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Land

SOUTH Coast NRM is focused on developing and managing sustainable farming systems while combating the impacts of climate change and pressure from development.

We work with the community to promote the uptake of sustainable primary production practices, strategic revegetation and surface water management.

Land Gallery

What we know – the Values and Threats

The South Coast region covers approximately 8.6 million ha, most of which is classified agricultural. There is also a significant pastoral/rangelands area extending north of Salmon Gums in the region’s east.

Healthy soils support the region’s biodiversity and its land-based primary production, including agriculture and forestry and contribute to sustainable waterways and marine environments by avoiding erosion, nutrient export and sedimentation.

Primary production contributes strongly to the region’s economy and social fabric but faces significant threats if major efforts are not made to develop and manage more sustainable farming systems. Without effective management, soil and water will suffer accelerated decline, which in turn will affect the stability of other South Coast NRM themes. 

While agricultural practitioners may desire a short to medium term return from NRM investment, consideration also needs to be given to the medium to long term ramifications of not acting, where the decline of resource conditions is the likely outcome. This intrinsically links all NRM practitioners to have an interest in sustainable land use practices.

Threats

Negative impacts of agricultural activities such as sedimentation, acidification, erosion and nitrification, directly or indirectly affect all other South Coast NRM themes, so working and communicating across and between theme areas is essential. The achievements of farmers who actively engage in NRM is applauded and acknowledged. The need for other agricultural practitioners to follow suit is essential to ensure improvements across the landscape.

The link between best practice land management and productivity needs to be continuously promoted across our region. One of the threats to sustainable land use is hydrological change resulting from the clearing of native vegetation and the replacement of deep-rooted perennials with lower water-using (mostly annual) species, which is associated with a significant salinity risk in parts of the region. Hydrological change and salinity are significant threats to biodiversity and to the region’s water resources as well as to agricultural production and are largely a result of past land management practices.

The most effective responses to manage hydrology changes are likely to be through the development and widespread uptake of sustainable primary production practices, together with more specific revegetation and surface water management or drainage where feasible. Salinity mapping for the region is shown in the Western Australian Land Information Service Atlas at www.walis.wa.gov.au Other major risks to the region’s soils are subsurface acidity, water repellence and phosphorous export. Wind erosion, waterlogging, structural decline and subsurface compaction are also risks but are rated lower at a regional scale. This does not imply these risks are not of major significance at a local level in parts of the region.

NRM risk to agricultural production by sub-region
risk to agricultural table
Source: Department of Agriculture and Food WA (2006).

Sub-surface acidity is a significant threat to agricultural land condition because of the depleted buffering capacity and inherently low pH of the sandy top soils. The addition of acidic fertilisers, removal of produce and nitrogen leaching is generally acidifying and occurs extensively.

There is limited information about the significance of the off-site impacts of soil acidity, but these are most likely to include reduced plant growth and increase in the risk of other threats, particularly salinity, wind erosion and phosphorous export. Water repellence is considered to be a high risk to agriculture, especially in areas with sandy topsoils such as the Esperance Sandplain, Albany Hinterland and Fitzgerald Biosphere sub-regions.

Applying clay is the most common and effective treatment for water repellence, but the cost of application rates required to satisfactorily ameliorate water repellent sands can be substantial. New technology such as ‘spading’ or ‘variable rate spreading’ are likely to provide better management opportunities in the region. The impact from water repellence includes reduced water infiltration, which can exacerbate other risks, including nutrient and chemical loss in run-off and water erosion. The increased risk of wind erosion is also an issue, resulting from bare areas created through poor pasture germination and difficulty in managing weeds. Phosphorus export has been assessed as a high risk for soils in the Albany Hinterland and Kent-Frankland sub-regions, largely due to the low relief landscape. Like salinity, phosphorous export is largely a result of land practices rather than an inherent characteristic of the region’s soils and is also associated with significant off-site impacts including eutrophication of waterways and wetlands.

This has been observed at the Wilson and Torbay inlets and Oyster Harbour, all of which have significant levels of eutrophication. Salinity will have a high impact on agricultural production in the Fitzgerald Biosphere as it will develop in a short timeframe with a new equilibrium reached before 2020. A moderate impact of salinity is expected in the Albany Hinterland, Esperance Sandplain, Kent-Frankland and North Stirling Pallinup sub-regions due to a longer timeframe until equilibrium. For the Esperance Mallee sub-region, salinity should have a low impact over a longer timeframe.

The impacts of salinity on water resources and biodiversity is predicted to be significant, particularly for areas of high public and conservation value. High salinity and nutrient levels, impact on the riverine systems flowing from agricultural land into and through conservation reserves. These polluted waters are also likely to have impacts on wetland, estuarine, coastal and marine systems.

Land use and planning

The majority of agricultural land is cropped, for wheat, canola and other grains, or under pasture. In recent times more than 162,000 ha of timber plantation and around 4,000 ha of viticulture and various forms of horticulture have been planted. Beef production occurs in the region’s south and there are a number of dairy farms in the Albany Hinterland and Kent-Frankland. A small but growing number of diverse enterprises are beginning to appear, including inland aquaculture, cut flowers and native seed production, venison farms, tourism ventures and experimental truffle production. There is also a noted increase in organic and biodynamic farming enterprises - ranging from grains to beef, dairy, poultry and vegetable production.

The establishment of tree crops over the past decade, particularly in the higher rainfall areas, has marked a significant change in the region’s land use, with the largest areas being turned over to blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) plantation. A woodchip plant at Mirambeena north of Albany and export facilities at the Port of Albany are now significant contributors to the region’s economy. The global financial crisis and its impact on the paper industry has seen a decrease in the establishment of tree plantations and the community’s confidence in them as a sustainable industry has been adversely affected. A recent land use trend within the region’s medium rainfall zones is the establishment of tree plantations for carbon sequestration.

This industry is likely to continue to grow over the coming years. Currently, these plantations are large scale monoculture plantings of species such as oil mallee and sugar gums with a timeframe of 75 plus years in the ground. While this land use has the potential to deliver many positive NRM outcomes such as reduced recharge, wind erosion control and improve the connectivity and resilience of native habitats, there is the possibility of negative environmental and social impacts. These may include the decline of small rural towns due to people selling their land and leaving the region; the loss of productive agricultural land for food; an increase in feral animals and weeds within plantations and an increased risk of fire.

To avoid these negative impacts and gain the largest benefit from this land use, adequate planning controls need to be put in place. It is important that complementary outcomes such as biodiversity and the strengthening of ecological links are achieved. A commercial wood pellet manufacturing operation was successfully established in Albany in 2008-09. This operation adds value to the Great Southern’s timber industry by using residue from harvested plantations and creating small wood pellets for use in overseas energy markets. A proposed green power station is still progressing through the planning stage for construction in the Albany area. This system would also take the residues from plantations; wood processing and municipal and agricultural green waste products. Plantings of Monterey pine (Pinus radiate) began in 1987 and there are now around 3,500 ha established within an 80 km radius of Albany.

Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) plantings commenced in 1997 and there are now 2,500 ha established within 120 km of Albany and 2,000 ha within 160 km of Esperance. Some of these plantations were harvested in 2005 and contribute to the export of soft timber saw logs through the Albany Port Authority. In 1999, the planting of sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) as a long term viable industry, commenced. Research into sandalwood establishment techniques has been undertaken by scientists working with South Coast NRM, Greening Australia, the Centre for Excellence in NRM and the Department of Agriculture and Food WA. Incentives for land managers to establish sandalwood for commercial and biodiversity outcomes have been available under our Southern Incentives devolved grant and are being further developed and applied by Greening Australia through the Gondwana Link program.

Integrated Farm Forestry makes a positive contribution to rural and regional landscapes, environments and communities, by helping to control the rising water table which threatens biodiversity, water supplies, agricultural land and infrastructure assets. When farm forestry is integrated successfully with agricultural practices, it provides business diversification and employment in rural areas.

Appropriately placed trees are assets that provide shelter for stock, crops and pasture. Local planning strategies and town planning schemes administered by local government and the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) have the potential to be powerful mechanisms for achieving regional natural resource outcomes if integrated with NRM goals. Active participation and advocacy is essential to ensure planning tools deliver long term NRM outcomes for the broader community. Planning for the peri-urban interface needs to be carefully managed to prevent loss of prime agricultural land and to reduce conflict between land uses. Equally, planning for biosecurity, climate change adaptation and NRM innovation will become increasingly important.

Information base

In 2008 an internet NRM-local government planning support tool was launched to support the integration of natural resource management principles into local land use planning (www.eksa.com.au/scnrm-planningtool). While this website receives multiple hits, the online tool needs to grow to accommodate new land use planning modules and options for various levels of community in the region. Soils have been extensively mapped at the landscape level at varying scales to assist with regional planning - these range from 1:50,000 to 1:250,000. The information is supported by a comprehensive map unit database comprising more than 200 attributed units and some 20,000 data/profile observation points.

Some soil-landscape mapping areas were mapped in finer detail during the Southern Prospects 2004-2009 investment phase. Additional sampling points and aggregated data have also been placed on community websites such as www.soilquality.org.au for easy comparison of soil qualities across the region. While soil-landscape mapping is still at a level unsuitable for paddock-scale planning, the mapping and associated database has assisted in providing information for analysing the risk of potential on-site land degradation to soils and agricultural land assets.

These risks are reported on the basis of Agro-ecological Zones (AeZs) in the NRM sub-regions which are based on common soil, hydrological, geological, geomorphological, climate, biological and vegetation differences. Radiometric digital landscape mapping has allowed for the creation of better detailed maps of some existing broadscale land resource surveys in priority or strategic areas. This will assist in improving base information and our understanding of on and off-site land degradation issues.

Rapid Catchment Appraisals (RCA) or focus catchment studies have been carried out by inter-disciplinary study groups. RCA reports include catchment analysis - climate, geology, soils and landforms, hydrogeology and salinity risks, as well as information on appropriate management options for the catchments. Many of the publications released between 2002 and 2005 are likely to require revision. The Bremer Strategic Catchment aligns with one of the RCA study areas and a snapshot review of this area is currently being prepared to show the effects of NRM investment.

Salinity and groundwater

The former State Salinity Strategy framework recognised the over-arching management goals of recovery, containment, and adaptation. It also recognised the appropriate areas for these approaches needed to be based on an analysis of public and private assets and the threats, as well as an assessment of the technical and economic feasibility of management.

The Government of Western Australia endorsed principles developed by the State Salinity Council for the strategic investment of public funds into managing salinity and these were incorporated in the development of the Salinity Investment Framework (SIF). State of the environment reporting indicates salinisation is still a significant issue, with about 1.1 million ha in the south-west land division affected and more than 14,000 ha of land lost from production each year. Suggested responses include a continued implementation of the State Salinity Strategy and monitoring to determine the extent and changes to salinisation levels. Hydrological balance investigations have been undertaken for each of the strategic catchments – the Fitzgerald, Frankland-Gordon, Kalgan, middle Pallinup and West rivers, Lake Warden and the Stokes, Torbay and Wilson inlets.

The analysis identified priority sub-catchment and perennial planting areas where actions would be most likely to achieve recharge reduction and contain groundwater rise. While the monitoring timeframe remains too short to draw any firm conclusions, review of 2009 bore data from the Bremer River Strategic Catchment suggests the increase in perennial pasture plantings across since 2004 have assisted in lowering the groundwater table in some areas. This is a successful outcome of promoting perennials as one tool for reducing recharge, containing rising water tables and addressing waterlogged soils.

Soil health

Waterlogging, water and wind erosion, structural decline and subsurface compaction have all been assessed as posing a moderate to low risk at a sub-regional scale, although these issues may pose higher risks to agricultural production at a property or local level.

Management options to address the main risks to soil health in the south-west were identified and their effectiveness evaluated in 2008. These options and their implications are similar for most of the South Coast region and farmers have already adopting many of them The management of acidity in agriculture is largely dependent on soil testing, appropriate fertiliser use and the application of lime or dolomite.

While incentive schemes have increased the application of lime within the region in recent years, its use is still less than what is considered optimal for agricultural production. Regional studies undertaken in 2008 and 2009 compared the soil acidity condition for WA’s northern and southern agricultural regions. This investigation suggests that due to the cost and limited availability of lime, acidification could only be reduced by between 5-30 per cent. This is mostly due to nitrate leaching exacerbating acidity levels in high rainfall areas.

However, steps can be taken to reduce acidification rates including the selection of non-acidifying nitrogen fertilisers and the reduction of leaching through split-nitrogen applications.

These activities are not likely to remove the need for lime application to soils that require remediation. There are social and environmental issues associated with the supply of appropriate quality lime for agriculture, as well as issues of competition with the mining and construction industries. The Department of Industry and Resources is working towards a State lime supply strategy. Issues of supply and demand need to be addressed and included in planning for the region to ensure the conservation values of supply areas are not compromised.

The mapping of acid sulphate soils has improved, but many gaps in our knowledge and priority areas remain and need detailed assessment to confirm the presence, or degree of acid sulphate soils.

From regional reconnaissance, the incidence of acid sulphate soils is low and generally restricted to the lower coastal plains and estuarine areas. Where these soils do exist, disturbance and exposure to air has a high risk of release of acid and pollutants, such as heavy metals. Outcomes from a statewide project resulted in a number of useful publications discussing the protocols for appropriate management of acid sulphate soils for agricultural practices in the region. Soil fertility and organic carbon content decline were not assessed for the region in the previous investment phase because of the inadequate information base.

However, baseline and benchmarking surveys for soil organic carbon content for representative South Coast soils has been underway since 2007 by the Australian Farming Future Climate Change (Better Soil Management) Research Program.

This has assisted with the detailed investigation of large studies at Esperance-Condingup; Woogenellup-South Stirling and Kojonup. This activity between the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, UWA and DAFWA measures ‘actual’ carbon content and models ‘potential’ carbon for key soils by land use in these three study areas. This information will allow for the development of management options to store carbon and assist in mitigating the potential impacts of climate change.

Best practice management

Two of the most beneficial practices employed to improve the sustainable management of land are whole of farm planning, including careful matching of land uses and practices to land capability and the more widespread use of perennial species. Most of the region is ideally suited to perennial species due to the high probability of summer rainfall. The use of perennial species, including trees and pastures, to restore or maintain hydrological balance has been identified as a preferred option for managing salinity, but can also assist in reducing or avoiding nutrient export, subsurface compaction, water repellence, waterlogging and wind and water erosion. There is also likely to be increasing pressure for primary production industries to demonstrate their production methods are sustainable and are using best management practices as part of accredited production systems.

Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and land condition monitoring is being promoted in the region by the Best Farms project team. A number of EMS workshops have been delivered with the target audience being mostly semi-rural land holders.

About 48 properties are operating as organic farming businesses producing beef, mixed vegetables, wine, olives and grains, with 20 of these being certified under recognised organic standards. The range of agricultural data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics provides information on the level of soil ameliorants usage and can be used to infer regional soil conditions and trends. However, these are insufficient to establish definitive benchmarks on land condition in high risk areas. A 2010 statewide survey measured changes in farming practices between 2009 and 2010 and prior years to 2007.

It showed landholders were increasing soil sampling and monitoring of soil conditions, such as compaction, acidity and water repellence and concluded:

  • Forty-five per cent of South Coast rural landholders regularly monitor their water table levels compared to 24 per cent in 2009.
  • Sixty per cent of South Coast NRM region landholders increased the implementation of non-irrigated perennial pastures, compared to 46 per cent in 2008/2009 as a tool to recover or contain groundwater level rise, while also seeking to adapt to the region’s climate variability by increasing groundcover and ‘green-pick’ pasture leading into dry seasons. These actions are helping to reduce the risk of wind erosion and to better use excess soil moisture to reduce seasonal waterlogging.
  • In pastoral areas there was an increase to 58 per cent of landholders excluding their stock from areas impacted by land degradation in 2009/2010, compared to 43 per cent in 2009.
  • Approximately 50 per cent of landholders test their topsoil annually However as there is no regional database of the results, there is no clear evidence for the trends in soil fertility and other factors. Anecdotal evidence remains the only source of soil testing results, provided through follow-up workshops where some landholders are willing to share their analytical results.

Climate change and seasonal variability

IN 2008, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) projections for primary production in the south-west of WA, stated some agricultural crops may benefit from higher Co2 concentration, but protein content of grains is likely to decline by between 4 - 14 per cent, assuming there are no management adaptations.

Frost-sensitive crops, such as wheat, may respond well to some warming, but increased hot days and less rainfall may reduce yields. Adverse effects for agriculture include reduced stone fruit yields in warmer winters, livestock stress and an increased prevalence of plant diseases, weeds and pests. Unfortunately, there are likely to be knock-on effects to NRM assets caused by the uncertainty and reduced production in agricultural areas.

Adaptation strategies can reduce the impacts of climate change. In 2007, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics estimated that adaptation measures can reduce the economic impacts of climate change on agricultural production by approximately half. CSIRO provided an overview of the impacts, options and priorities of adaptations to climate change in Australian primary industries, with adaptations issues classified according to industry and region. Issues such as the need for climate data and monitoring and the acceptance of uncertainty, are common across industries.

Impacts of climatic change on primary production for the Mediterranean agro-climatic zone

Cropping: Potentially, large reductions in rainfall will reduce yields markedly, leading to flow-on effects to regional communities and businesses. Cropping will become more challenging at the current dry margins but may expand into areas which are currently generally too wet for regular cropping. There may be a reduction in the risk of dryland salinity. A range of adaptations, particularly aimed at improving crop water management may be required.

Viticulture: Seasonal shifts to wine grape vines may result in ripening in a warmer part of the season. Quality will be affected. Grapevine variety suitability will change and planting of longer season varieties to fit the warmer climate will reduce any negative impact. Water may become a limiting factor for grape production in these regions.

Horticulture: Timing of crop cycles for annual horticulture crops may be hastened requiring crop scheduling and marketing responses. Reduction in chilling over winter, may affect suitability for growing of some perennial fruit crops. Increased frequency of extreme temperature events resulting in undesirable physiological responses must be managed. Water availability and security of supply is essential, especially for perennial horticulture.

Forestry: Bioclimatic analysis should be used to identify particularly vulnerable E. globulus, Pinus radiata, Pinus pinaster and oil mallee plantings so these can be monitored to provide early warning of any problems. Many eucalypts in native forests have narrow climatic ranges and may be particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Intensive livestock: Irrigated dairy is likely to be impacted by reduced water allocation and increased temperatures. Landscape rehydration through wetland creation is a priority. Heat stress issues for livestock. Increased energy demands for cooling production sheds, increased demand for new energy efficient designs or retrofitting of existing sheds.

Water resources: Median runoff projections are for moderate decreases for the south-west. Increased demand and reduced supply is a substantial issue. Catchment risk score is moderate to very high.

Invasive species: Invasive species not currently widespread may become more common under conditions created by climate change. ‘Sleeper’ species need to be monitored to ensure they can be managed to prevent ‘break out’. Under climate change condition, native species or ecosystems under stressful conditions may be replaced by invasive species.

Climate Change adaptation options in agriculture and forestry

Cropping and horticulture

  • Alter the variety or species planted to those with more appropriate thermal, time and vernalisation requirements and/or with increased resistance to heat, frosts or drought.

  • Alter application times and amount of fertiliser or irrigated water to maintain growth and quality.

  • Change timing and location of cropping activities.

  • Enhance water efficiency by using zero tillage, retaining crop residues and changing planting patterns.

  • In lower rainfall areas, enhance water management by implementing or expanding water harvesting technologies and acting to conserve soil moisture; in higher rainfall area, improve water management to prevent waterlogging, erosion and nutrient leaching.

  • Enhance pest, disease and weed management practices through integrated pest and pathogen management and using more pest and disease resistant varieties.

  • Reduce potential for soil erosion by retaining stubble, reducing fallow times etc.

Livestock

  • Adapt annual production cycle to better match feed production.

  • Change pasture rotations and modify grazing times.

  • Alter forage and animal species or breeds.

  • Provide supplementary feeding.

  • Provide alternative housing infrastructure – for example winter housing or increased shading.

  • Change or improve feed concentrates.

Planted Forests

  • Change management intensity, harvesting patterns and rotation periods as appropriate.

  • Select a variety of species.

  • Manage landscape to reduce fire risk.

  • Undertake prescribed burning of native vegetation to reduce vulnerability of native and planted vegetation to fire damage.

Sector-wide

  • Introduce practices which ensure conservation and wise use of water resources.

  • Use seasonal forecasting to reduce production risk.

  • Diversify farm income by integrating other farming activities or increasing off-farm income.

  • Move to alternative income sources outside of agriculture.

  • Minimise high input costs in high risk area or time periods.

  • Have emergency response plans in place for fire, flood, hail and heavy rain etc.

  • Offset increased costs of managing climate change by reducing other costs.

  • Use financial risk management tools or options to manage risk – for example futures contracts, water trading, carbon offsets, income stabilisation, and insurance.

  • Spread risk through multiple holdings in different climatic regions.

  • Increase resilience of land systems through land care and stewardship initiatives.

Gaps in our Knowledge

THE Land theme recognises the following gaps in its skills and knowledge, as published in Southern Prospects 2011 – 2016:

  • A need to adapt to seasonal variability and climate change.
  • The development of the State and National Monitoring Indicators framework.
  • Tailoring of catchment scale water management for the region, including:
    • Assessment of critical risk areas with ‘whole of landscape risk analysis.
    • Identification of water management intervention required and projected benefits and impacts.
    • Scenario-based option analysis.
    • Investment benefits and risks.
    • Community engagement and participation.
    • Framework for delivery of baseline risk information and assessment of feasibility, benefits and impacts of water management plans.
    • Assessment of water quality issues such as nutrients, salinity and environmental acidity.
    • Off-site risk and impact assessment.
  • Continued assessment of market-based instruments to determine their feasibility for adoption in the region.
  • Engagement of hinterland local governments to strengthen partnership arrangements with the Department of Planning.
  • ecognition and management of environmental acidity (acid sulphate soils) with regard to NRM.
  • Review of land assets, threats and appropriate management responses.

Trade-offs

The use of land for primary production has impacts on soils, biodiversity and water resources.

Primary production also has significant social and economic benefits for the region. Balancing the benefits and costs is not easy, but the proposed targets are intended to improve the recognition of high value production areas, the matching of land uses to land capability and the management options for improved productivity with reduced environmental costs.

Establishing clear benchmarks and sustainability indicators that are part of assessing the outcomes of either accredited production systems, such as environmental management systems, or recognised industry best management practices will assist to determine the region’s sustainable productive capacity. Investment by industries, land managers and governments in developing these frameworks will lead to improved economic capacity for continued private investment in NRM.

Land managers will need to consider the economic lag between the implementation of environmental management systems, best management practices or any other action that proposes a change to the farm system, and increased productivity and profitability.

The assumption is that improved productivity and greater profitability will lead to increased investment in NRM for beneficial environmental outcomes. The need for land managers to be willing to invest in NRM outcomes that may not have a direct financial benefit to them also needs to be considered and addressed. Many people are becoming increasingly aware that NRM is actually ‘insurance’ to prevent accelerated decline in resource condition and to maintain productivity that would otherwise be in decline.

For some areas, productivity increases may be insufficient to meet environmental costs. In such circumstances, additional measures such as structural adjustment may be necessary. At the very least, a comprehensive review of financial incentives and disincentives to manage natural resources sustainably needs to be undertaken at national and State levels and the results implemented within regions.

Subsidies for activities that may exacerbate natural resource degradation could for example be replaced by payments for the provision of ecosystem services similar to carbon credits and extended to salinity, water quality and biodiversity.

Achievements

Achievements

The Healthy Catchments Initiative established strategic catchments at the Kalgan, Bremer, Middle Pallinup, Young and Upper-Hay rivers, Lake Warden and Oyster Harbour.

Each group has a community-based management committee and 25-year catchment plan to address salinity, soil and nutrient loss and other threats to natural resource values. The catchment plans integrate with other South Coast NRM themes. Continued funding has seen further development of other strategic catchment plans for West River, Fitzgerald and Lake Warden.

Strategic catchment projects have resulted in:

  • The Catchment Demonstration Initiative (2003-2009) in the Fitzgerald River catchment and the extension of the groundwater bore monitoring network, assisted in leading the revision of salinity and hydrological target outcomes for all of the priority catchments.

  • Support for significant farmer investment (despite dry seasons) in land use and practice change. This support enabled the implementation of 20,046 ha of perennial pastures, 2,185 ha of agro-forestry, 1,126 km of fencing, 12,456 ha of investment in soil health, 120 stock crossings and 112 km of engineering earthworks.

  • The development of 22,075ha of perennial pastures, 102 km of drainage earthworks, installation of 97 stock crossings, 13,217 ha of soil amelioration, 60 km of fencing to protect remnant vegetation and extensive drilling of water monitoring bores, through direct funding. Of these on ground works, Southern Incentives was responsible for 3,202 ha of perennial pastures and 3,917 ha of soil amelioration.

  • A linkage with the Catchment Demonstration Initiative and the Evergraze project has provided research and technical papers which validate the practice change approach.

  • CatchPlan, a GIS database enabling the mapping and analysis of farm and catchment plans, has been adopted by four strategic catchments.

  • Adoption of the monitoring, evaluation, review and improvement processes (MERI) to ensure investment is effective for targeted outcomes. Research and development by State Government agencies, industry and farmer groups have developed best practice NRM actions for managing land resources.

  • The One Million Hectares of Productive Use of Land with Salinity (1MPULS) project combined research and extension work associated with the five year Sustainable Grazing of Salt Land Program and the Cooperative Research Centre for Future Farm Industries. A significant legacy of information, skills, knowledge and experience has now been developed in the community. Several key local groups such as Cranbrook’s Gillamii Centre are progressing with initiatives such as the successful Farm Ready funded project. The Gillamii Centre is established as a leader in saltland management and has the capacity to head future initiatives.

  • A scoping study was completed for the Frankland-Gordon catchment. More than 300 farm plans were developed through workshop processes in priority sub-catchments now being implemented by farmers. Technical support is provided through start-up projects in profitable perennials, land systems mapping, soil health, NRM risk containment, integrated engineering and catchment land use planning.

  • Hydrological and salinity assessments have been conducted for priority sub-catchments and identified assets. Information gathered has been used to develop a support tool to analyse and evaluate issues in specific areas.

  • Land system, soil, suitability and salinity mapping and assessment has established regional benchmarks for soil qualities such as salinity, water repellence and subsurface acidity.

  • Establishment of a demonstration deep drain in the West River catchment included extensive participation of landholders. An engineering Environmental Impact Assessment for a feasibility study for dewatering Lake Wheatfield in the Lake Warden Catchment has been completed.

  • The installation of a demonstration evaporation pond and pumping equipment in the West River catchment resulted in the lowering of the local groundwater table and containment of further loss of land to salinity.

  • A surface water management planning report for the Neridup Catchment (Lake Warden) has been completed.

  • An NRM Innovation project provided support in soil health and perennial based agricultural systems funded through Southern Incentive 3 for areas other than the strategic catchments. This included links with local research (Ever graze and Sustainable Grazing on Saline Land) and some national programs. Extension within the region was from 10 ‘satellite sites’ for farming systems research and soil health, including soil carbon management demonstration sites.

  • The Saltland Genie (www.saltlandgenie.org.au) has become the one-stop shop for information and advice on saltland management. It began as a national product of the Sustainable Grazing of Salt Land Project and has been maintained and improved by the collaborating partners of the Future Farm Industries Community Resource Centre.

  • Research and industry organisation partnership arrangements have been established to develop farming systems based on perennial plants, or alternatives where these are not suitable. This initiative has supported the development of the seven strategic catchment and farm plans.

  • The South Coast Farm Sustainability Indicators and Adoption Strategy identified several drivers for adoption of perennials, such as degradation management and the desire to improve efficiency and productivity as well as several barriers to adoption, particularly financial risk, lack of time and equipment, up-front cost and seasonal constraints.

  • Identifying Key limiting Factors for Sustainable Production project identified biological, chemical and physical constraints to crop production through trials conducted across nine locations in farm paddocks. The findings of these trials were made available to collaborating farmers for incorporation into farm management plans. This project also facilitated engagement through the provision of fact sheets, field walks and other extension activities.

  • The Land Potential Project investigated three catchment areas: Upper Gordon (Gillamii); Middle Pallinup (North Stirlings Pallinup) and the western Fitzgerald Biosphere area (Fitzgerald Biosphere Group). Two series’ of workshops were conducted with landowners to determine the potential for innovative rural enterprises and new perennial pasture species as alternatives to traditional farming and cropping activities.

  • Lake Warden AgMaps were produced and provided detailed land capability information to landowners in the Esperance region.

  • Completion of the Enrich project involving field trials for fodder species suitable for salt affected land.

  • A number of Southern Incentive schemes were delivered through the 2004-2009 regional investment phases, including the South Coast productivity grants and the Southern Incentives (Strategic Actions) NHT project. The Southern Incentives scheme has contributed to the uptake of perennial pastures and planting of woody perennials over the past five years. Further uptake of perennial species will require significant industry investment and land manager participation in the development of profitable farming systems, including research and development of suitable species for South Coast conditions.

Goals and Aspirations

Aspirations – 25+ years

Improved and protected land resources through sustainable use, matched to capability.

Improved landscape resilience through:

  • Water balance - appropriate management options for containment, adaptation or restoration of hydrological balance in priority catchments.

  • Nutrient and chemical balance through minimal nutrient and chemical export from primary production.

  • Ecological balance - reducing threats from invasive species and diseases.

  • Energy use and carbon sequestration balanced for NRM outcomes in the region.

Improved and protected land resources through:

  • Land manager participation in developing sustainable and profitable production systems to meet NRM goals.

  • Information base for managing soils and land, and monitoring effectiveness of management practices.

  • Best management practices maintaining soil health and reducing offsite impacts.

  • Primary production systems and practices matched to land capability.

  • Increased range of commercial land use options with beneficial environmental values.

  • Value-adding opportunities decreasing reliance on single commodity.

  • Increased capacity to predict and manage change.

Goals – 10+ years

Goal L1: Soil and land resources: Soil health (soil chemical, physical and biological qualities) is protected and improved over the South Coast landscape, in-line with identified benchmarks by 2020.

Goal L2: Invasive species: Strategic control and/or containment of invasive species, sufficient to ensure they have minimal impact on sustainable land use by 2020.

Goal L3: Water balance: Managed hydrological change in-line with identified benchmarks for agricultural land in priority catchments (areas of high value biodiversity, water values, infrastructure and agricultural assets) by 2020.

Goal L4: Nutrient levels: Improved nutrient balance in priority catchments in-line with identified benchmarks by 2020.

Goal L5: Climate change adaptation: Protection of priority land assets at risk from effects of climate change and associated threats through the implementation of adaptive management responses by 2015.

Outcomes – 1-5 years

Measures and monitoring

Outcome L1: Identify priorities: Review and establish South Coast community’s focus for priority land assets for next five years by 2012 (to be informed by review of existing data, community knowledge and prior investment).

Outcome L2: Review and improve soil quality and land condition measures: Review benchmarks with land managers by 2013 and implement priority soil quality improvement strategies by 2015.

Outcome L3: Increase understanding: Increased understanding of land assets management by maintaining, supporting and where appropriate expanding, adaptive management, land asset research and monitoring programs in priority areas by 2013.

Outcome L4: Assess achievements/outcomes: Monitor project outcomes to allow for meaningful assessment of resource condition for all projects.

On-ground actions

Outcome L5: Effective on-ground works: Contain/reduce land degradation risks for priority land assets by implementing effective management programs by 2015.

Outcome L6: Control invasive species: Identify, prioritise and control/reduce invasive species that impact land resources with quantifiable targets for sub-regions by 2015.

Capacity building

Outcome L7: Education and training: Increase the NRM knowledge and skills of land managers and the associated services sector by 2015 and beyond.

Outcome L8: Improve awareness and recognition: Review and increase awareness of the value of land asset management, across the region in light of State, national and international frameworks by 2013 and beyond.

Planning and policy frameworks

Outcome L9: Review best management practices: Review NRM best management practices and support implementation for priority land assets by 2015.

Outcome L10: Integrate land-use planning with NRM: Facilitate the integration of NRM principles, such as matching land capability to use, into planning processes by 2015.

Outcome L11: Climate change adaptation: Develop and implement adaptive responses to climate change in priority areas, in partnership with industry and land managers by 2015.

Outcome L12: Support sustainable industries: Review, prioritise and facilitate future sustainable food, fibre and energy production industries by 2015.

Regional Capacity

Although a comprehensive level of land management information is available, there is still a need to improve its accessibility to land managers.

Historically, the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) has been the primary source of specialist technical information and support to land managers across our region. In recent years, the organisation has undergone a transition and its focus is likely to move more towards fostering farming community prosperity through guidance for good resource management.

As an organisation engaged in economic development, DAFWA will continue to offer the best available information on the management of agricultural resources and risks. It will also continue to provide specialist support through its partnerships with primary producers and industry bodies and act on opportunities to enhance agricultural growth.

DAFWA is strongly aligned to the interests and outcomes of the regions’ grower groups and has a strong role in sharing specialist technical information on sustainable farming to its staff and volunteers who serve as conduits of information to the South Coast rural community. DAFWA also provides information and support to the peri-urban community through the Small Landholder Information Service (SLIS) and works with local government on strategic land use planning matters.

Information sharing and technical advice is also provided by NRM officers, who give significant on-ground support to land managers across large areas. These officers are often responsible for developing and implementing other catchment-based programs for biodiversity, water management or coastal protection and have frequently been employed on short-term or insecure contract conditions.

This has hindered the retention of highly-skilled and experienced people in these roles. Technical, scientific and managerial support to the officers is variable across the region, although some local governments provide significant administrative or financial support for the positions.

Total farm planning, including soil management, can potentially assist in addressing the suite of farm sustainability issues but is still to be taken up on a large scale, particularly by the private sector advisors (agricultural consultants). South Coast NRM and its partners are well placed to be key promoters of integrated farm and land use planning.

The Fitzgerald Biosphere Marketing Association identified opportunities to heighten the profile of the biosphere concept and its sustainable development ethos, which was linked to the development and trial of an environmental management system. The Great Southern Marketing Association and the Great Southern Wine Producers Association are working to increase the profile of the region’s producers and their market share. Initiatives such as the Albany Farmers’ Market are allowing the region’s producers, including organic and biodynamic enterprises, a wider audience.

Training and skills development programs have been conducted, including five ‘Master Tree Grower’ programs for farmers, and two ‘Introduction to Farm Forestry’ courses for NRM professionals.

Carbon Farming Initiative

The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) is a voluntary Australian Government carbon offsets scheme to help farmers and land managers earn additional income from reducing emissions such as nitrous oxide and methane and sequestering carbon in vegetation and soils through changes to agricultural and land management practices.

By participating in the CFI, farmers and land managers who reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or sequester carbon will be able to generate credits for this abatement that can then be sold to other individuals and businesses wishing to ‘offset’ their own GHG emissions.

The CFI officially commenced on December 8, 2011 and since April 2, 2012, land managers have been able to apply to the Clean Energy Regulator to undertake CFI projects. For all information relating to government policy and procedures check out: http://www.climatechange.gov.au/cfi

Short Sustainable Agriculture Films

Microbes in the Classroom

Winthrop Professor and Micro Blitz team leader Andrew Whiteley, discusses soil microbes with students from Great Southern Grammar, Albany, Western Australia. 

Click to view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UooySSBXBQM


Balancing Phosphorus and Lime

The South West Catchments Council produced this short film showing a phosphorus and lime trial with consultants Southern Dirt at Kojonup.

Click to view: http://www.agtrialsites.com/listing/balancing-investment-in-phosphorus-and-lime/

Why is Soil Carbon so Important?

This short film discusses why soil carbon is so important.

Click to view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5G6EJssj4iU

A Day in the Life of a Soil Scientist

Department of Food and Agriculture WA scientist Tim Overheu discusses his passion for soils.

Click to view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwwIn3YA0ow


Opening hours

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Contact details:
Tel: (08) 9845 8537
Fax: (08) 9845 8538
Email:info@southcoastnrm.com.au

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Opening hours
Mon – Fri 9am – 3pm
Contact details:
Tel: (08) 9845 8537
Fax: (08) 9845 8538
Email:info@southcoastnrm.com.au

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