Small Talk Summer 2018

In this issue

Why risk it? – Be bushfire ready

2018 Landcare Awards – Congratulations to our South Australian winners

Rare orchids – giving them a helping hand

Better pasture – BIGG is connecting weather and subsoil moisture data

Bolstering biosecurity – new online management program

Events – Find out what landholder events are planned for this summer

Handy hint – Climate Kelpie

Things to do in summer – Get your property ready for the summer season


Why risk it?

Neil Charter, SA CFS Principal Communications Officer

Heading in. Photo: CFS Promotions Unit

Heading in. Photo: CFS Promotions Unit

The message is clear when it comes to this time of the year – Why risk not having a bushfire plan?

The Country Fire Service (CFS) says not acknowledging your fire risk can be extremely dangerous, if not fatal.

The dry winter and spring signals a very dangerous fire season ahead and the CFS is urging those that live or work in, or are visiting, bushfire risk areas to have a plan and know in the event of a bushfire where their nearest Safer Place would be.

  1. Always remain vigilant when in bushfire risk areas, particularly on days of high fire danger.
  2. Understand ‘Fire Danger Ratings’ – they can give you the right triggers for implementing your bushfire survival plan.

The risk is real and unpredictable

As we move into summer it is time to acknowledge the risk of fire and act now to prepare both ourselves and our property. We all need to have a plan and share it with family, friends and neighbours.

Leaving early is the safest option for surviving a bushfire. However, a property prepared for a bushfire gives your house the best chance of surviving and having a home to return to.

If your plan is to leave early make sure you also have a contingency in case you are unable to leave. This is also a good reason to ensure your property is prepared to your highest possible level so you have a better chance of survival. If you leave early know where you are going and take an emergency kit with you in case you cannot return to your house for a couple of days.

Think about how a fire travels to work out how it will impact your house. Reduce the paths for fire, whether from the ground or through the air as embers, by taking critical safety measures:

  • Block gaps around or under your house. Make sure doorways, ducts, air-conditioning vents or windows don’t allow sparks and embers to blow in and take hold.
  • Install a sprinkler system with metal fittings (plastic melts) to wet down the vegetation and your home to reduce the impact of radiant heat, sparks and embers.
  • Ensure access to an independent water supply such as a tank, dam or swimming pool of at least 5000 litres. Do not rely on mains water being available during a fire.
  • Install a petrol/diesel-driven water pump.
  • Make sure hoses are long enough to reach around your home.
  • Use a stone wall, earth barrier, or fence close to your home as a radiant heat shield.
  • Plant lower flammability vegetation, including plants and trees with high water and salt content.
  • Develop a well-managed vegetable garden, which can act as an excellent fuel break.
  • Plant trees and shrubs with space between them so they do not form a continuous canopy.

Being prepared, having a plan and staying informed are fundamental for bushfire safety. The actions for each are simple to follow and use.

Be prepared

  • Clear around your property.
  • Have an emergency kit ready.
  • Know when to leave and where to go.

Have a plan

  • Do your 5 minute plan.
  • Talk about your plan to family/neighbours/friends.
  • Have flexibility in your plan – things might not always go as expected.

Stay informed

  • Listen to the weather and know your total fire bans.
  • Subscribe to the CFS Warning email.
  • Check radio, CFS website, social media and news updates.

For more information, visit www.cfs.sa.gov.au or contact the Communications and Engagement Unit about attending a FREE community workshops or information sessions throughout the year across South Australia. The phone number is 8212 9858.

Why risk it? Be bushfire ready.

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2018 National Landcare Awards – SA Winners

South Australia picked up three awards at this year’s National Landcare Awards in Brisbane from a field of 65 outstanding Landcare finalists, in nine categories.

Congratulations to our SA winners:

  • Woolworths Junior Landcare Team Award Winner - Mount Compass Area School Swamp Ambassadors.
  • A member of the Mount Compass Area School Swamp Ambassadors, Grace Bassett, was also the SA finalist for the Austcover Young Landcare Leader Award.
  • Fairfax Media Landcare Community Group Winner - Birdlife Australia Gluepot Reserve.
  • Sure Gro Treemax Coastcare Winner - Hindmarsh Island Landcare Group Inc.

Congratulations to all finalists and winners. For information on the upcoming 2019 State Community Landcare Conference, go to the Landcare Association of SA website,  or sign up to the Landcare newsletter.

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Giving rare orchids a hand

Kim Thompson, District Officer Natural Resources AMLR

David Bradley in his patch of orchids. Photo: K Thompson

David Bradley in his patch of orchids. Photo: K Thompson

A small patch of remnant vegetation near Birdwood is the now home to an abundance of lillies, small grassy woodland plants, and orchids, two of which are endangered at national level, thanks to long-term management for conservation and biodiversity.

Owners of the 62-hectares property east of Cromer Conservation Park, David and Robin Bradley, have taken that management approach for the past 30 years; and they fenced an area of 3-hectares from stock more than 15 years ago.

A plant survey in 2012 identified two endemic South Australian orchids, Caladenia argocalla (White Beauty Spider-orchid) and Caladenia rigida (White Spider-orchid), listed as Endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The exact numbers of the whole populations are unknown, but known populations are extremely small and are at high risk of extinction.

Since the orchids were located on the property, local orchid expert, Kieran Brewer of South Australian Indigenous Flora, and I have been working with the Bradleys to ensure their survival, and increase the numbers within their site.

These beauties have a range of threats which impact on their ability to flower, seed and reproduce, so we have set about trying to mitigate some of those threats with careful interventions.

The first was to place small but sturdy wire-mesh guards around each plant to reduce overgrazing by herbivores, particularly kangaroos.

Secondly, we hand pollinated at the crucial time of flowering to try and increase natural seedling recruitment. If enough seed is produced we hope to store a portion at the seed conservation centre for possible future cultivation, to increase population size and viability.

Hand pollinating. Photo: K Thompson

Hand pollinating. Photo: K Thompson

It is exciting to have such engaged landholders like the Bradleys who really value their patch of scrub. They have worked hard to reduce the woody weed load at the site. Their continuous monitoring of the orchids during the flowering season enables the careful hand work to help nature do its thing.

Spring is a great time to look for flowering plants, particularly orchids. If you have a patch of remnant vegetation on your property, AMLR district officers and ecologists are more than happy to visit and help you identify what you’ve got, and enhance and protect them.

Find more information from your local community-run Natural Resource Centre or your local Natural Resources office.

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Measuring soil moisture for better pasture

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges

BIGG’s Brett Nietschke and Graham Keynes. Photo: BIGG

BIGG’s Brett Nietschke and Graham Keynes. Photo: BIGG

Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) is connecting weather and subsoil moisture data with pasture growth forecasting to help livestock producers manage stocking rates.

In an increasingly variable climate, previous practices and ‘rules of thumb’ are no longer reliable for predicting pasture growth. The changed patterns of later autumn breaks, reduced spring rainfall and increased summer rainfall in the Barossa, which can be attributed to climate variability, make it difficult for local graziers to rely on historical data to predict pasture production. That means it’s difficult to choose appropriate stocking rates.

Soil moisture and climate information can help producers in their decision making on such matters as stocking rates. An understanding of how much soil water is available, coupled with weather information, can inform modelling which helps to predict pasture growth. This can in turn be used to model the feed available to support livestock.

Information on available feed is especially critical during onset of dry conditions as paddocks can be destocked before pasture groundcover levels, and stock health, are compromised.

The changed patterns of later autumn breaks, reduced spring rainfall and increased summer rainfall in the Barossa make it difficult for local graziers to predict pasture production and choose appropriate stocking rates.

The approach

BIGG has taken an innovative approach to data collection and analysis to help develop improved decision-making tools for livestock producers. The project combines local soil moisture, weather information and pasture monitoring data to model pasture growth rate and recommend stocking rates.

In 2013, BIGG established three telemetry-based monitoring stations in the Barossa region, the first time a farming systems group in Australia had used soil moisture monitoring in pastures. Soil moisture probes are already widely used in the cropping industry.

Each station collects data on: soil moisture and soil temperature (from a subsurface capacitance probe), rainfall, air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation. This near real-time data (updated every 15 minutes) is publicly available on the BIGG website, as are user-friendly interpretative graphs, including:

  • plant available water – an estimate of the total volume of water that can be accessed by the pasture (between 15–85 cm depth)
  • Delta T – a measure of evaporative potential to determine if weather conditions are safe for spraying pesticides
  • weather conditions for high mortality risk of sheep – an estimate calculating a sheep chill index
  • fire danger risk – to determine if weather conditions are safe for harvesting
  • Sheep Blowfly Index – to indicate the risk of sheep flystrike.

Location

The three Barossa monitoring station sites are Koonunga, Flaxman Valley and Keyneton. The first two lie within the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges (AMLR) Natural Resources Management region; the third is located on its border with the SA Murray Darling Basin NRM region.

The pasture modelling tool

In 2017, four years after the stations were installed, BIGG began a project to use the raw data recorded from these sites to model local pasture growth and production. Peter Toome from Telemetry Over Internet Protocol Pty Ltd (specialists in internet telemetry for environmental monitoring) developed a decision-making model for use by producers to better manage their stocking rates.

Field testing of the modelling tool is in progress, with focus groups giving feedback before the tool is completed. BIGG also plans to incorporate Bureau of Meteorology forecasting data into the model to predict future pasture production.

A pasture event run by BIGG in 2017. Photo: BIGG

A pasture event run by BIGG in 2017. Photo: BIGG

The outcomes

The intention is to have the tool available at www.biggroup.org.au by spring 2019. By inputting key pasture and livestock information, producers will be guided in sustainably managing their stocking rates throughout the season.

This information is especially critical in dry springs, as it gives producers a ‘heads up’ when pasture production will slow, enabling stocking rates to be appropriately adjusted.

The landholder saves money through better decision-making, and also gains environmental benefits by destocking before groundcover levels are compromised. Maintaining groundcover improves soil health and reduces the potential for soil erosion and broadleaf weed invasion.

Sustainable industry support

This project was supported by the AMLR NRM Board’s Sustainable Agriculture Industry Support scheme through funding from the NRM levy.

Healthy natural ecosystems and sustainable primary production systems are fundamental to social, environmental and economic well-being.

With more than 50% of the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges region used for primary production, the board will continue to partner with industry to increase sustainability in production systems.

For more information

Barossa Improved Grazing Group

Brett Nietschke, Technical Facilitator/Coordinator
Email: brett.nietschke@biggroup.org.au
Phone: 0432 804 389
Website: www.biggroup.org.au

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges

Nicole Bennett
Sustainable Agriculture and Training Coordinator
Email: nicole.bennett@sa.gov.au
Phone: (08) 8130 9062

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New online program bolsters biosecurity

Biosecurity SA, Primary Industries and Regions SA

Worth protecting with One Biosecurity. Photo: Jo-Anna Robinson

Worth protecting with One Biosecurity. Photo: Jo-Anna Robinson

South Australia's new on-farm biosecurity management program is ready to help producers better manage, protect and promote South Australia's already strong biosecurity regime and animal health practices.

Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), through Biosecurity SA, developed the program, One Biosecurity, in collaboration with the livestock industry, in particular with the assistance and support of Livestock SA.

Biosecurity is the prevention and management of threats to your livestock enterprise so any program that focuses on it will naturally improve on-farm biosecurity, animal health, and productivity/profit.

One Biosecurity fills the current information void in livestock trading with a more informative and transparent system of management and trading for the sheep and cattle industries. It helps you measure how well you are doing in managing the health and welfare of your livestock and stimulates improvement and best practice.

Be better equipped in case of animal emergency

The program will better equip SA for potential animal health emergencies through:

  • prevention – reducing the likelihood of introducing exotic diseases
  • preparedness – making our industry better prepared for an incursion
  • response – increasing the likelihood for earlier detection, faster response and less spread
  • recovery – promoting quicker recovery and swifter lifting of export restrictions.

The first release of the state-wide program targets the sheep, beef and dairy cattle industries. One Biosecurity is voluntary, but registration is strongly encouraged. Producers with a current Property Identification Code (PIC), can register and use the program.

Once registered, you can quickly generate a government and industry endorsed biosecurity plan for your property.

Central to the One Biosecurity program is a free online app, which allows producers to record and assess their biosecurity practices and share that information with other producers and potential buyers. Producers can share their biosecurity profiles or keep them private; the information is verified through audit processes.

Allied businesses, such as livestock agents, buyers, saleyards and abattoirs, are also able to register and use components of One Biosecurity. They can then check for current biosecurity plans and disease status, and search for sellers of a specific class of animal with a specified biosecurity status.

Benefits

One Biosecurity benefits livestock trading through:

  • a platform for promoting your business
  • greater and more accessible information to make purchasing decisions
  • a more equitable system for trading
  • greater trading confidence and more trading options
  • greater transparency throughout the production chain.

As an online system, One Biosecurity provides:

  • a dynamic, living profile for ongoing use that is easy to edit and update
  • instant access, widespread engagement, better communication
  • a transparent platform, readily available for all to see, leading to greater accountability
  • an enhanced verification process and thus credibility of the system
  • flexibility, adaptability and resilience to your business
  • continual promotion of your enterprise and the SA livestock industry.

This one-stop, online animal biosecurity management tool provides best practice biosecurity assessment, management, response advice and guidelines for multiple livestock diseases in South Australia.

Find out more

Register for One Biosecurity.

If you need support or have questions on One Biosecurity registration, including how to undertake a risk assessment of your property, email or call (08) 8429 3300 during business hours.

Biosecurity SA's Animal Health officers are available with advice and practical information on how producers can improve their farm biosecurity practices. Find your local Biosecurity SA Animal Health Officer.

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Events

A farm walk. Photo: Lucy Hyde

A farm walk. Photo: Lucy Hyde

Landholder events are supported by funding from your NRM levy and the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

Sign up for our monthly landholder events calendar for a list of upcoming field days, workshops and courses run by Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, community groups and industry groups by emailing jemma.vandenbos@sa.gov.au.

See summaries and images of past landholder events.

See all Natural Resources AMLR events.

You can also follow our Facebook page for webinars, events, and printed advice on land management, grazing and sheep management advice in dry times for the coming months.

Contact your local office for one-on-one or group support.

Rural Land Management Course

When: Mid-February to mid-April
Time: 7.30 - 9.30 pm
Structure: 8 x 2 hour week night seminars and a farm walk
Location: Adelaide venue TBC

Register your expression of interest by email with Lucy Hyde.

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Handy hint - Climate Kelpie

Climate kelpie

Designed for Australian farmers and farm advisers

Climate Kelpie is a ‘one-stop shop’ for climate risk management information and tools. It can help you find:

  • expert interpretations of the seasonal forecasts for your region
  • decision-support tools to help you manage your farm in a changing climate
  • what drives the climate and weather in your region
  • information about our changing climate.

The website showcases Climatedogs – a series of creative animation videos that help farmers understand what influences the variation in Australia’s seasons, with each dog representing a different climate driver.

Head to Climate Kelpie to learn about Climatedogs, view climate information for South Australia and read local case studies.

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Things to do - summer

  • For best results, control woody weeds during their main growing season from November to the end of February.
  • If it has been 5 years or more since your soil was last tested in grazing or hay paddocks, arrange for a soil pH and nutrition test.
  • As the weather warms up ensure stock watering points are kept clean, full and functioning well.
  • Review stock numbers now and assess your pasture and stocking rate.
  • Plan for rabbit control in late summer – rabbits are at their lowest numbers at this time as they are hungry and susceptible to the heat.
  • Aim for a minimum of 70 per cent groundcover on pastures to prevent erosion and allow maximum uptake of autumn rains.
  • Plan your fox control before lambing season.
  • Undertake clean-up for fire season by slashing long grass, controlling woody weeds and clearing flammable rubbish away from your house, sheds and equipment.

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Related links

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges