Rehydrating the landscape to
improve drought resilience
AFTER experiencing a succession of dry winters, Mingela grazier Chris LeFeurve decided to take steps to improve the drought resilience of his 16,500 acre property Worona Station.
“Coming out of winter in drier years is tough so we thought if we could do something whereby we had a bit of moisture in the landscape every year, we wouldn’t need supplement feeding and therefore become a more profitable business,” Mr Lefeurve said.
“We started undertaking rehydration work. Over the last four years we have done some work to repair actively eroding gullies and retain moisture and spread it out over the property.
“The bonus is greater ground cover and improved pasture, and more biodiversity,” he said.
NQ Dry Tropics hosted a Rehydrating Landscape field day at Worona Station this month to showcase the work the LeFeurve family has carried out to rehydrate their property, including diversion banks, porous check dams and managing track drainage.
Presented by Community Landscape Rehydration Project Officer Cam Wilson from The Mulloon Institute, the field day was funded through the Australian Government Reef Trust program under the Point Source Sediment projects.
Organiser NQ Dry Tropics Grazing Project Officer Sam Skeat said the aim was to show graziers examples of how moisture can be retained on their property, and to provide them with tools such as the CSIRO Gully Toolbox, to help them work out the most cost-effective way of implementing a solution to problems like erosion in the landscape.
“Graziers were able to see first-hand how a producer has increased his water infiltration, reduce erosion and maximise pasture function,” Mr Skeat said.
“We looked at technical intervention on a gully that now holds water in the landscape instead of running off.
“Introducing controlled grazing has also helped Chris to build capacity in this system and is now able to carry more stock.
“There is plenty of green grass and water on the property and it hasn’t rained in four months.
“It’s important to emphasise that water is not being taken out of the system. The process to fill up the sponge under this bit of country is being reinstated, and that means Chris is growing better pasture.
“It also benefits the Reef in terms of reducing sediment leaving this system and the property,” he said.
Mr Wilson said water was the driver of almost everything, and well managed, invigorates ecosystems, livestock and wildlife as well as grazing enterprises.
“Rehydrating landscapes is about making use of what little water we have, and reinstating the old hydrological processes which then underpin the ecological processes to provide benefits for the grazier and his production,” Mr Wilson said.
“The more we can put the old processes in place the less we have to do and so it’s all about making systematic intervéntions that really work with those old structures and processes.
“When landholders understand their country condition they can use strategic criteria to develop bang for buck repair programs,” he said.
Mr Lefeurve said he had noticed big changes in the look of the landscape since undertaking rehydration works.
“The biggest change is more biodiversity, and increased pasture. Instead of concentrating on the cattle we have focussed on land condition,” Mr Lefeurve said.
“As a result we’ve seen a reduction in active erosion and a healing of gullies as a result of change in grazing management and water management,” he said.
This field day was the second in a three-part series being hosted by NQ Dry Tropics. The third will be held at Mulloon Creek in New South Wales.
For information about the Point Source Sediment projects, go to the NQ Dry Tropics website at www.nqdrytropics.com.au or phone 07 4799 3500.