Big turnout for two days of property visits focusing on erosion and productivity

Graziers visited two properties – Glenalpine and Strathalbyn – to review methods being trialed to remediate gullies and unproductive land, while improving pasture cover. 

The LDC project builds on, and aligns with, existing local initiatives in the BBB catchment. One of those initiatives is the NQ Dry Tropics’ Stomping Out Sediment project.

The Stomping Out Sediment project is working with eight properties and 15 approved project sites. It’s 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.

Intermediary results shows grazing management changes are making a marked difference to stabilising smaller gullies. A number of larger gullies have had remediation works successfully completed as well.

One site has been severely impacted by wallaby pressure from nearby dense rubber vine, the construction of a marsupial exclusion fence has allowed grass to re-establish on a severely eroded site.

Monitoring and evaluation of all project sites will be the focus for the next 12 months.

Field days to inspect sites on two of the properties taking part in the project were held in May. More than 50 graziers and technical experts visited one or both field days, held at Glenalpine Station and Strathalbyn Station.

Both properties have had success in using high numbers of livestock for a short period aimed at improving soil health, increasing water infiltration and improving pasture cover. This has also been the case for the treatment of a number of erosion features and small gullies.

Grazing management consultants Brian Wehlburg, Inside Outside Management, and Dick Richardson, Grazing Naturally, are providing technical support and extension services to the project through their experience in the use of cattle impact in restoration of gullies and degraded grazing lands.

Brian Wehlburg from Inside Outside Management talks about making accurate assessments of vegetation and land condition.

Dick Richardson from Grazing Naturally.

Glenalpine Station grazier Barry O’Sullivan explains the approach taken on Glenalpine to workshop participants.

Manager of the Stomping Out Sediment project Rod Kerr.

Participants at the workshop.

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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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