6/7/01
(1) A new approach to conserving wildlife
(2) Dieback on GBR
(3) Vegetation Clearance in WA
(4) Country Viewpoint from the abc
(5) Corporate theft in WA
(6) New Innovations: Pasture Cropping

G`day everyone,
                       We were wondering if anyone wanted to give us their
ideas on what they would say to a Federal government as a way of overcoming
the "environmental regulations and erosion of property rights" direction  
that Australia is rushing into. We will be working on ideas to present to
members of the government and opposition soon.

This is from abc radio

(1) A new approach to conserving wildlife - Liz Rodway

International views on wildlife are changing and moreover controlled trade
and use of wildlife is becoming an incentive for conservation. Take for
instance salt water crocodiles which generate millions of dollars for the
tourism industry but are also valuable for the skins, meat and more recently
their eggs. Dr Graham Webb, Director of Wildlife Management International Pty
Ltd says because salt water crocodiles have a value, they will be conserved
by the community. Dr Webb will be talking about "conservation through
sustainable use" at Veterinary conference in Sydney this week. He says the
only way to conserve wildlife is to value it, and the opportunities to make
money from animals like cape barring geese, kangaroos and saltwater
crocodiles are endless.
Dr Graham Webb: Director, Wildlife Management International Pty. Limited

 (2) Dieback on GBR

This is from Canegrowers

Jim Pedersen, Chairman, CANEGROWERS, said cane farmers were anxious to know
why dieback had begun to occur since early last year in the most common
mangrove
species in the Pioneer River estuary.

âúCane growers are keen recreational fishermen and recognise the value and
importance of mangroves as fish nurseries and feeding areas. Weâôre proud that
Queenslandâôs tropical mangrove forests are among the most productive in the
world

Mr Pedersen said it was disturbing that some people had been quick to yield
to the
temptation to blame cane farming practices for the mysterious dieback despite
very
limited evidence to support such an assumption.

Discussions weâôve had with knowledgeable scientists on this matter raise
serious
doubts over the way the university lecturers, always on the look out for more
research
funding, conducted the study and the strong conclusions they reached on the
basis of
quite scanty information.

Mr Pedersen said that although the report apparently noted more than a dozen
possible
explanations for the dieback, it seemed that herbicides and cane growing had
been
chosen as the nominated scapegoat for want of easy links to other potential
causes.

âúThe herbicides found in the sediment are at non-herbicidal levels and are
also widely
used by graziers, local government, and fishermen as an anti-fouling
treatment for
boats. I understand that the levels of heavy metals in some of the sediment
where they
found the dieback could be consistent with fallout from sewage discharge. But
letâôs
remember that the city of Mackay, like the cane growing industry, has been
around for
a long, long time while the dieback is new.

âúThe breakdown of land use in the district would be about 27% sugarcane, 27%
urban
and 26% mangroves.â

He said the study relied heavily on suspected movement of herbicides from
upstream
cane growing areas to the dieback area. In fact, green cane harvesting and
trash
blanketing have been used on more than 80% of cane land in the district for
the past
five years. As a consequence, soil erosion has been greatly reduced and the
potential
for off-farm travel of herbicides attached to soil particles in water runoff
is both low
and decreasing.

âúI understand that areas of mangrove are actually expanding in some
Queensland cane
catchments. For example, the area of mangroves in Johnstone Shire at
Innisfail has
grown by 14% over the past 40 years. Sugarcane is also a dominant land use in
that
district and cane growers there use the same herbicides as Mackay growers.â

Mr Pedersen said the industry will promote the value of well-grassed
farm headlands to reduce movement of sediment to which herbicides can attach.

âúAlthough Queensland cane growers have already done a great deal to ensure we
use
worldâôs best practice methods, we are not resting on our laurels. We are
committed to
the objective of maintaining an efficient, responsible and sustainable
industry.â  

 Jim Pedersen, Chairman,
CANEGROWERS

(3) Vegetation Clearance in WA

This is from Greg Burrows (WA)

Thanks for your ongoing updates around the country.

I would like to raise what I think is an important issue regarding
compensation and rehabilitation costs.
But first I would like to comment on the clearing issue at Badgingarra as
its in my neck of the woods or whats left of it so to speak.
The clearing I think was irresponsible, it highlights what I see as  a lack
of or willing ness to address some basic land management issues, it is
precisely why governments will continue to legislate to protect areas of
extreme biodiversity, remembering this area is one of the most diverse in
the world, more so than South American rainforests. Sure it was freehold
land and the owner did what he wanted to do, it was good farming practice
forty years ago but now its irresponsible at best and really doesnt help
the"farmers cause".

 Back to the issue of funding, there have been many calls for compensation
from government either state or fedral, which is really only our money going
around again , as far as I know tax payers aren't a big growth industry
although the GST has probably helped, any way the biggest landholders (by
default) are of course banks most of whom seem to be doing OK in these
times.
I think it is way past time they put back some funds into there hard earned
investments. I think they should be made to put money either directly or by
no interest loans into "land rehabilitation projects and compensation for
bush, this would go some way to making them accountable for their investment
as well as benefiting their clients.(which I`m sure is want they and their
shareholders want.)
It would hopefully go some way at opening the door for new industries (eg
agroforestry ) which are long term and not orientated to the current
seasonal  cropping which are not sustainable.
The  other point I want to raise is on water management, ask youself this
question , why is it an issue?
Its the same with  fresh air, both we used to think were free but they`re not,
they were  supplied by a complex ecology which has been drastically altered
and the environment is the bottom line, it determines the economics, many
of us still think its the other way round, but look at rural Australia!
Thanks again for the info, look forward to seeing from you again.
Greg Burrows

(*Some brief points on Gregs comments )-

(1) Sustainable practices are those that ensure the land remains as (or more)
productive - while some biodiversity is essential, conservation of every
species is not.

(2) Sustainable cropping practices are a challenge to everyone, and unless
someone can come up with a way to feed the world via native vegetation or
agroforestry then our best practice seems to be, to grow crops inside areas
of high biodiversity - Allan Savory describes some ideas for this in his book
- Holistic management
Another method is also possible, cropping in pastures,and is described by Dr
Christine Jones at the end of this email, but how widespread it can be
achieved will be the challenge, but who knows how imaginative we can be.

(3) Legislating for Biodiversity to be maintained has two parts to it
       (a) enough biodiversity to maintain a productive environment such as a
15%                    retention rate of native vegetation across a landscape.
       (b) conserving biodiversity because it is unique - this is "public
good' conservation and above the "maintaining productivity level" and should
be paid for by the whole community (govt) either buying the land from the
landholder or similar, so they can farm elsewhere and not lose their
livelihood.

(4) John Stephanelli appears to have left a fair amount of vegetation
(biodiversity) to maintain a productive landscape but none for "public good"
conservation. Surely it should have been bought and added to the national
park next door. If anyone is irresponsible, could it be the governments who
have not clarified everyone`s rights and responsibilities via fair
legislation and purchases. - Leon Ashby

(4) Country Viewpoint from the abc
Sharyn Munnerley-Jose, VIC

Itâôs been a mixed year for the calf rearing research centre. Itâôs won me the
Victorian Rural Woman of the Year award. But it also means my family has to
move. Itâôs all because the Moorabool Shire Council has rezoned our property.

You see, new laws now allow local councils in Victoria to rezone areas in
their shires from rural residential to rural living. Similar laws have been
passed in states throughout Australia. The new rural living zone is
ridiculous. Say you own a 20 acre block. You can hold a circus, you can hold
a carnival, or you can do a bed and breakfast without a permit but you cannot
use the land for agriculture and now the maximum animal numbers without a
permit is 2.
2 animals! Are they kidding? Not only that, but you canâôt breed, wean, board,
and if you want to do animal husbandry or agriculture youâôve got to get a
permit. See you later calf rearing research centre. Because of the
restrictions, weâôre loosing at least $2,500 a week, even without the research
centre. And weâôve got to re-locate at great cost...and so do a lot of others.
Itâôs devalued our land, limited our useage and wrecked some livelihoods. And
just for good measure, they upped our rates. Funnily enough two weeks ago in
the main street of our town up went a sign by the local council to form a
committee on business growth and opportunity in our town...just as our
business is being pushed out.

I do realise that agricultural land is in need of protection and I will be
the first to stand up for that, but wouldnâôt you have thought it would have
been nice for the ratepayers to have had some warning or opportunity to have
a say in their land. If your not happy about it, fight it.

(5) Corporate theft in WA

This was in the farm weekly

CORPORATE theft of farmers' freehold property rights is how disgruntled
farmer Craig Underwood describes the latest bid by bureaucrats to control
even more of his Jurien Bay property,
· After refusing to let the Water Corporation enter his 1700ha property in
May this year to drill test bore sites as part of an evaluation process
·for the Jurien townsite, Mr Underwood is preparing for a long and bitter
Compensation battle.
After a five year battle that started in 1994 to be allowed to clear part of
his property, 1200ac of which is now fully developed and operational, Mr
Underwood stands to lose thousands of dollars from the 'value of his property
if part of it is declared a water reserve
"Creating water reserves was an example of landowners being expected to
accept restrictions of their business for the public benefit, he said.
Mr Underwood is enraged that he would be taking all the risk and accepting
all the cost, while supplying water for someone else,
"We don't want to deny Jurien a decent water supply, but we're not going to
do it through an agency that sells water to our detriment;' he said.
After going public with his plight late in May, the Water Corporation backed
off , but only temporarily. Mr Underwood is now awaiting the results of a
Water Source Protection Zone.
At the moment, Mr Underwood said it was probable that the Water Resource
Protection Zone might be declared as a Priority 2. which would make most
farming ventures incompatible, including having animal yards, feedlots and
market gardens - for which there is perfect soil, while livestock grazing
would be on a conditional basis.
He said part of the problem was the lack of compensation, after receiving no
financial compensation for 700ac of bush declared for bio-diversity issues.
"If this land is of special interest to them they should buy it," he said.
It`s  a transfer of equity, and  economically it's a disaster, Our property
rights are slowly being legislated away and they are coming and taking
equity and economics out of this property".

And finally an interesting article available from the holistic management web
site and linked to the landholders web site.
Cheers for now

(6) New Innovations: Pasture Cropping
by Christine Jones

Can you maintain permanent groundcover while growing an annual crop? Can you
improve biodiversity and regenerate soils while growing an annual crop? Can
you crop your pastures and graze them too?

Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes!

 Holistic Management practitioners June and Keith Blomfield (foreground)
inspecting pasture cropped wheat at a field day on Cluffâôs property, âúOlive
Lodge.â
[Unable to display image]
Some Australian farmers are drilling an annual crop directly into native
groundcover and producing yields similar to those from conventionally farmed
crops, and after harvest find their pastures actually improved.

âúPasture croppingâ leaders Darryl Cluff and Col Seis have grappled for many
years with the development of workable and regenerative solutions to the
severe land degradation problems in the Birriwa-Gulgong area in central west
New South Wales, Australia. Lateral thinking, teamwork, daring to be
different and the perspective of five generations on the land have been
essential ingredients for the continuing development of their techniques.

When their families settled in the Central Western Slopes region north of
Canberra in the 19th century, they found the perennial grasslands on the flat
to undulating country highly productive and ideal for raising livestock.
However, the winter-active perennial grasses and palatable native legumes
rapidly disappeared due to set-stocking and failure to reduce stock numbers
during droughts. The Seis family grew their first wheat crop near Gulgong in
1882, and cropping soon became a major enterprise for most farmers.

Traditional techniques, which involved the complete removal of all
vegetation, resulted in vast tracts of bare ground both before and after the
crops. These areas were recolonized by relatively unpalatable perennial
grasses and naturalized annual weeds. Soil erosion on arable land became
extensive, particularly between 1910 and 1970, accompanied by soil structural
problems and rapid nutrient decline. Fortunately the dense tree cover on the
surrounding rocky ridges remained more or less intact.

Trial and Error

  Australian wheat varieties grow over winter and are harvested in spring.
Here, the wheat has matured and is ready for harvest. The summer-growing
native pasture is coming through underneath, ready for grazing immediately
after crop harvest.
The long-term average annual rainfall in the Birriwa-Gulgong district is
around 24 inches, with a slight summer dominance, although it is
unpredictable and highly variable within and between years. In 1995,
following an 18-month drought during which he thought long and hard about the
effects of traditional cropping practices, Cluff direct-drilled an oat crop
into a native redgrass (Bothriochloa) pasture in which sub-soil moisture
levels at sowing were zero, yet the crop performed well. The pasture cropping
technique was born!

The following year, Cluff began experimenting with wheat, and Col Seis, a
fellow member of a local Landcare [conservation] group, tried pasture
cropping oats, some grown without herbicide application. He direct drilled
the grain into the permanent groundcover at 10 or 12-inch (25-30 cm) row
spacings, approximately 30 to 35 pounds of seed per acre (35-40 kg/ha) with
75 to 120 pounds per acre (85-135 kg/ha) of Granulock 15 fertilizer
(N15:P12:S12) dropped into the rows with the seed.

Cluff and Seis are continuously developing their methodology via the feedback
loop of test, observe, discuss and re-test. Funding has been obtained this
year to monitor soil physical, chemical and biological processes.

The pasture cropping technique utilizes a niche in the growth cycle of what
remains of grasslands that have lost cool season perennials almost
completely. Healthy, high-yielding, profitable cool season annual crops face
little competition from warm season perennials and thus require no
cultivation and little or no chemicals, and they improve the vigor and
biodiversity of the grazed pasture and the condition of the soil. These
objectives are impossible to obtain with any other currently known cropping
method.

Cluff intends to continuously crop some of his wheat paddocks to determine
whether the microbial biomass and diversity associated with the living
pasture base will be sufficient to prevent the proliferation of pathogens in
the soil. In other paddocks, heâôs trying alternative crops such as lupins and
experimenting with the re-sowing of native grasses such as Themeda australis
(kangaroo grass) with the crop seed.

Seis has preferred to rotate the paddocks he pasture crops each year, due to
the significant improvement he has observed in the vigor and diversity of his
pastures. His principal focus is on livestock production and he uses pasture
cropping as a pasture improvement technique. In years gone by it would have
been unthinkable that cropping could improve a pasture. This only highlights
the extent of the breakthrough that these two farmers have achieved.

Seis now pasture crops 600 acres of his 2000-acre property to oats, wheat and
lupins. He has been able to increase the cropped area every year without
reducing his stocking rate, not only because the pasture health is improving
each year, but also because the land doesnâôt have to be taken out of
production and âúpreparedâ for cropping.

Livestock are an important component of the pasture cropping method. Seis has
improved the gross profit on his sheep enterprise by using sheep to heavily
graze pastures prior to sowing, rather than spending money on pre-sowing
herbicides or cultivation. He also now does not have to re-establish
pastures, as used to be the practice in the past, because they are rapidly
improving.

Of course not everything worked perfectly the first time. Both Cluff and Seis
found that crops established more slowly in the pasture base than in
cultivated soil. Now they sow about two weeks earlier than the recommended
date for their area. They have also observed an increase in red-legged earth
mite but feel this will cease to be a problem once the diversity of plants
and invertebrates increases. Lupins, which are legumes, performed so well
last year that follow-on summer pasture regrowth was inhibited.

In most cropping areas in Australia, the entire native pasture base has been
lost. However, now that productive native grasses can be re-sown with crops
and nurtured via the pasture cropping technique, millions of acres of farmed
land currently suffering severe soil degradation and dryland salinity
problems, will be able to be rehabilitated. Seis will experiment with the
re-sowing of native Paspalidium and Urochloa [prev. Brachiaria] species with
some of his crops this year. The two farmers also hope to reestablish native
legumes.

Machinery

In their original experiments with oats and wheat, Cluff and Seis used an
Agrowdrill direct seeder of Australian design and construction, but
incorporating wild seed into the plan required something more. Machinery
capable of harvesting and then sowing the often difficult seeds of native
grasses and legumes along with a grain crop, has required much thought,
testing, observing, discussing and re-testing. This creative process,
occasionally lubricated by what might pass, among Australian farmers, as
moderate amounts of home-brewed beer, has been incarnated in metal by Colâôs
cousin, Doug Seis. Doug is a professional welder, and his Scorpion brush seed
harvester and Germinator seeder have made the harvesting and planting of
locally occurring native grass seed much easier.

Up to now they have not had to clean harvested grain as there are no grasses
seeding at the same time.

Working it Out For Ourselves

While pasture cropping as practiced by Col Seis and Darryl Cluff may not work
without modification outside the Slopes and Tablelands of New South Wales,
the concept of maintaining permanent groundcover for soil stability,
structural improvement, organic matter accumulation, weed control and the
enhancement of below-ground diversity, should be applied in all
agro-ecosystems. Only lack of imagination prevents us from growing healthy
crops in biodiverse landscapes.

Cluff and Seis farm in a less-brittle environment without extreme
temperatures that has been modified (degraded) in a very particular way
through the loss of cool-season perennials. For this reason, other
landholders might naturally say, âúpasture cropping would never work in my
area.â Yet, of course some people are still saying it wonâôt work in New
South Wales, even though it does. The point is: there are general principles
involved here that I believe can be put to use in many different
environments, if we persevere and learn how.

In the past we have sought to increase yield by minimizing variation within
the system. On the other hand, we all know that soils are healthier under
pastures, especially holistically managed ones, than under crops or fallows.
Even the textbooks tell us that plants form soil. Take the plants away and
you lose soil. Itâôs as simple as that. High density planned grazing (I call
it pulsed grazing) is the most effective method for maintaining plants and
soils, as large amounts of sloughed root material are added to the
underground ecosystem during each graze period.

So, why do we cultivate, spray, and fallow fields prior to cropping? Mostly
because weâôre doing what weâôve been told--that if you leave plants growing
in the field, theyâôll use up all the moisture. Right?

Wrong! Irrespective of our âúaverage annual rainfall,â if we havenâôt got 100
percent groundcover, 100 percent of the time, thereâôs no way weâôre going to
make full use of the rain that falls.

Finally, although the downward spiral associated with the removal of
groundcover can usually be reversed, remember this: It takes from six to
fifteen years for many of the perennial grassland species to re-establish.
And donâôt forget those precious soil biota! The long-term ecological and
financial consequences of native groundcover removal need to be factored into
cropping and pasture replacement budgets, but rarely are. Aside from the cost
of fertility loss, the campaign to reduce greenhouse gasses may well create a
market for carbon credits. Some current estimates value a one percent
increase in organic carbon in the soil at US$25/acre (A$90/hectare).

Expectations Make the Difference

I believe that Darryl Cluff and Col Seis defied conventional wisdom because
they instinctively realized that their farms wouldnâôt survive unless their
practices were âúregenerative.â Sustainable isnâôt good enough. Weâôre
nevertheless conditioned to think it is. Consider:

Australian extension personnel make widespread use of the Universal Soil Loss
Equation, which enables me to calculate probable soil loss for a given
combination of parameters relating to slope, soil type, rainfall, land use,
etc. For example, I have software based on the USLE that will tell me that a
red-brown earth on a 3· slope in a 600 mm summer rainfall area would likely
lose 20 tons/hectare (9tons/acre) if cultivated over summer and 5tons/hectare
(2.25tons/acre) under permanent pasture with 70% groundcover. Losing five
tons of soil per hectare annually is considered sustainable because there are
no âúknownâ ways to reduce soil loss below this level on undulating country.

As far as I know, no one has developed a Universal Soil Formation Equation
with accompanying software packages. Why not? Pasture cropping is the kind of
thinking that will create a demand for one.