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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Our case study participants have provided us with some of the questions most frequently asked of them in relation to their adoption and practise of regenerative landscape management. These have been grouped into themes and their answers are provided below.

Find out more by reading the Soil Health Webinar Q & A of farmers and scientists from the May/June 2013 Landcare/Soils for Life three-part webinar series.

Contact us if you have any questions of our case study participants that you would like to see included on this page.

Holistic Management and Changing Practices

Fertilisers and Composting

Revegetation

Managing Dryland Salinity

Regenerative Grazing Practices

Regenerative Cropping Practices

Holistic Management and Changing Practices

Why did you change from what you had done for years to adopting holistic management?

It was a matter of terms of trade. We could not remain profitable and environmentally secure in what we were doing. We had no choice but to introduce radical change. - Tim Wright, Lana

What are the main problems in starting holistic management?

There has been a lack of readily available knowledge and information on applying holistic management to a property. Practitioners must be prepared to challenge ideas make, to mistakes and to learn from them. – Tim Wright, Lana

If you were starting holistic management again, what would you do differently?

Not much. You need to learn as you go and be prepared to change, to adopt new ideas and technology as they become available. – Tim Wright, Lana

Can low input agriculture be profitable?

Yes! Low input agriculture is profitable if the land owner manages for a healthy regenerative farm that functions as an ecosystem. This is achieved with a large diversity of over 50 species of perennial and annual plants so that the pastures function like grassland. When a farm is managed as a grassland soil health improves. Soil structure improves, micro organisms increase in numbers and diversity, organic carbon increases and nutrients begin to cycle. This increases water holding capacity, reduces or eliminates the need for fertiliser, fungicides and insecticides.

The farm can be very productive without expensive inputs. - Colin Seis, Winona

You must of course have suffered a loss of production as a result of your approach to land management?

This is a popular, however incorrect assumption. We have actually experienced a level of production which matches the production of the past, while having a reduced cost of production! – Shane Joyce, Dukes Plain

It seems your innovative approach is working, how much does it cost?

Costing comparisons aren’t all that easy due to the five year time lag, it is five years since we were following the high input regime. Suffice it to say that we are saving in the order of 30% of the high input regime program. This saving has been re-invested into further sub-division and water troughs to help with the rotational grazing. – Greg Chappell, Shannon Vale Station


Fertilisers and Composting

What is biologic blend?

A mix of humates in the form of ignite, magnetic basalt, soft rock phosphate and inoculated with a 4/20 microbe brew. To this is added a prescription mix of minerals determined by soil test results. Brian Wilson, Briandra

If you haven’t used single super for five years what has happened to available phosphorus in the soil?

The average of our Colwell P expressed in mg/kg in the years 2001-2006 when we were applying Single Super and using MAP/DAP on Rye and Oat crops was 31. In 2008 the year we started our current regime the average Colwell P across 8 sites was 34.5. In April 2012 the reading had risen to 40 across 11 sites. P is not our limiting factor. – Greg Chappell, Shannon Vale Station


Revegetation

What is the best month of the year to broadcast seed for the best pasture establishment results?

Timings may vary from region to region, but in our region we broadcast seed in Autumn and early Spring our best results have been from the early Spring applications. We’d suggest however that the single most important factor for success is timeliness of rainfall events, including follow-up. A good layer of mulch (surface cover) appears to be essential, this mulch provides seed/moisture contact and provides protection from temperature variation. – Greg Chappell, Shannon Vale Station

How did you establish thousands of trees on the high recharge ridge-top areas?

Trees on the high recharge areas were predominantly established by exploiting the conditions associated with the contrasting conditions of El Ñino and La Ñina cycles. During El Ñino periods stock were restricted to high recharge ridge-top areas and hand fed to protect the pastures on the lower more productive flats. With return to La Ñina conditions stock were moved to the quick recovering flats allowing germination of seed from the few remaining ageing eucalypts on the ridges to establish en masse in the absence of competition. With drought-reduced stock numbers these areas were left un-grazed for many months ensuring prolific establishment. – John Ive, Talaheni


Managing Dryland Salinity

How did you lower high saline water tables?

By identifying the high recharge areas (predominantly rocky ridge tops with low production potential) and then encouraging revegetation of these areas. Once water tables showed a persistent downward trend, high-yielding vigorous perennial pastures were established on the reclaimed flats. The combination of trees on the ridge tops and deep rooting perennial pastures on the flats work together to ensure landscape-scale water balance- greatly reducing risk of deep drainage the primary cause of dry land salinity. – John Ive, Talaheni


Regenerative Grazing Practices

Why do you have very irregular shaped paddocks?

Re-fencing has been undertaken over about 20 year period where the once regular checkerboard fencing layout has been progressively replaced by a layout that takes into account landscape elements (slope, aspect, landform etc) and where possible conforming to sub-catchment boundaries- consequently there are no-longer any traditional rectangular paddocks, rather resource defines irregular paddocks . As a result nine rectangular paddocks have given away to 48 irregular paddocks. In addition paddock size is smallest on the most productive flats and largest on the least productive ridge top areas. Consequently all paddocks have approximately the capacity to carry the same number of stock grazing the same number of days (around 70 days) over the year. John Ive - Talaheni

How do you educate new stock to your one-wire electric fences?

Newly introduced stock are first put into a “training paddock” for 24 hours after which they are 90% savvy to electricity. Longer term it is nutrition more than the fence that keeps them in the “right” paddock! – Shane Joyce, Dukes Plain

How do you muster your stock out of all the trees?

The stock come out of their own choice as they associate our presence with fresh grass/feed. Stock become so trusting of us that they will follow us on the quad bikes through many paddocks to reach the new destination (paddock, yard). – Shane Joyce, Dukes Plain

What is the best native grass?

All of them have their uses. As soil health improves and there are higher levels of organic matter in the grazing pastures, provided there is a well diversified native/naturalised pasture and sufficient rest, then all grasses will improve in productivity. The greater the mixture of grasses the better the landscape and the stock will perform. There will always be times when a grass is unpalatable, but at that time others will be available. – Craig Carter, Tallawang


Regenerative Cropping Practices

What are the benefits of retaining stubble in the landscape?

Marked improvement in soil structure and texture, leading to improved infiltration rates and plant available water. Also increased availability of nutrients. - Brian Wilson, Briandra

How are stubbles broken down?

By spraying with cellulose feeding fungi brewed on farm from innoculum of cellulose digesting fungi together with food for them. Grazing with sheep assists. - Brian Wilson, Briandra