Federal Government’s “Caring for Our Country (CfOC)” program via the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). $270,000
2009 - 2011
With the support of Melbourne University is incorporating EverGraze principles establish trials of appropriate perennial pasture species and management practices suited to drought conditions. Sixteen producers will be involved in the project, each sowing 10Ha of perennial pastures for every year of the project. The majority of pastures will be sown by the direct drilling method and monitored using the EverGraze system. Properties are located around Woodside, Darriman, Seaspray and Stratford and have mainly light sandy clay loams. Average annual rainfall is 600mm but the district had experienced drought conditions in the previous 3-4 years.
Training and education will be provided through a series of field days and regular workshops focusing on pasture monitoring and grazing management techniques. The project will provide the farming community opportunities for discussion, learning and peer support.
Despite another very difficult year with a very late/ non-existent autumn break and poor spring rains, 15 of the 16 producers went ahead and sowed their paddocks and had moderate to good results. It was really touch and go all year whether they could sow paddocks, as low and patchy autumn rains meant weed control could not be achieved until mid-late winter for many. Due to light soils, no stored subsoil moisture and risk of poor spring rains, the recommended cut-off for sowing pastures was mid August. A couple of the late sown paddocks had good germinations but young plants suffered when hit with the mid November heat wave. Two of these paddocks were inspected in mid February and fortunately still have adequate plants/square metre surviving to become productive pastures. Total annual rainfall for 2009 was only 377 mm as recorded at nearby Sale.
A summary of what pasture mix each producer sowed and the establishment results is available from the Landcare Office for anyone who would like to see the breakdown. To assess how well pastures established, plant counts were taken in from within the 9 permanent quadrants in each paddock in October 2009. The full range of pasture monitoring activities started in March 2010. All producers have set up their nine permanent quadrants in their Control and Innovation paddocks. Overall, establishment results were very good despite such harsh seasonal conditions.
Project consultant, Lisa Warn (University of Melbourne’s Mackinnon Project) has prepared individual paddock reports for the final round. Perennial pasture seed is being ordered from our sponsoring seed company, Stephen Pasture Seeds (SPS). The summer rains have been particularly welcome and have boosted the initial establishment of 1st and 2nd Year pastures, some of which struggled in the earlier, much drier stages of the project.
Year 3 sowings are currently underway. A range of perennial species have been sown by landholders including lucerne, cocksfoot, phalaris fescue and kikuyu. The good results have given the producers confidence that if they use reliable techniques such as direct drilling, the right species, the right timing and the right follow up management, they can have success even in dry years. The project has equipped the producers with better knowledge of suitable species/varieties for their area, sowing techniques and soil testing/ fertiliser requirements. Producers have improved their level of skill in species identification, establishment and assessment. Producers have also adopted improved practices such as greater use of soil testing to make better fertiliser decisions, some changed from cultivation to direct drilling, and improved grazing management.
A Drought Pastures/ Healthy Soils Field Day was held on June 9 at Woodside. Guest presenters included: Lisa Warn - Agronomist, Mackinnon Project, Nick Dudley - WGCMA Regional Landcare Facilitator and Heather Adams - DPI Soils Extension Officer. A range of topics and discussions were covered including:
• Pastures species selection and management
• Local soil types
• Soil structure, soil texture and soil pH
• Soil carbon and organic matter
• Soil profiles (onsite pits)
• Soil testing
The day began with a scrumptious morning tea in Wight’s Woolshed, the group then moved outside to inspect Wight’s lucerne/ cocksfoot paddock. Three soil pits were inspected in another lucerne paddock where soil profiles were observed and soil tests discussed. Lunch and presentations followed at the Woodside Surf Lifesaving Club. In the afternoon, we visited the Hughes property and inspected the phalaris/ fescue paddock. We also looked at the successful revegetation project along Freshwater Creek. This project was a shared YYLN, WGCMA, Greening Australia and landholder initiative
The EverGraze monitoring system is being used to help improve grazing management practices and determine pasture establishment. The management of soil health focuses on soil carbon and soil pH. With 16 farms involved in the project, we are aiming to have at least 480 hectares of established perennial pastures by 2012. This is a truly amazing achievement! Participating farmers have worked really hard, in often tough conditions to get these pastures established with strict project guidelines.
Sam Monks. Phone (03) 1300 094 262 for further details