Support to change
support organisations, such as Landcare, Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) or other Natural Resource Management (NRM) organisations.
Our case study participants also emphasised that presentations, field or open days are excellent opportunities to visit other enterprises and learn, also creating a forum for information transfer and peer review. These activities encourage cumulative learning, and knowledge sharing can be empowering. Such activities also create a community - even if it is separated geographically - which is essential to support widespread adoption of change.
Taking advantage of support mechanism as listed above can also be very useful to provide confidence in changing practices after attending training activities or demonstration days. Soils for Life is pleased to have such organisations and individuals present at our demonstration and field days to share knowledge and information about what tools and support mechanisms are available to help farmers and land managers.
We're also very excited to be working with the National Landcare Facilitator to deliver a webinar series on soil health. Building on the growing trend of farmers using social media, we are exploring all avenues to share information and encourage adoption of regenerative practices.
Extension activities in focus
As part of our case study research, Soils for Life selected two case studies to look specifically at support mechanisms. These examined extension activities underway which are successfully leading, guiding and encouraging farmers and land managers to learn about and adopt regenerative land management practices.
The North East Catchment Management Authority (CMA) in Victoria and the Tasmanian Natural Resource Management body, NRM South, provide two of many possible examples of effective means which are being used to provide encouragement and support to farmers and land managers to adopt regenerative landscape management practices.
North East CMA Soil Carbon Programme
North East CMA is achieving catchment-wide change in knowledge of how to build healthy soils. By identifying a critical knowledge gap – the ability to understand and respond to soil tests – the CMA developed the Soil Carbon Programme. This program provides practical action and advice, in the form of:
- soil tests
- agronomic advice on options on how to respond to the soil tests
- ongoing engagement and
- information activities based on farmer and land manager requests and requirements.
Over 500 farmers became involved in the farm planning/soil management training, accessing free soil testing and agronomic advice and agreeing to change their management practices on a nominated area of their property.
Landholders selected to participate in the initial soil testing component of the project, came from a range of farming enterprises including grazing, cropping, horticulture, viticulture, dairy and mixed enterprises.
Interim reports demonstrated that, as a result of being involved in the Soil Carbon Programme, many participants adopted agricultural and management practice changes across their whole property, not just on the sites committed to the soil testing activities. These changes included:
- Increasing paddock numbers and transitioning to rotational grazing management
- Improved ground cover maintenance
- Promotion or sowing of perennial species
- Maximising species diversity in pasture
- Increased stubble retention
- Changes to fertilisers used, such as seaweed and trace element application rather than only annual NPK application
- Application of more precise Calcium products, such as sulphur/calcium/magnesium mixes
With funding of $2.2 million over four years, over 500 farmers are actively involved and up to 1500 have been informed of improved soil management practices. This equates to around $1500 investment in each farmer over a four-year period, a relatively cost-efficient way of encouraging change in farming practice. For example, if extended across Australia’s other CMA/NRM organisations it could potentially realise 25,000 farmers actively changing their soil health for the better, together with more than another 50,000 informed to make a change...
Visit the North East CMA website for more information on the program and to review the soil test results.
NRM South Planned Grazing Trials
On a smaller scale, the projects being managed by NRM South are encouraging landholders to adopt regenerative landscape management practices in a low risk way that suits the situation of individual farmers.
NRM South provides a range of options to assist farmers to change their practices, with ongoing engagement to support changes beyond the initial enthusiasm experienced at field days or workshops. In particular, their Building Evidence for Regenerative Agriculture assisted trials in planned grazing are empowering farmers and land managers to understand new techniques at their own pace.
Trial participants set up two small half or one hectare paddocks for the trial and selected an area of conventional practice to be their ‘control’ or reference site. The trials comprise a short grazing event with intense stock density followed by a long recovery period.
Specific biophysical monitoring was performed on each trial site, including changes in soil organic carbon and soil water content. Evidence of improvement in soils and pastures on some sites were recorded in as little as 12 months.
Images from a 1 hectare trial paddock, Feb 2011 (left) and may 2012 (right), six weeks after 24 hours grazing by 700 sheep.
Note improved ground cover and concentration of manure.
You can download the NRM South Guide to Planned Grazingfrom their website for guidance on how to conduct a trial of planned grazing on your land and access planning and monitoring tools for ongoing refinement of the method.
NRM South found that trial demonstration sites also allow for sharing of results and broader discussion and to generate interest across the catchment. Through this support technique, the landholders are a part of the change, with minimal disruption to their production, and they can choose whether or not to adopt practices based on their own evidence.
Visit the NRM South website for more information on the services they provide.
In addition to government-funded organisations, there are also many private consultants working in natural resource management fields who are having significant impacts in supporting the adoption of regenerative landscape management practices. The panel of agronomists accessible to participants of the North East CMA’s Soil Carbon Programme was an important part of the project, and numerous other case study participants made use of specialist consultants to provide specific advice on the implementation and management of their innovative practices.
You can read more in the Bokhara Plains, Jillamatong, Gunningrahand Briandra case studies in particular, which reference benefits gained from obtaining support from like-minded individuals, groups or organisations in adopting changed practices.
Seek the support that suits you
Identifying an individual provider or program which has an approach that aligns with your own values and requirements is central to the success of such support.
If you’re thinking about adopting regenerative practices, look around for different support options and select a mechanism that would help you to reach your goals.
The Soils for Life Team
PS. To all the agronomists, soil scientists, CMA, NRM, Local Land Services (LLS), Landcare and related organisations out there who are helping farmers to work with their land for environmental, production and social outcomes, keep up the great work! With your support we can make regenerative landscape management practices the norm in Australia…