Green manure

Canola/Pea Mix

Twilight/Pioneer 44C79

Grain/Hay

Oats

Winteroo

Grazing/Hay

Barley

Commander

Grain/Hay

Wheat

Estoc

Grain

Jaguar

Grazing-Winter cleaned or Spray top

Medic Above: A close up of Twilight Field Pea during flowering. Credit: MSF.

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Fallow

Maintained clean

The site was on low-fertility sandy soil with an emerging brome grass problem as a result of a long history of continuous cereal crops. Therefore each ‘break crop package’ was managed in its own right in order for break crops to address issues that have emerged in the paddock. This included selecting the appropriate variety, sowing time, fertiliser and herbicide requirements for each phase of the rotation. Break crops also have alternative end-uses such as grain, hay or grazing (Table 1). In 2011, rotation phases were monitored for biomass production, yield (both grazing, fodder and grain) and water use. This year (2012), monitoring will be expanded to look at soil borne diseases, nitrogen, stored water levels prior to sowing and the impacts of the 2011 rotation phase on the productivity of 2012 crops. Break crops performed well in 2011 despite low growing season rainfall of about 110mm (Figure 1). Field pea, TT canola, Clearfield canola and chickpeas yielded 1.8, 0.73, 0.56 and 0.68t/ha respectively. Barley yielded 2.2t/ha and wheat yield 1.35t/ha. A number of the break crop treatments were also included in another trial funded


The

Mallee Farmer by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) that was adjacent to the crop sequencing site. The soil type was slightly heavier with higher levels of soil water and mineral nitrogen prior to sowing. In this trial, grain yields were all within approximately 1-1.5t/ha, with the exception of barley which yielded above 3t/ha. In the Mallee CMA trial, each treatment was grazed once and grain yield recovery measured. Yields were suppressed by 3-25% after grazing; however, the grazing effect was not statistically significant. Gross margins were calculated for each treatment in the crop sequencing trial harvested for grain (Figure 2). Profitability ranged from $30/ha for chickpeas to $190/ha for field pea. The costs between treatments were relatively similar (approximately $160$210/ha), therefore the ability of the crop to generate income appeared to be a more important factor in determining profitability.

The profitability of break crop treatments must also be considered in terms of potential benefits to subsequent crops. In the Mallee CMA trial, soil nitrogen measured after harvest was significantly higher in the legume treatments than in mixed stands, oilseed and cereal treatments (Figure 4). Peas (16mm) and vetch (11mm) also left behind more soil water at 60-120cm than the wheat treatments. In 2013 and 2014 the crop sequencing trial will be sown to wheat to evaluate break effects and economic impacts of the incorporation of break phases into low rainfall cropping rotations. A successful conclusion to this project will result in more reliable and more productive low rainfall farming systems through the increased use of broadleaved break phases because their full value to the rotation has been captured for this environment.

Above: Break crops included in the 2011 Mallee crop sequencing trial. Credit: MSF

Figure 1: 2011 grain yields of crops in the GRDC funded Mallee Crop Sequencing Project.

Figure 2: Grain yield of crops in the Mallee CMA funded trial. Yields are of sub-plots that were left to go to grain or grazed once and left to go to grain.

Figure 3: 2011 costs, income and gross margins for grain crops in the GRDC funded Mallee Crop Sequencing Project.

Figure 4: Post harvest mineral nitrogen for crop types in the Mallee CMA funded trial.

9


The

Mallee Farmer

Photo: Rabbit control undertaken with a Landcare grant. Credit: Mallee CMA.

Mallee Landcare gets a big boost Landcare in the Mallee is being reinvigorated with the re-introduction of facilitators to Landcare groups across the region. By

Kevin Chaplin, Regional Landcare Coordinator, Mallee CMA. This Victorian government initiative will once again see the Landcare movement become the community led force for the protection, enhancement and sustainability that it once was and will ensure that the previous good works of many dedicated volunteers across the Mallee will continue well into the future. As part of the State Government’s commitment to the Victorian Landcare program, Landcare facilitators across the state have been reinstated to the tune of 60 positions at a cost of $12 million over four years (2011-2014). The Mallee region has been fortunate enough to

10

secure five of those facilitator positions, with four positions based in Landcare Group consortium arrangements and one stand alone position based in Murrayville. These facilitators will play a vital role in supporting Landcare Groups in onground delivery, building community capacity and partnerships and assisting with advice on project development. These new positions will be totally under the direction of the associated Landcare Groups, but will be largely administrative roles with limited ‘hands-on, on-ground’ group involvement. As a result the new roles are based around the following requirements: • Administration support – Convening meetings, writing grant submissions, writing interim and final reports, group OH&S compliance, general administration requirements; • Project facilitation (not coordination) – Project scoping and development (in consultation with groups, not in isolation), project progress monitoring, contractor engagement, updating management plans and strategies;

• Community group engagement – Junior Landcare development, engagement of external partners (both public, private and corporate), group profile awareness (i.e. group website maintenance, media and newsletters) and capacity building. Landcare Groups play a major role in harnessing and promoting the interests of local communities in natural resource management issues, with landholders having the primary responsibility for managing their own land. Landcare provides a connection between the individual managers of separate private properties, the wider community and public benefits. A facilitator will enable the Landcare consortiums and groups to be more targeted and effective in this engagement and will empower Landcare Groups to greatly increase their contribution to a number of important roles such as: • Increased awareness of conservation issues and sustainable farming practices; • Promoting and encouraging coordinated community participation in land management;


The

Mallee Farmer • Developing expertise and providing access to shared resources. Other areas of interest that have always been important to rural communities that need on-going attention are: • Increased effectiveness of pest plant control; • Increased effectiveness of pest animal control; • Improving the function of ecological processes; • Protecting rare or threatened flora and fauna; • Adopting strategies to reduce land and water salinisation; • Improving soil retention; • Increasing interest in Landcare in urban centres;

• Increasing the ability of groups to deliver sustainable land management and NRM; • Monitoring and fostering group health; • Supporting Junior Landcare initiatives and activities; • Promoting local projects and activities; • Having a voice and active role in natural resource management; • Improving the knowledge base of members and the wider community. Landcare plays a vital role in promoting the adoption of improved ways of doing things that benefits the environment, but it is important to recognise the boundary of what is reasonable to expect Landcare to achieve without dedicated

support. Landcare groups in the Mallee are relatively large in volunteer numbers but large, sprawling landholdings mean that members are very vulnerable to the wider changes affecting the community in which they reside. A Landcare facilitator will help maintain the ‘glue’ that keeps the groups relevant and functioning to the communities needs.

Contact

Kevin Chaplin Regional Landcare Coordinator, Mallee CMA. T: (03) 5051 4377 E: kevin.chaplin@dpi.vic.gov.au

Get involved

in land and water management People across the Victorian Mallee are being encouraged to have their say on the next six-year plan for the management of the region’s natural resources. By

Thea Douglas, Mallee CMA. Planning is now underway and, whether you’re a local irrigator, a member of a Landcare group, a local government councillor, or someone who’s just interested in the natural environment, the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) wants to hear from you. The Mallee Regional Catchment Strategy (RCS) aims to have everyone involved in looking after the Mallee environment working together from the same plan. The previous RCS provided strategic direction over the period from 2003-08. The new RCS will set targets for the future condition of our land, water and biodiversity resources; and identify the management activities required to achieve these goals from 2012-18. It will also outline the roles and responsibilities of all regional stakeholders in delivering the RCS and the associated actions.

Co-ordinated by the Mallee CMA, the renewal of the Mallee RCS requires input from the community and partner agencies to produce the most relevant and user-friendly regional strategy possible.

A steering committee has been set up to guide the renewal of the Mallee RCS and includes representatives from partner agencies such as Parks Victoria, Department of Sustainability and Environment, water authorities and community members. This committee is being led by Mallee CMA Board Chairperson Sharyon Peart and provides strategic input from a regional perspective, along with recommendations to the Mallee CMA Board in regard to the renewal of the RCS. Work on renewing the Mallee RCS began in September 2011. Development to date has drawn on state and federal legislation and agreements to determine

the high-value natural resources in the region, which are referred to as “catchment assets”. The final Mallee RCS 2012-18 will be submitted for Ministerial approval in October 2012. The first round of community engagement is currently underway, with meetings and workshops being held across the region to give stakeholders and community members the opportunity to have their say on these assets. If you or a local group you are involved with would like to be part of the meetings, email Michelle Kelly at the Mallee CMA. michelle.kelly@dpi.vic.gov. au. The second round of community engagement will be held in August to gather people’s feedback on the draft Mallee RCS. You can stay up to date with the progress and provide feedback through the RCS section on the Mallee CMA website: www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

11


The

Mallee Farmer

Photo: Sheep grazing fodder shrubs. Credit: CSIRO.

Perennial options for filling feed gaps The Future Farm Industries CRC and GRDC (Grains Research and Development Corporation) - funded EverCrop project is investigating the roles perennials can play in addressing current and future production and sustainability challenges in the cropping-based zones of southern Australia.

Key Points • New perennial shrub options and the incorporation of summeractive subtropical grasses provide summer-autumn feed in low-rainfall mixed farming systems; • The grasses can help fill summer feed gaps, but unless the summer is wet, growth won’t extend to late autumn. This is where improved forage shrub options may play a key role. 12

By

Katrien Descheemaeker and Rick Llewellyn, CSIRO. One of EverCrop’s three focus regions is the Mallee region of South Australia and Victoria. EverCrop research is investigating the potential of two innovative perennialbased options to fill the feed gap and increase production from marginal cropping soils. Pasture cropping, using perennial grasses and fodder shrubs in marginal cropping country, could provide cost-effective options in mixed farming enterprises where producers are keen to reduce supplementary feed costs and focus cropping efforts on more productive soils.

Method

Evercrop is working with farmers and farming groups and combining field trials with farming systems modelling. The main Mallee sites are at Hopetoun, Karoonda and Waikerie.

Results/findings

Based on a typical farm at Waikerie, researchers studied feed gaps in mixed Mallee farming systems. The research team modelled the pasture and animal production for a 2000ha farm growing cereal crops in three-year rotations with medic-based pastures in a typical duneswale landscape and a stocking rate of 0.8 animals per hectare. Three critical feed periods (Figure 1) were identified: 1. late summer-early autumn when the low-quality cereal stubble cannot maintain animal condition; 2. around the break-of-season when medic pasture biomass is low; and 3. early summer when harvest management and late cereal harvest could lead to a delay in cereal stubble becoming available.


The

Mallee Farmer In this scenario, supplementary feeding is required to maintain animal condition from March onwards. As supplementary feeding is costly and limits stocking rates, compromising farm profitability and resource use efficiency, there is high potential value for new, practical and cost-effective options that can reliably address feed gaps. Native perennial shrubs, in addition to the main current commercial option De Koch old man saltbush (Atriplex nummularia), are potential alternative feed sources. One example is Mallee saltbush (Rhagodia pressei), which showed promising establishment rates, edible biomass production and survival. Including these “new” shrubs in a highquality mix may lead to future success. In the Mallee most forage shrub stands are located on sandy soils, but farmers are increasingly looking for grazing options on stony soils or heavier soils with sub-soil constraints. The Waikerie trial showed that shrub edible biomass production was highest on the sandy dune soil (1.8 tonnes/ha in Dec 2010), while it was 70% lower on the mid-slope and 47% lower on the constraint flat. However, whole-farm economic analyses suggest that even though growth rates are lower, shrubs are most profitable on poor cropping soils. Trials at Karoonda and Hopetoun are investigating the extent to which different summer-active grasses can persist and produce biomass. In the years 2007 to 2010 in Hopetoun, four cultivars (Panicum maximum cultivars cv. petrie and gatton, P. coloratum cv. Bambatsi and Digitaria milanjiana cv. Strickland) produced more than one tonne dry matter/ha in each year. With the very high rainfall over the 201011 summer, the five-year old pastures produced between 5.4 (ATF-714) and 9.2 (Petrie) tonnes/ha in Hopetoun (Figure 2). In Karoonda, Petrie and Bambatsi produced 2.8 and 2.0 tonnes/ha in the first year of establishment. Simulation modelling of pasture growth showed a relatively short period of rapid growth during late spring and early summer, corresponding with moisture availability and adequate soil temperatures. Summer growing pastures would support March grazing at 10 dry sheep equivalent per hectare (DSE/ha) in about 25% of years. This suggests the grasses can reduce feed deficits during summer, but with low summer rainfall growth won’t extend to late autumn, which is where forage shrubs can play a key role.

Figure 1: Animal feed intake of different feed sources for a decile five year.

Summer-growing perennials can be combined with winter-growing cereals in a pasture cropping system, which was trialled in the Mallee region for the first time in Hopetoun and Karoonda in 2011. Although crop yields were disappointing in 2011, the EverCrop team will continue fine-tuning management. Furthermore, modelling pasture cropping systems will contribute to the development of decision support tools for growers and advisors.

Implications of the findings

In low-rainfall environments managing risk through diversity will always be important and new crop and feed combinations beyond those currently used may lead to the wider use of perennials. There is a clearly identified feed gap and therefore a niche for productive perennials on Mallee mixed farms.

Figure 2: Dry matter production from subtropical perennial grasses and annual and long term average rainfall (LTA) at the Hopetoun trial site.

Acknowledgements

The EverCrop work is conducted in partnership with the Birchip Cropping Group (Hopetoun), Mallee Sustainable Farming (Karoonda, Waikerie) and the Enrich forage shrub project. This article is based on an article in Future Farm Issue 7 (April 2011) by C. Nichols. EverCrop is supported by GRDC, Future Farm Industry CRC, NSW I&I, DAFWA, CSIRO, DPI Victoria, SARDI and UWA.

Further information contact

Katrien Descheemaeker, CSIRO, T: (08) 82738106 E: katrien.descheemaeker@csiro.au Rick Llewellyn, CSIRO, T: (08) 83038502 E: rick.llewellyn@csiro.au

13


The

Mallee Farmer

Above: Enrich site at Walpeup. Credit: DPI. Left: Using the Adelaide technique to measure the biomass of an Eremophila glabra shrub. Credit: DPI.

Growth and grazing of perennial shrubs A number of perennial shrubs were assessed for their suitability in a grazed low-medium rainfall system. Atriplex and Rhagodia species faired the best in this experiment; however, these species demonstrated low stock grazing preference. Results from this experiment have led to establishment of a new demonstration site at Manangatang. By

By Dr. Dave Monks, DPI, Victoria. Native shrubs have potential for growth and grazing in areas where alternative perennial options are limited. Deep rooted perennials have also been identified as having the most impact on improvement of ecological stability by reduction of groundwater recharge and salinity. So in 2008, the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) funded the establishment of an Enrich shrub evaluation experiment at Walpeup Research Station, with the support of the Department Primary Industries (DPI) Victoria.

Method

Briefly, 36 plants of 16 species (Table 1) were planted in each of four replicates on

14

14 July 2008. Mixed aged merino sheep (77 sheep/ha) grazed each replicate for 3-4 weeks in turn, in autumn 2010 and winter 2011. The edible biomass was measured in June 2011. Sheep preference and shrub recovery were measured after each grazing. This report includes data from 2011 (data from 2010 and a summary of the establishment seasons were published earlier in the Mallee Farmer (Harris et al. 2010)).

Results

From August 2010 to August 2011, Atriplex nummularia produced 2.5kg edible biomass/plant (Table 1) - theoretical production from A. nummularia could be in the order of ~5.5t edible biomass/ha. Annual yields from R. parabolica, A. rhagodiodes and A. amnicola were on average 3.4t/ha. Animal preference for a species can be gauged from the rate at which they eat

the plant. The â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;mid-wayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; bars in Figure 1 shows the proportion of biomass consumed in the first two days of grazing in 2011. Of the species that produced >500g biomass/plant, Table 1: Mean edible biomass on offer (leaf and soft shoot material) from perennial shrubs at Walpeup Research Station produced between August 2010 and August 2011. Species

biomass/plant (g)1

Atriplex nummularia

2501a

Rhagodia parabolica

1721b

Atriplex rhagodiodes

1472b

Rhagodia crassifolia

1128cd

Atriplex vesicaria

863cd

Rhagodia spinescens

812de

Rhagodia preissii

737de

Atriplex cinerea

707de

Eremophila grabra

694de

Enchylaena tomentosa

410ef

Atriplex semibaccita

343ef

Chameacytisis prolifer

37f

Medicago strasseri

17f

Cullem australisicum

11f

Convolvulus remotus

-

Mean

855

Sig. diff

<0.001

Note1: Same letters indicate no idfference in means (LSD 5%). Convolvulus remotus not measured.


The

Mallee Farmer A. cinerea, A. vesicaria, R. spinescens, A. amnicola, R. preissii and E. glabra had more than 30% of biomass removed in the first two days. Animals eventually ate >80% of most species, but that is not surprising since they were left in the plots to encourage them to eat the lesser preferred species. In the cases of A. nummularia, A. rhagodioides, R. crassifolia and R. parabolica, even extended exposure did not encourage the animals to eat all biomass.

The survival and health of plants was measured after grazing. The Atriplex and Rhagodia species faired the best; and, with the exception of A. semibaccata, ~80% were either healthy or suffered only minor leaf damage. Four species were almost completely dead, namely A. semibaccata, C. remotus, C. australasicum and M. strasseri. Additionally, more than 30% of A. vessicaria and C. prolifer plants showed major structural damage.

A. semibaccata and E. tomentosa produced a number of recruits from shed seed (>10/plant) and may have promise as complementary species (e.g. A. semibaccata grows prostrate and could be used in an understorey capacity). Further work on the use of these species in combinations would be required before either could be recommended for inclusion in a Mallee farming system. Findings from the experiments outlined above, along with other related work, has lead to the establishment of a demonstration block in Manangatang. The best performing species are planted there in a more typical Mallee â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;saltbush environmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. More information on this experiment will be available through the Mallee CMA later in 2012.

Conclusions

Old Man Salt Bush (A. nummularia, OMSB) is not the only perennial shrub that will establish, tolerate grazing and recover. Atriplex (including OMSB) and Rhagodia species showed the best mixture of persistence and grazing preference â&#x20AC;&#x201C; however, grazing preference often led to recovery and persistence difficulties. Figure 1. The proportion of edible biomass removed by mixed-aged ewes grazing perennial shrubs at the start, mid-way and finish of a ~14-day grazing period at Walpeup Research Station in 2011. Note: Bars represent one standard deviation of the mean. Convolvulus remotus not measured.

Reference

Harris, R. (2010). A profitable and sustainable feed source. The Mallee Farmer. 1:20-21

Above: Surveying Enchylaena tomentosa with tools used to measure regrowth and biomass. Credit: DPI.

15


The

Mallee Farmer

Photo: EMAP participants at a workshop. Credit: DPI

EMAP

Making a difference in the Mallee The Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) in partnership with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and SunRISE 21 is providing farmers in the Victorian Mallee with a coordinated whole farm planning approach to addressing natural resource management issues through the Environmental Management Action Planning (EMAP) program.

By

Simone Cramer, Mallee CMA The EMAP program has been running in the Mallee since 2005 and has been delivered in a targeted approach, initially conducted in the Lake Tyrrell and Ouyen areas where salinity and the threat of shallow water tables was identified as a significant concern. In recent times, EMAP has been conducted in the Millewa/Carwarp, Murrayville and Underbool target areas where susceptibility of soils to erosion was highlighted (Figure 1). In 2012 and 2013 EMAP will move into the southern Mallee with the program being delivered in both the Hopetoun and Birchip target areas.

16

Through EMAP, participants are assisted with training in environmental management and given the skills to develop whole farm action plans for their own properties. Completing EMAP gives participants access to the latest land and water management information in the Mallee, aerial mapping of their properties and on farm assistance to develop a farm plan and identify management actions for the future. Farmers also receive closer links to incentive programs that can help them undertake on-ground actions. A major component of EMAP is the workshops that focus on natural resource management issues. Examples of topics covered include salinity, soil

management, biodiversity, land system planning and climate. These workshops provide participating farmers with the foundation to identify natural assets on their property and threats to these assets. Farmers then plan management actions to protect these assets from threats such as salinity and erosion. This information is captured and documented spatially on an aerial photograph map. Participants receive a hard and electronic copy of their property mapping, with identified actions included to assist with future onfarm planning. The data collected through the EMAP program provides a guide to investment in targeting on-ground works on private agricultural dryland in the Mallee. The seventh round of dryland EMAP was delivered in 2010/11. Two hundred and seventy-eight dryland land managers with land holdings of over 800,000 hectares have completed the program since it began in 2005. This equates to an estimated 38% of the estimated agricultural dryland in the Victorian Mallee.


The

Mallee Farmer Through participation in the program EMAP participants have identified 185,830 hectares of area based on ground actions to implement including revegetation and the treatment of pest plants and animals; 2,319 kilometres of linear actions such as fencing for both vegetation protection and grazing systems; and 484 site actions, for example, the construction of stock containment areas or the installation of infrastructure such as tanks and troughs. In addition, 128 whole farm actions have been identified. Whole farm actions are those which encompass the entire property, for instance the implementation of minimum or no till practices. Once farmers have completed the EMAP program they are provided with continual support through the Graduate EMAP component of the program. The graduate support program assists farmers to implement their on-ground actions by providing individual case management support and ongoing workshops and field events.

Acknowledgements

The EMAP program is delivered by a partnership between the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) the Department of Primary Industries (DPI)-Farm Services Victoria (FSV) and SunRISE21 through funding from the Australian Governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Caring for Our Country and the State Governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Victorian Investment Framework.

Above: Stabilisation crop on a reclaimed dune site. Credit: Mallee CMA.

Contact

Peter Hamence, DPI-FSV T: (03 5051 4352 E: peter.hamence@dpi.vic.gov.au

Above: On-ground actions identified include stock containment areas. Credit: DPI.

Above: EMAP participants working on their property map. Credit: DPI.

Figure 1: Target areas for recent EMAP projects.

Above: EMAP workshops focus on natural resource management issues. Credit: DPI.

17


The

Mallee Farmer

Photo: Department of Primary Industries (DPI) staff taking soil samples. Credit: SuniTAFE

Mallee Research Station - two years on Sunraysia Institute of TAFE has now had the lease of the Mallee Research Station (MRS) at Walpeup for two years and a lot has happened in that time. By

Darryl Pearl, Project Officer, SuniTAFE.

While numbers and the areas of research trial work has decreased, trial work has continued under Sunraysia TAFE’s lease as Table 1 shows. While work outlined in Table 1 has been undertaken, the rest of the dryland paddocks at the Mallee Research Station have been leased to a local farmer for cropping and livestock use. Since 2010, more than 1000 people have visited the research station for field walks, training days, meetings, school education days, university studies, project work, accommodation while

18

undertaking work in the area, animal and plant surveys, family and community functions. Sunraysia TAFE and others such as the International Student Volunteers (ISV) group, Mallee CMA flood recovery environmental employment program (FREEP), Australian Landscape Trust (ALT) and local individuals have undertaken works on-site. These works have included: • planting of more than 200 trees; • hostel has been remodelled and painted; • manager’s house has been repaired and painted; • garden weeds removed; • walking track re-established; • rubbish has been removed from the native bush; • area around the buildings have been cleaned up; • old fences have been removed and new ones erected; • new water lines have been installed and old water lines repaired; • wildlife ponds have been established; • general maintenance work has been completed. In addition to this on-ground work, and equally as important, has been the meetings held by Sunraysia TAFE

with interested parties to work out the future direction for the Mallee Research Station. Sunraysia TAFE and other interested groups have put in individual and group applications for projects that include a range of areas such as youth and adult development camps, large scale environmental projects, energy projects, education programs and community activities. As you can see , the Mallee Research Station is still alive and kicking and looking for potential users, new projects and actives to use the facilities and lands around the farm as it goes into its 80th year.

Find out more

If you wish to talk about opportunities feel free to call or email:

Darryl Pearl T: (03) 5022 3704 E: dpearl@sunitafe.edu.au


The

Mallee Farmer Table 1: Work undertaken at Mallee Research Station since 2010. Year

Project description

Partner Organisation/s

2010-early 2012

Enrich perennial shrub trial a project to evaluate the feed qualities of perennial shrubs such as salt bush.

Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Victoria

2010-2012

Variety elevation including National Variety Trials for such crops as wheat, barley, legumes and canola.

Dodgshun Medlin

2010-2011

Water Use Efficiency (WUE) trial accessing the ability of crops to use all stored moisture.

Dodgshun Medlin

2010-2013

Direct drill vs. cultivation - accessing the effect of treatments on soils and crop results.

DPI Victoria

2010

Climate adaption demonstration looking at fertiliser and seeding rate strategies.

Mallee Sustainable Farming Inc

2010-2012

Long term fertilizer (P)accessing the effect of treatments on soils and crop results.

DPI Victoria

2010-2011

Lucerne variety evaluation.

2011-onwards

Dust monitoring module. An air sampling unit setup at Mallee Research Station to sample air quality.

2010 - onwards

Catchment monitoring paddock. One paddock in the farm is part of a whole of catchment monitoring program looking at soil condition.

Mallee CMA, DPI

2010-2012

Private agronomy trails. Dodgshun Medlin undertake private trial work for companies.

Dodgshun Medlin

Above: Field walk at the Enrich site. Credit: SuniTAFE.

NSW breeding program in partnership with DPI Victoria Mallee CMA

Above: Tom Fagan of Mallee CMA at the air sampling unit. Credit: SuniTAFE.

Above: La Trobe students camping on site. Credit: SuniTAFE.

Above: Peter Crisp, International Student Volunteers participant and Peter Denahy after the community talent night. Credit: SuniTAFE.

Above: Plot sowing on site by Dodgshun Medlin. Credit: SuniTAFE.

19


The

Mallee Farmer

Photo: Quadrat counts to quantify crop and weed populations in Yaapeet wheat trial plots in July. Credit: Dodgshun Medlin.

Management options for herbicide resistant ryegrass Continued expansion in ryegrass resistant to group A and D, and more recently C, herbicides impacts on successful cropping in the Mallee.

By

Ivan Mock, Dodgshun Medlin Agricultural Management. Ryegrass competes with the crop for soil water and nutrients and therefore lowers yields. Weeds that escape herbicide control may also set seeds that downgrade the harvest and exacerbate future problems with resistance. Previously medic pasture and long fallows assisted control, but these are seldom compatible with cropping intensities, which now exceed 75% in the Mallee. Herbicide chemistry has, however, improved and new crop varieties with resistance to specific herbicide groups are added to the arsenal of control options.

Trials established

Wheat and canola plot trials were established on sites at Yaapeet and Panitya. The Yaapeet site had ryegrass with strong resistance to Group A diclorfop-methyl (fops) and some resistance to Group D, while the Panitya

20

site had almost 100% resistance to Group D herbicides. A range of pre-emergent herbicide types, rates and combinations were tested at the Panitya site. At Yaapeet, a nil control was compared with strategies for wheat designed to represent: • District practice = 2L gylphosate + 2L trifluralin pre-emergent • Improved herbicide = 2L glyphosate + 2L trifluralin + 2L Avadex® preemergent • New herbicide = 2L glyphosate + 118g Sakura® pre-emergent • Low cost improved = 2L glyphosate + 2L trifluralin + 30g Logran® preemergent • Improved + seed bank = 2L glyphosate +2L trifluralin +2L Avadex® pre-emergent + 200g Hussar® post-emergent The Yaapeet canola trial had similar strategies, except glyphosate was reduced to 1.5L, the new herbicide was 750g Outlook® and all, except nil, had a post-emergent of 500ml Select® + 300ml Intervix®.

Above: Good ryegrass control at the Yaapeet site. Credit: Dodgshun Medlin.

Key Points • Control strategies applicable for herbicide resistant ryegrass in intensive cropping rotations have been evaluated in a series of field trials; • This article examines the results of the field trials.


The

Mallee Farmer Results

The following tables present some results from the Yaapeet trials, while the dot points below list key outcomes. Table 1: Ryegrass control in wheat at Yaapeet. Treatment Name

Ryegrass – 31st August

Wheat crop

Plants/m2

% control

Plants/m2

Control - Nil

86

0.0

88

2.4

10.2

District practice

35

59.1

83

3.1

10.3

Improved herbicide

21

74.9

92

3.3

10.6

New herbicide

34

60.9

88

3.0

10.2

Low cost

28

66.9

86

3.3

10.5

8

90.4

87

3.1

10.3

13.4

11.83

n.s.

0.66

n.s.

28

Improved+ seedbank reduction LSD (P=0.05)

Yield t/ha

Protein %

• Moderate ryegrass density (86 plants/m2) reduced wheat yields by about 0.7t/ha or $160/ha; • Pre-emergent herbicides controlled 59-75% of ryegrass and increased to >90% by adding a post- emergent; • Wheat yields were not significantly different between any of the herbicides used but adding an expensive (approx. $28/ha) post-emergent reduced ryegrass survival and weed seed set for next year. Table 2: Ryegrass control in canola at Yaapeet. Treatment Name

Ryegrass – 11th July

Ryegrass – 31st August

Canola crop

Plants/m2

% control

% control

Plants/m2

Yield t/ha

Oil %

Control - Nil

114

0.0

0.0

34

0.8

43.6

District practice + IMI post

44

58.0

85.0

44

1.4

43.8

Improved herbicide + IMI post

23

77.0

86.9

43

1.4

43.2

New herbicide + IMI post LSD (P=0.05)

63

43.8

82.2

43

1.5

44.1

37.6

29.43

11.37

n.s.

0.17

n.s.

• Controlling ryegrass increased canola yield by approximately 0.6t/ha or by $270/ha; • Imi-tolerant (imidazolinone; also known as Clearfield®) canola variety (44Y84) enabled use of post-emergent herbicide to improve ryegrass control.

Where ryegrass is a problem, using crop varieties resistant to herbicide groups effective against ryegrass (i.e herbicide groups that will kill ryegrass, but not the crop) increases control options.

Implications

Test ryegrass seed collected from paddocks where herbicides have been less effective to determine if there is resistance to one or more herbicide groups. This information is critical to selecting both a crop type and ryegrass control strategy appropriate for the level of herbicide resistant in the paddock.

Acknowledgements

This project was supported by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), through funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country. Collaboration of farmers who provided sites for this research and field days was vital to this project. Thank you to members of the Dodgshun Medlin team who assisted with the field trials specifically, Shannon Blandthorn for technical support and Matthew Witney for his herbicide expertise.

Further information

Conclusions

Crop yield (possibly grain quality) and income are substantially reduced unless ryegrass is controlled. A range of herbicides were effective in reducing ryegrass completion in the current crop. To get on top of ryegrass problems and reduce seed carryover and resistance build-up may require additional post-emergent herbicides which are a longer term investment in the paddocks viability.

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

Diary dates March

May

April

August

Monday 28 - Wednesday 30 VFF Grains Group Conference 2011 Horsham.

Friday 22 - Monday 25 Easter Tuesday 26 ANZAC Day (substitute for Monday 25)

Tuesday 29 - Wednesday 30 Mildura Field Days Mildura.

Monday 1 - Tuesday 2 Sheepvention Hamilton.

Wednesday 3 - Thursday 4 Murray Darling Association Annual Conference Mildura.

October

Thursday 4 - Saturday 6 Elmore Field Days Elmore.

21


The

Mallee Farmer

Photo: Collecting floristic data from a square quadrat (rear) and life form frequency data from point quadrats along a transect line (front) in a grazed Plains Savannah remnant. Credit: Arthur Rylah Institute.

Improving remnant vegetation - Stock exclusion fencing The ongoing project “Quantification of the impact of land management practices on priority remnant vegetation across the dryland Mallee landscape”, being implemented across the Victorian Mallee aims to provide data on how land management practices are affecting remnant vegetation. By

Jennifer McCamley, Mallee CMA. The dryland cropping landscape of the Mallee is one of the most stressed systems in Australia (NLWRA 2001). The majority of native vegetation was cleared for pasture and agriculture between about 1840 and 1940 (Blakers and Macmillan 1988, LCC 1989). The landscape is now highly fragmented, with less than five percent of the original extent of vegetation remaining on private land in the region. Grazing by livestock has been recognised as one of the main threatening processes to the condition of native vegetation. Overgrazing from livestock can result in an increase in bare ground (and subsequent erosion), soil compaction, increases in nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen, increased weed abundance and reduced recruitment, diversity and survival of native plants.

22

The Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) has worked with landholders to reduce grazing pressure on native vegetation through the exclusion of stock or through controlled grazing management. But does excluding stock improve the condition of remnant vegetation? And in what ways? In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to collect on-ground vegetation data and to monitor the vegetation in remnants protected from stock grazing regularly over a number of years. The project “Quantification of the impact of land management practices on priority remnant vegetation across the dryland Mallee landscape” aimed to address these questions. This project included the development of a specific monitoring method and sampling design to quantitatively assess these impacts on native vegetation. Baseline data was collected in the field using these monitoring protocols.

Undertaking monitoring

Monitoring was undertaken in early Spring 2009 and 2010 on 27 sites. A variety of sites were monitored including those that had been protected from grazing for a number of years, those sites still under varying grazing managements and long un-grazed remnants as a control. The project collected site histories, vegetation condition data and samples to be analysed for soil nutrient data. The sites were distributed across a variety of different vegetation types, including Semi-arid Woodland, Chenopod Mallee, Plains Woodlands, Plains Savannah, Ridged Plains Mallee and Woorinen Sands Mallee. The ecological components listed in Table 1 were measured at each site. These components are key attributes of the condition of vegetation and the quality of habitat. For instance, canopy cover is an important indicator of tree health and the amount of canopy cover can influence the understorey species which will be able to grow. Canopy trees, as do fallen logs, provide important habitat for fauna species. Recruitment of woody species is necessary for the long term viability of vegetation communities and this regeneration is often severely impacted by grazing. Increases in soil nutrients will often favour the spread of


The

Mallee Farmer weeds with a consequent decline in the number and cover of native species. These components will continue to be monitored into the future and patterns in vegetation change within fenced remnants will become clearer. Table 1: Method Ecological component

Monitoring action

• Large canopy trees Canopy species cover and recruitment

Floristicts

(number and size)

• Length of logs • Canopy photos • Recruitment

• Floristic search and cover abundance

Understory structure

• Understory lifeforms

Fixed photo points

• Photo points

Soil nutrient sampling and analysis

• Soil sampling

Habitat hectares

• Habitat hectares assessment

Key Findings

The findings varied across the different vegetation types and between the grazed and un-grazed treatments. In general, the results indicated that un-grazed remnants were in better condition than grazed remnants, suggesting that stock exclusion fencing is positively influencing remnant condition. Canopy tree species diversity was higher in un-grazed remnants, as was the number of old trees. Un-grazed Dry Woodland remnants had greater canopy cover than grazed Dry Woodland remnants.

Un-grazed sites exhibited a slightly higher average species richness (number of plant species) and native species composition. Recruitment of woody species was not observed at any of the more recently fenced sites, which may reflect the relatively short time since grazing was removed. There was, however, evidence of episodes of woody species regeneration in the long un-grazed sites. The habitat hectares site condition score measures the overall condition of vegetation. The impact of grazing was evident through the lower scores on grazed sites in the dry woodland.

Where to next?

Monitoring continued in 2011, collecting data on long linear shaped remnant vegetation. These remnants have a high ratio of perimeter to area and are particularly impacted by surrounding land uses. They can typically have high levels of weed invasion and, consequently, lower numbers and cover of native species. The results of this monitoring and analyses will be available in 2012.

Summary

This long-term monitoring project is designed to collect data on the effects of stock exclusion on native vegetation over time. This long-term vegetation data will allow the impact of stock exclusion fencing on remnant vegetation to be assessed and provide important information which can guide

management practices to improve the condition of remnant vegetation on grazing properties in the Mallee.

References

Blakers, M and Macmillan, L (1988). Mallee Conservation in Victoria. Research Paper No. 6. Melbourne, RMIT. LCC (1989). Mallee Area Review: Final Recommendations. Melbourne, Land Conservation Council. NLWRA (2001) Landscape Health in Australia: a rapid assessment of the relative condition of australia’s bioregions. Environment Australia & National Land and Water Resources Audit, Canberra ACT.

Acknowledgements

The project team would like to thank the Mallee landholders involved in the field assessment components of the project. The project was undertaken by the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria.

Further information

Contact the Mallee CMA for more information. T: (03) 5051 4377 W: www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

In brief “Sustainable stories from the Mallee” Is a suite of YouTube videos developed to promote sustainable land management practices on dry land farms to help farmers make informed decisions. Local organisations such as Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF), Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) and the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) joined forces to produce the web-based episodes (or webisodes).

The webisodes were produced with funding from the Australian Government’s Regional Landcare Facilitator initiative. 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 include: • Colin and Chris Hunt (near Lake Cullulleraine);

• Robert and Glennis McKee (Murrayville); • Kate Wilson (Hopetoun); • Pat Hallam (near Hopetoun). To view the webisodes go to: www.youtube.com/user/MalleeCMA

Contact

For more information about Sustainable land management. T: (03) 5051 4377 W: www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

23


The

Mallee Farmer

Photos: Groundwater bore monitoring in progress. Credit: Mallee CMA.

Groundwater bore monitoring This article summarises groundwater level and salinity monitoring completed within the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) region in 2011. Monitoring was undertaken to provide an update on groundwater levels and salinity across the region. Groundwater levels change over time as a result of a combination of the weather (climate), land use patterns and management activities. Regular review and updating of trends and projected groundwater levels is undertaken to identify potential threats and assess the threat posed by shallow groundwater across the Mallee.

Method

Salinity occurs naturally within the Mallee region; however it has been exacerbated by influencing factors such as the historical clearing of land for agriculture and irrigation activities. Shallow saline groundwater can directly affect the health of both native vegetation and agricultural land and also results in increased salinity within surface water bodies such as the River Murray and wetlands.

Electrical conductivity is used to measure salinity levels. Salty water conducts electricity more readily than purer water and as such, electrical conductivity provides an indication of the salt content of the water.

The Mallee CMA runs an annual groundwater monitoring program over a network of core bores specifically chosen to monitor both groundwater levels and salinity. During 2011, this program was delivered over an 11 week period from March to May, monitoring 377 bores.

24

All groundwater samples and groundwater level measurements were undertaken in accordance with the State Observation Bore Network (SOBN) groundwater bore monitoring guidelines. Groundwater bore data collected included water levels and salinity (expressed as electrical conductivity).

Groundwater depth was recorded by measuring the Standing Water Level (SWL), which is a measure of the depth of the groundwater from the ground surface. Depth to groundwater was collected at 377 bores and electrical conductivity samples were recorded at 351 of these. As some bores were dry, blocked or damaged, a sample could not be collected.

By

Stephanie Haw, Mallee CMA.

Key Points

â&#x20AC;˘ Groundwater levels were collected at 377 bores and salinity levels were recorded at 351 of these during the 2011 project; â&#x20AC;˘ Access issues associated with the widespread flooding in the region reduced the number of bores able to be sampled in 2011; â&#x20AC;˘ When compared to 2010 results, 87% of bores sampled in both years (2010 & 2011) showed an overall rise in groundwater levels and 69% registered an increase in salinity levels.


The

Mallee Farmer Due to high flows in the River Murray, as well as generally heavy rainfall in the Mallee region, many low lying and/or remote bores were inaccessible. A total of 98 bores were inaccessible during the monitoring period.

Results

Of the 377 bores monitored for groundwater depth in 2011, the shallowest recorded depth to groundwater was 0.45m below the ground surface (Table 1). The deepest recorded depth to groundwater reading was 66.1m. Table 1: Depth to groundwater below the surface level from the 2010 and 2011 monitoring showing minimum and maximum values in metres below ground level (mbgl). 2010

2011

Minimum

0.75 mbgl

0.45 mbgl

Maximum

66.2 mbgl

66.1 mbgl

Of the 351 samples monitored for electrical conductivity, the lowest reading was recorded in the Robinvale irrigation area as 218μS/cm (Table 2), which would be considered as fresh water. The upper limit for human drinking water is 2500μS/cm, and most fresh drinking water will have a salinity level of about 100μS/cm. The highest recorded electrical conductivity reading was recorded in the Tyrrell Basin at 169,200μS/cm (Table 2). As a comparison, this is three times saltier than sea water, which is usually on around 56,000μS/cm.

Key findings

In general, a rise in groundwater levels and a general rise in salinity of the groundwater was observed throughout the region. While no detailed analysis has been undertaken at this point, results showed there was a high variability observed between the data collected in 2010 compared to 2011. It is possible this variability is associated with the high rainfall and extent of flooding in the area. Average monthly rainfall from October 2010 to March 2011 was more than four times greater than average records (Commonwealth of Australia 2011, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, March 2011). Due to the widespread flooding in the region, it is likely that increases in water levels may also be observed in the coming year(s) as the water from these events filters through the soil profile, dissolving salts that have accumulated during the extended dry period. As this water enters aquifers a peak in salinity may result as was observed in 2011. It is expected this will stabilise over time, however this would need to be confirmed by further monitoring. Monitoring will be undertaken again for depth to groundwater and salinity levels in the region in 2012.

Further information

Contact the Mallee CMA for more information. T: (03) 5051 4377 W: www.malleecma.vic.gov.au

Acknowledgements

This project was supported by the Mallee CMA through funding from the State Government’s Victorian Investment Framework, the Salinity Investment Program and The Living Murray program. The Living Murray is a joint initiative funded by the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray– Darling Basin Authority. Mallee CMA would like to thank all regional organisations and personnel who supported this project through the supply of datasets and expert advice. Bore data collection is undertaken by external contractors during the autumn months each year. Information included in this article is from reports submitted to the Mallee CMA by Water Data Services (2011) and RPS Aquaterra (2010).

Table 2: Electrical conductivity results from the 2010 and 2011 monitoring, minimum and maximum values in microSiemens per centimetre (μS/cm). 2010

2011

Minimum

192 μS/cm

218 μS/cm

Maximum

208,400 μS/cm

169,200 μS/cm

When compared to 2010 results, 87% of bores sampled in both 2010 and 2011 showed an overall reduction in depth to groundwater, meaning groundwater is now closer to the surface. Although the maximum value recorded for salinity in 2011 was lower than that recorded in 2010, 69% of bores recorded an increase in salinity readings from 2011 to 2010. During the 2011 sampling, 46 bores were measured to have a depth to groundwater of less than 2m (i.e. the water table is less than 2m from the surface); this is compared to only nine bores in 2010. These hotspots will be monitored again in the 2012 period to assess any trends and/or movements in water level depth.

Above: Bore monitoring equipment. Credit: Mallee CMA.

25


The

Mallee Farmer

Left: Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. Credit: D Whelan: Right: Desert greenhood. Credit: N Reiter.

Threatened species in the Mallee The Victorian Mallee region contains high biodiversity. However, since European settlement, its history of land use has led to substantial habitat change and the depletion of its biodiversity. A total of 52 species of flora, 62 species of fauna and three vegetation communities are now considered to be threatened.

By

Dr Laura Ruykys, Mallee CMA The Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is working towards improving understanding and management of these threatened species and communities and the following presents an outline of the projects being supported in 2011/12. For further information and/or to report the presence of these species or communities on your property, please feel free to contact the Mallee CMA. More generally, you can assist in the conservation of biodiversity by managing natural resources sympathetically. For example, retaining native vegetation, leaving fallen timber on the ground, controlling weeds and staying on designated tracks are all important measures for many native species.

26

Mildura ogyris

What and why? A species of butterfly that is only known to occur at two locations in Victoria, both within the mallee region. Where? Hattah-Kulkyne and MurraySunset National Parks. How? Field surveys to determine the extent and abundance of the butterfly within its currently-known distribution, as well as searches in other potentially suitable habitat to attempt to discover new populations.

Orange sun moth

What and why? Victoria’s smallest species of day-flying moth. Its known Victorian distribution is limited to five sites and our knowledge of its abundance within those sites is very limited.

Where? Four sites near Walpeup and one near Danyo. How? Field surveys to determine the extent and abundance of the sun-moth within its currently-known distribution, as well as searches in other potentially suitable habitat to attempt to discover new populations.

Key Points • Since European settlement, there has been substantial depletion of biodiversity in Victoria’s mallee region; • Seven projects focusing on the area’s threatened species and communities were conducted in 2011/12 to assist in the recovery of threatened species and communities within the region.


The

Mallee Farmer Desert greenhood

What and why? A small species of orchid that only occurs in inland Victoria and South Australia. Across both these states, there are only eight known populations, which contain approximately 150 plants. Little is known of the species’ biology, ecology, distribution or abundance. Where? Murray-Sunset and Wyperfeld National Parks.

Above: Orange sun-moth feeding on nectar. Credit: F Douglas.

How? Field surveys to determine current distribution and abundance of the orchid within its currently-known distribution, as well as searches in other potentially suitable habitat to attempt to discover new populations. Seeds will be collected from a small number of plants, with some of the seed being used for longterm storage (to provide a ‘back-up’ population), and the remainder used to raise individual plants.

Kneed swainson-pea (Swainsona reticulata)

What and why? A species of bush-pea which in the Victorian mallee region is now limited to 10 known populations. Above: Mallee Emu-wren. Credit: R Clarke.

Where? On sandy rises that occur on, or very near to, the Murray River floodplain. Specifically, populations are known from areas that include Lindsay Island, Karadoc Swamp and Lakes Ranfurly and Hawthorn. How? Field surveys to determine the abundance of the plant within its known distribution. During surveys, the factors threatening its survival and the management actions which could be used to mitigate these threats will also be noted. Seeds will be collected from a small number of plants and, in order to provide a ‘back-up’ population, placed in long-term storage.

Above: White-browed Treecreeper. Credit: A Holmes, GHD.

Threatened woodland birds

What and why? There have been substantial declines in the distribution and abundance of woodland bird species in the Victorian mallee region and many are now listed as threatened. These include Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and White-browed Treecreeper. Where? A range of parks and reserves including Yarrara, Mallanbool, Meringur and Timberoo Flora and Fauna Reserves, Murray-Sunset and Wyperfeld National Parks and unreserved Crown land.

Above: Belah woodland. Credit: Mallee CMA.

How? For Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos, ecologists will undertake targeted surveys of trees that are known to be used by birds for nesting, as well as

searches for new nest trees. For Whitebrowed Treecreepers, searches will be conducted for individual birds and/ or their nests. A broader woodland bird census will also be completed. This data will provide updated information on the distribution and abundance of the surveyed species.

Mallee birds

What and why? There have been substantial declines in the distribution and abundance of mallee bird species in Victoria and many are now listed as threatened. Species classified as ‘mallee birds’ include the Mallee Emu-wren, Black-eared Miner, Gilbert’s Whistler and Striated Grasswren, amongst others. Where? Murray-Sunset and HattahKulkyne National Parks. How? Bird surveys will be conducted along transects (lines), during which time birds will be identified, counted and sexed. This data will then be used to assess the abundance of each bird species and their relationship to variation in their habitat (e.g. time since fire, vegetation condition).

Condition mapping of non-eucalyptus woodlands

What and why? Non-eucalypt woodlands include areas dominated by Slender Callitris Pine, Buloke, Belah and Sugarwood. The distribution of such woodlands has been substantially depleted and the condition of the areas that do remain are unknown. Where? Hattah-Kulkyne, Murray-Sunset and Wyperfeld National Parks and Yarrara Flora and Fauna Reserve. How? Both computer-based and on-ground survey work will be used to produce two types of maps; firstly, updated maps of the distribution of these woodlands within the survey area, and secondly, maps of their health and condition.

Acknowledgements

These projects are being undertaken using funds provided by of the Victorian Government through the Victorian Investment Framework, as well as inkind contributions from Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

27


The

Mallee Farmer

Figure 1: Landform components, dunes and swales. Credit: DPI.

New Mapping has value for farmers The latest developments in land unit mapping for the Mallee region of Victoria may help improve landscape process modelling and natural resource management (NRM) planning.

By

Jonathan Hopley, Future Farming Systems Research There are two new datasets, at scales to support local landscape analysis and land management (landform components), and regional planning (Regional Map Units). These have been created through cooperation of the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) staff, regional experts and retired soil scientists.

Brief background

Maps showing differences in soil and land are essential for NRM management and agricultural research. Jim Rowan and Geoff Downes pioneered land system mapping for north west Victoria in the 1950s and published their maps and report in 1963. This has provided the basis for regional planning for nearly

28

50 years. Their mapping delineated 13 land systems, such as the Central Mallee, across more than 13.5 million hectares of land, at an approximate scale of 1:500,000. This coarse scale is good enough for state-wide assessments of land but much finer scale landform mapping is needed for catchment modelling and local planning. Since the days when Rowan and Downes did their fieldwork, there have been many technological advances for land and soil mapping. High-resolution aerial photographs, airborne and satellite imagery, and terrain modelling have all enabled production of more detailed maps.

Method

Landform component mapping Landform components (e.g. dunes and swales, Figure 1), their soils and susceptibility to hazards, were described in 1963 by Rowan and Downes for each of the Mallee land systems. These individual landform components have

now been mapped using a digital terrain model. Fieldwork from 2008-2010 by DPI scientists, in conjunction with Jim Rowan and regional experts (Figure 2), supported the component mapping. Each landform component is classified according to its susceptibility to wind erosion. Regional Map Unit creation The landform component mapping provided a new perspective on the regional landscape. New map units, ‘Regional Map Units’ (RMUs), were delineated at a nominal 1:250,000 scale as an adaptation of the Rowan and Downes land systems, using pattern analysis of the landform components and geomorphology. Many regional specialists were consulted during this process. An alpha-numeric coding system was applied as the naming convention for the RMUs. The letters represent the ‘parent’ land systems (after Rowan and Downes), while the numerals indicate the map units within each parent land system. For example, ‘CM5’ is RMU number 5 in the Central Mallee land system. Each RMU also has a statewide context provided by a code within the third tier of the Victorian Geomorphological Framework (VGF) .


The

Mallee Farmer Geomorphology Framework (VGF) classification (see an example for one of the new Central Mallee units in Figure 3).

Implications of the findings

Figure 2: Jim Rowan (L) and Jonathan Hopley (R) reviewing a terrain map (John Martin, in the background.

Geomorphological Framework (VGF). Each RMU has also been classified for susceptibility to wind erosion based on the proportional area contribution of each landform component.

Results

17 landform component types (Table 1) (74,000 individual components) and 40 RMUs (244 polygons) have been mapped and characterised for the region. Each RMU is described according to its landform component composition, location, area contribution to the Mallee CMA region and Victorian

The landform components have been mapped at scales that correspond to the likely occurrence of different soil types within and across individual paddocks. Landform component mapping can also help interpret other data from yield maps, EM38 surveys, and vegetation indices from satellite imagery. These different data sources are essential tools in the quest for improved soil management, maintenance of soil health, and productivity gains in agriculture. The next step in mapping the region is to identify and map soil types. Site data from earlier surveys, and new fieldwork to fill gaps in the existing data, will be used to investigate associations between landform components and soils. The RMUs distinguish landscapes with different production and degradation issues. The Mallee CMA will assess issues across the RMUs to prioritise investment in monitoring and management. A practical example of this is in the prioritisation of applications within incentive/grants programs.

Acknowledgements

The Department of Primary Industries (DPIs) Future Farming Systems Research (FFSR) was engaged by the Mallee CMA to undertake this project with funding provided initially by the Australian Government’s National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP) and in recent years, by the Australian Government’s ‘Caring for Our Country’ and Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI). The project team would like to thank retired soil scientists Jim Rowan and John Martin for sharing their immense knowledge of the geomorphology and soils of the Mallee area. We would also like to acknowledge the participation and involvement of DPI colleagues across northwest Victoria in field validating and sharing their knowledge of the region.

Figure 3: Central Mallee RMU5 showing breakdown of landform components and linework for one polygon overlain on terrain model.


The Last Word We hope you have enjoyed this second edition of The Mallee Farmer. The quality of articles provided for this edition is testament to the calibre of individuals and organisations working towards common goals in our region.

The following is a summary of key projects being rolled out by Tom Fagan, Regional Landcare Facilitator hosted by the Mallee CMA.

DustWatch in the Mallee

Under the DustWatch program, portable weather stations have been delivered to five Victorian Mallee Schools (Werrimull, Sea Lake, Red Cliffs, Birchip and Rainbow). These weather stations will be part of the schoolsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; science programs associated with climate variability. The schools participating in the program will also become volunteers for the community DustWatch research project, which aims to monitor the extent and severity of wind erosion across Australia. Data is gathered by volunteer DustWatchers using monitoring equipment, meteorological records and satellite images.

This edition follows on from the first, which was launched at the Speed Field Days in August last year. More than 4000 copies were distributed across the region, generating widespread positive feedback. The Mallee Farmer is produced by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), in partnership with organisations across the region such as the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Birchip Cropping Group (BCG), Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) and specialist consultants. Funding is provided by the Australian Governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Regional Landcare Facilitator Initiative.

The Mallee CMA is also part of DustWatch and has installed a DustWatch node at the Walpeup Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) site as the first phase in developing a network within the Victorian Mallee. The DustWatch node at Walpeup will provide a valuable tool for communication with the community and will feed data into the national program for inclusion in the modelling. More information is available on DustWatch at: www.dustwatch.edu.au

If you would like to submit any ideas, comments or suggestions for future editions please contact: Tom Fagan Regional Landcare Facilitator, Mallee CMA T: (03) 5051 4575 E: tom.fagan@dpi.vic.gov.au

Above: Dust node at Walpeup.

Above: Weather station handover to Tyrrell College.

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

Carbon Farming in the Mallee

The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) was passed by the Australian Government on 23 August 2011. 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 to off-set emissions. Participation in the CFI is voluntary; farmers and landholders can choose whether or not to be involved. Part of the role of the Regional Landcare Facilitator (RLF) is to assist in the roll out of CFI communication activities throughout the Victorian Mallee to keep farmers informed. A number of formal and informal CFI talks have been delivered to farmers, landholders, community groups, natural resource management (NRM) bodies, consultants and farmer-driven organisations. These groups have been mainly interested in the basics of the CFI legislation; how it impacts them; and opportunities are available to participate. These discussions have enabled the practical dissemination of CFI information, allowing for the community to explore future opportunities and facts to make informed decisions.

Above: Carbon Farming Initiative talk at Neds Corner.

Mallee Farmer - March 2012  

This issue we take a look at some research and demonstration projects underway.

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