Healthy soil | Landholders Driving Change

Healthy soil is the cornerstone of life on earth, facilitating ecosystem biodiversity, ample food production, effective water filtration and storage, and carbon sequestration. 

CHRISTINE JONES

Earlier this year, Christine was a keynote presenter at a NQ Dry Tropics’ masterclass for field staff to build their capacity around key grazing land management issues, particularly the linkages between grazing practices, soil health and pasture productivity.

The two-day masterclass was held in Collinsville in May. Read about it here.

Christine was the in-field soil expert during a NQ Dry Tropics Stomping Out Sediment field trip in May.  The project is investigating a range of options for improving grass cover to manage erosion and increase productivity, while also trying different methods for fixing gullies and remediating erosion sites.

More than 50 graziers, technical experts and scientists attended a two-day field trip in May, visiting two properties that are taking part in the project, located near Collinsville.  Read about it here.

Healthy soil makes for a healthy, productive region

Collective action will secure the conservation and economic benefits of healthy soils in the BBB region.  

That’s why LDC is taking a region-wide approach to bring together soil health professionals and graziers to improve awareness of existing, new, and evolving regional soil health practices and assessment methods. 

From Monday, 19 August, LDC is hosting a week-long tour of the BBB region by soil gurus David Hardwick, of Soil Land Food, and Dr Christine Jones, of Amazing Carbon.

A combination of one-on-one training and small group workshops with Christine and David will provide:

  • hands-on training on soil health practices;
  • improve understanding of the practical barriers producers face when implementing soil health practices; and 
  • increase familiarity with tools that can be used by producers to make decisions related to soil health. 

Understanding soils for pasture production

With David Hardwick.

22 August, Todsure Station, Scottville

23 August, Borderway Ridge Station, Eungella

Contact:

DAVID HARDWICK

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’s Department of Science, and Building Dynamic Burdekin Grazing Businesses, funded through the National Landcare Program.

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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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