Benchmarking land condition | Landholders Driving Change

The Department of  Agriculture and Fisheries’ Rob Hassett conducts the Land Condition Assessment Tool training at the Mt Pleasant Learning Hub.

Rob Hassett, DAF, leads a workshop on the Land Condition Assessment Tool at the Mt Pleasant Learning Hub. 

Dartmoor graziers Dan (left) and Kath Kenny with Reedy Creek grazier Bob Goodie.

LDC team members Adrienne Hall and Rod Kerr chat with Brett Scott, Flagstone, (back to camera) prior to the workshop kicking off.

In-house training important

NQ Dry Tropics is focused on its people and the collaboration between them to work towards a common goal – to partner with our stakeholders to create connected and functioning landscapes.

Cross-team collaboration is a powerful tool in a culture of continuous improvement.

The LDC project held an LCAT workshop for NQ Dry Tropics field staff in Bowen. It was also hosted by Rob Hassett, of DAF.

Land Condition Assessment Tool essential component of graziers’ kitbag

EIGHTEEN graziers took part in a Land Condition Assessment Tool (LCAT) training workshop at Mt Pleasant Learning Hub in March.

It focused on the benefits of assessing and monitoring land condition.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Rob Hassett hosted the workshop.

He encouraged graziers to consider a range of activities that would lead to practice changes most appropriate to their situation to achieve better groundcover and land condition.

The workshop covered several topics:

  • Pasture budgeting – choosing sites that are representative of the average pasture quality and quantity within a paddock or portion of a paddock for the purpose of pasture budgeting to enable graziers to stock the paddock at a safe level.
  • Pasture species – the benefit of monitoring the actual pasture species to focus on improving pasture management, including monitoring how the species mix changes due to seasonal patterns, for example, perennials vs annuals, 3P species vs less desirable species. (Note: 3P species are pasture species that are Perennial, Palatable and Productive).
  • Weed management – understanding how management impacts on weeds in various seasons, and how to monitor weeds.
  • Monitoring degraded areas and prior to infrastructure development – assess whether areas are improving, declining or are being maintained, and consider strategies to address issues.  It is important to monitor overgrazed areas and observe how they recover from rest, and how undergrazed areas respond to heavier grazing.

Through LCAT training (and other training and on-ground activities) LDC hopes to influence the development of a continuously improving system of catchment scale support for extension, training, farm planning support and regulatory compliance management across the BBB.  

This supports a culture of stewardship, a keystone of the LDC project, that enables land managers to be effective custodians of the land.

As part of its BBB Grazier Support program, LDC hopes to deliver future projects to facilitate the adoption of best management practice across the BBB.

The kettle’s on, and the cups are ready… smoko can’t be far away.

There was a good roll-up.

The group learnt how to assess different land types.

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Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

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*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

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The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

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Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
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