Soils4Grazing sites established

Soils4Grazing is a joint project between Southern Gulf Catchments Limited and the Queensland government’s FutureBeef team to assist producers recover pastures on degraded but otherwise productive land types.

The project is investigating the use of mechanical treatments to restore productive grazing land, increase vegetation cover and promote storage of carbon in the soil.  It aims to identify the most suitable methods for different land types. 

“Grazing land condition is the capacity of land to respond to rain and provide useful feed for livestock.  It’s graded on a scale from A to D, with A having 100% carrying capacity for cattle and D only 20%.“ Rebecca Gunther, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (QDAFF)

The first stage of monitoring has now been completed on 3 cattle Stations across the Southern Gulf region:

  • Rosevale, Hughenden,
  • Granada, Cloncurry,
  • Herbertvale, Camooweal.

Herbertvale and Rosevale have had the rehabilitation treatments put in place, but works at Granada have been delayed until further rain.

What happens during the trial?

D condition sites typically have no, or very little, vegetation and the water flows across the surface rather than soak in.  The goal is to slow the water and get it to soak into these areas, which will then allow pasture and other vegetation to grow.

Each of the 3 properties involved in the trial have provided an area of at least 20 hectares that is in D condition.  This area has been fenced off from livestock and divided into four treatment plots.

Three of the plots will be mechanically treated, using one of the following methods:

  • shallow water pondage,
  • contour ripping,
  • spiral ploughing, or
  • crocodile seeding.

The fourth plot will not receive mechanical treatment but stock will be excluded for part of the year to simulate wet season spelling.

“We are fencing off the sites to manage the timing and duration of grazing. Livestock will be part of the rehabilitation process once pastures are re-established.” Rebecca Gunther, QDAFF

“Shallow water pondage has been successful in rehabilitating tens of thousands of hectares in the Western Division of NSW since the 1950s.  We need to evaluate it in north-west Queensland.’ Bob Shepherd, QDAFF.

Crocodile seeding creates a seed bed and drops the seed as it is towed

Crocodile seeding creates a seed bed and drops the seed as it is towed.

Assessing the sites

The treatments will be assessed twice a year for three years to see what changes occur in soil carbon levels, infiltration of rainfall, land condition, and potential carrying capacity.

One of the main objectives of the trial is to see if soil carbon levels rise if land condition and vegetation cover increases. Soil carbon accumulates so slowly it’s unlikely changes will be detected during the three years, so follow up will be done over the next ten to fifteen years.

4. Herbertvale Ripping (4) low res

 

While not the same site these photos show the approximate before and after rainfall of ripping and seeding.

While not the same site these photos show the approximate before and after rainfall of ripping and seeding.

Results so far…

Across all 3 sites less than expected rainfall has impacted the growth of seeds planted and has delayed installing the treatments at Granada.  However, some results are visible from these early photographs.

“If we can demonstrate that these changes have significant benefits for their businesses, we hope other graziers in north-west Queensland will adopt the new practices.” Emma Hegarty, QDAFF

Soils4Grazing is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as part of its Carbon Farming Futures – Action on the Ground Program.

For further information on the project contact Larissa Lauder – Sustainable Grazing Project Officer, Southern Gulf Catchments Limited on (07) 4743 1888 or projectsupport@southerngulf.com.au.