Support for primary industries
The agricultural sector provides valuable produce, our food and fibre, and is a significant part of the state’s economy, contributing over $15.4 billion each year. Agricultural industries are reliant on healthy functioning ecosystems, and so there are fundamental links between agriculture and the environment.
To ensure agricultural production remains viable and sustainable for the long term, Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges (AMLR) offers funding, advice, incentives and education to develop technical skills for primary producers.
Incentives are available (conditions apply) for projects and actions that protect and enhance biodiversity or protect and enhance surface water and groundwater quality.
All these services are offered in line with the AMLR Natural Resources Management (NRM) Plan, which recognises the importance of primary production with four strategic directions:
- maintain high value primary production areas for primary production
- support and encourage sustainable primary production
- support all land managers to achieve good natural resources outcomes
- provide opportunities for production systems to adapt to climate change.
Some primary industry projects supported to date are:
Real time weather monitoring – phase II
The real time weather monitoring project aims to improve management of three key production and sustainability issues on mixed farms and their communities – fire risk, safe use of agricultural chemicals and higher but sustainable crop yields. Phase II of the project will see the upgrade of electronic moisture probe sites, which monitor plant available water and rainfall in the 20 to 100 cm soil profile at five locations within 20 km of Mallala, to include temperature, humidity and wind speed. Data will be uploaded to the internet, and show in real time the raw environmental data, along with the fire danger index, delta T, temperature inversion risk and plant available water. Training will be undertaken to ensure that the data is understood and used by the farming community.
This project is a collaboration between the Mallala Agricultural Bureau, the Country Fire Service and the Owen, Balaklava, Stockport and Tarlee agricultural bureaus.
Charleston weather station
This project will establish a community-based soil moisture monitoring and crop benchmarking site at Mount Torrens to provide ongoing information across three soil types, benchmark irrigated crop returns and outcomes and promote this data to the local community. The objective is to refine agronomic concepts, approaches and resource use.
This project is a collaboration between Dairy SA, Natural Resources SA Murray Darling Basin and Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges.
Pollination for profit (2016-18)
In the Adelaide Hills, bees that pollinate apples find alternate food supplies in vegetation surrounding the orchard after the orchards have fruited. This vegetation includes road verges, parcels of crown land and various bushland on growers’ properties. Managing bushland to promote and maintain plants that provide crucial bee nutrition could be one of the most cost effective and easy ways to promote free pollination services. This project is evaluating the impact of management strategies of bushland on the presence of understory plants that support the pollinators of apple and pear, before, during and after crop flowering, and that do not enhance the bird species that damage crops.
This project is a collaboration between the Apple & Pear Growers Association of SA and the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board.
Soil management trials
The Koonunga Agricultural Bureau promoted the results of its soil management trials at two onsite events for local farmers. Landholders are now more aware of soil acidity issues in the district, and the need to monitor soil pH on certain soil types and management systems. Those developing vineyards are putting more resources into addressing soil constraints such as using more composted materials in the subsoil of the planting row, using more surface mulch to reduce evaporation, improve soil microbial activing and soil fertility. In addition, small amounts of irrigation water was used to alleviate pressure on root systems to draw on limited moisture at a depth high in sodicity, boron and salinity.
Subsoil constraints – trial evaluation
The Stockport/Mallala Agricultural Bureaux established subsoil manuring trials to test the high rate of material generally used by local farmers, the cost of treatment and practicalities of applying on a broad scale. The project was designed to value add to previous trials and information collected will provide an indication of trend. The seasonal conditions of very low rainfall in spring severely restricted grain yield responses although some biomass increases due to treatments was evident. The Pinery fire also severely impacted the project with approximately 80,000 hectares burnt, including some trial sites, and all communities within the project area were affected.
However, some results could be established:
- Local trials produced significant biomass differences, even in a dry spring. Landholders were impressed by the growth differences on sites that were considered severely restricted and had always been poorly producing areas.
- Soil acidity results showed restrictions in sub surface that previously were not known locally to exist. Landholders with similar soil types will be encouraged to conduct more soil testing of the these soil layers.
- A site sown to barley showed differences in crop density but not in grain yield due to the severe moisture restriction with the dry spring. The higher biomass is expected to have beneficial effects on the sub soil.
- Liming treatments located post fire, had soil sampled and showed a positive change to soil pH and reduction of aluminium toxicity levels in the lower sub surface layers consistent with the treatments applied.
Changing the way we keep horses
Horse SA ran 11 events, attended by 187 participants to provide a greater awareness of how horse welfare and behaviours links with land management outcomes such as rotational grazing, groundcover, and property design to suit the natural behaviours of horses. As part of this project an information sheet on Native grass pastures for horses was also produced.
Fleurieu forward farming – phase I
The Parawa Agricultural Bureau conducted a comprehensive review of past work, with input from local producers, to prioritise future evaluation and/or demonstration activities relating to the management of soil health and fertility issues on grazing properties on the Fleurieu Peninsula. There is enthusiasm and interest amongst local producers, to continue addressing these issues through further projects and producers are now more likely to work cooperatively on projects that address key issues affecting farm productivity and the sub-region’s agricultural natural resource base.
Ongoing soil moisture monitoring
Barossa Improved Grazing Group analysed data from three experimental weather and soil monitoring stations, set up in different types of soils on pastures across the Barossa, and found that measuring subsoil moisture levels can take the guesswork out of planning future stocking rates. Knowing how much moisture soil is holding enables producers to plan their stocking rates well in advance. This information, coupled with three month weather forecasts, can give local producers the ability to critically evaluate their livestock numbers. If soil moisture content gets below a certain level, for example, combined with a dry outlook, producers can get in early and reduce stock, or seek agistment and buy feed before prices rise. So before pastures become exhausted, landholders can reduce stock, maintain some groundcover, reduce soil erosion and invasion by broadleaf weeds. The weather stations also monitor temperature, rainfall, humidity and wind speed, which primary producers can use to help verify current conditions for spraying or for livestock chill. Take a look at this poster BIGG produced on the soil moisture trial.
This study was funded by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme. The project has also received a Sustainable Agriculture Industry Support grant from the board to enable the weather stations to continue operating until December 2018.
This project is supported by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.