Bob Shepherd, ARS Secretary. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rangelands Living Skin project, a four-year project run by NSW Department of Primary Industries and funded by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), is currently evaluating low-cost, scalable practices that may improve landscape function and increase farm income in the rangelands. The study is looking at the response of soil (including carbon, biology and function) and the landscape (including ground cover, biodiversity, productivity and function) to a number of practices utilising animals, mechanical interventions, plants, and soil amendments. More details about the project is available on the MLA website (https://www.mla.com.au/research-and-development/Grazing-pasture-management/rangelands-living-skin/)
One of the practices being examined by the Rangelands Living Skin project is the use of shallow water pondage to rehabilitate claypan country. Trials currently being carried out on Gus and Kelly Whyte’s Wyndham Station, 85 kilometres north of Wentworth, NSW have been discussed in recent articles in the MLA’s The Weekly https://info.mla.com.au/4PKB-8N71-2E6IEB-98C8Q-1/c.aspx and in slightly more detail on the Soils For Life website https://soilsforlife.org.au/water-ponding-for-rangelands-repair-and-rehydration/. Many of you may know Gus – he is an ARS member who just finished up a stint of 8 years on the ARS Council.
Water-ponding has previously been shown to be a useful technique for establishing vegetation (pasture) on scalded land. The NSW Soil Conservation Service pioneered the technique in the late 1940‘s – early 1950’s, and since then thousands of hectares have been implemented across the Western Division of NSW and beyond in most other Australian states as well as overseas. The water ponding technique is well explained in an excellent video featuring Ray Thompson ( ex NSW Soil Conservation Service and current ARS member) which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJSrC8uuM98.
I have worked with a dozen or more graziers across Queensland since 1989 to establish similar water ponding sites. Our studies have shown that providing the grazing is well managed, they work exceptionally well. Below is a photo series of a small (35ha) site that Karl McKellar (DAF Charters Towers) and I surveyed in 2017 on Lorraine Station – “Lorraine” is half-way between Cloncurry and Burketown in Queensland’s Gulf Country and is managed by Michael and Hannah Crisp.
The site flooded in Feb 2019 (and survived quite well) and again recently (I am not sure how they held up this time). The NSW team have the advantage as they have vehicle-mounted laser survey equipment which speeds up the surveying work, and is more accurate than a dumpy level and staff. Qld DPI had this gear in the grain belt in the 1980s-90s, but then in their wisdom sold it all!
I look forward to following Gus and Kelly’s site with more drone footage over the next few years.