Long-term partner working to improve soil health

David Hardwick has worked on numerous NQ Dry Tropics projects, working with graziers to provide knowledge and skills to improve soil health on their properties.

David has helped NQ Dry Tropics develop a Rapid Assessment of Soil Health (RASH) manual, along with seven short complementary videos that address the different ways landholders can test their soil. 

The RASH Manual and the videos can be found on our LDC website in the knowledge section. 

Thanks to David, these resources were produced with support from two projects: Landholders Driving Change, a Burdekin Major Integrated Project funded by the Queensland Government through the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program, and Building Dynamic Burdekin Grazing Businesses, funded through the National Landcare Program.

 

David Hardwick during a soil health workshop in the BBB.

David Hardwick guides landholders through a ribbon test in the Rapid Assessment of Soil Health method.

Chance to learn from top-notch soil expert

Graziers interested in boosting their soil quality and increasing productivity got the chance to learn from one of the best in the ‘soil health’ business, agricultural ecologist David Hardwick, of Soil Land Food.  Workshops were held at Collinsville and Eungella in mid-September.

The aim of the ‘Understanding Soils for Pasture Production, Healthy Soils For Healthy Profits’ workshops was for David to step landholders through the Rapid Assessment of Soil Health (RASH) approach, giving them the practical skills to assess the condition of soil land types across a property, and to quickly assess key aspects of soil and land to determine if the soil is healthy, or has constraints.

Graziers learned how to better understand soil tests results and apply them to land management. Topics includes how to assess ground cover, water infiltration and soil texture, soil aggregate, soil organisms, and soil pH.

Check out the photographs here.

Stan Fordham, Emohruo

 

“Soil sampling is something that everyone should know.

The samples I brought along were okay which I was happy with.

I now know how to improve it because I want to do some seeding – and I want to make sure the soil is good”.

 

Barry Collett, Todsure

 

“A highlight for me was learning about bacteria, fungi and organisms that live underneath, how to create a better soil structure, how to keep it, maintain it, and how to test it ourselves.

David is very good at explaining the science in simple terms”.

 

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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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