Building Resilient Agricultural Systems on Kangaroo Island Project
The Building Resilient Agricultural Systems on Kangaroo Island Project is also a four year project that will build on the previous sustainable production program, with a key focus on soil health.
Building Resilient Agricultural Systems on KI aims to use a holistic, systems approach to improving soil health as the basis for resilient grazing and cropping systems. It will drive the uptake of liming to restore the island acidic soils to neutral pH where plants can access more nutrients and soil biota prosper. It will demonstrate grazing and cropping systems that increase ground cover, improve soil organic matter, soil carbon and soil biota, which in turn will improve water infiltration and plant nutrient availability. The project will expose farmers to innovative technologies that will enhance this process and remove barriers to uptake. The project will be founded on work already undertaken in the region and strong networks already established with a variety of agency and industry stakeholders. These systems and technologies will make KI farming systems more resilient to climate change and enable them to adapt to market demands for more sustainably and ethically grown food.
Over the past five years mainstream KI farmers have become interested in using a more holistic, soil health based approach to farming and have begun to adopt new management techniques such as integrated pest management, rapid pH mapping, soil acidity testing, low stress stock handling and regenerative agriculture. This project will capitalise on this attitudinal change and will support KI farmers to further take up recent and on-going innovations in agricultural technology and production systems/practices that are driving production increases, improving sustainability and are meeting regional and Australian Government sustainable agriculture outcomes. Ongoing adoption of these technologies and systems/practices will boost production and build the resilience of natural systems in the face of climate change.
78% of agricultural land on KI is acidic or susceptible to acidification. This project will assist KI farmers to uptake new soil pH testing methods that are faster, produce digital data at finer scales, and provide nutrient data. Restoring soil acidity to productive levels will significantly boost agricultural productivity on KI, increasing resilience and enabling farmers to adopt new production methods and adapt to changing circumstances.
Erosion affects over 25% of KI’s agricultural land with 42,000 ha susceptible to water erosion and 16,000 ha to wind erosion. It is a major risk to KI’s agricultural industries and water quality, native vegetation and biodiversity on and off farm. This project will increase KI farmers’ knowledge of regenerative agriculture and Natural Sequence Farming and test their ability to improve soil organic matter, carbon and biota and production generally. It will use nationally recognized experts and local mentors to promote these systems and support their uptake.
KI has 48% remnant native vegetation, 35% of which is not protected and is on-farm. This vegetation delivers ecosystem services to farms including shelter for stock, wind breaks reducing erosion and evapo-transpiration, soil stabilisation and reduced soil erosion, reduction in and filtering of runoff, reduced flooding, and pollination and pest suppression services through hosting native and exotic pollinators and beneficial insects. Integrated Pest Management trials will demonstrate the benefits of native vegetation to KI farmers.
The project will also promote innovative technologies that increase the uptake of practices that benefit soil health, for example aqua-til, graded catchments, summer confinement feeding and native plantings that encourage beneficial, pollinating and predatory insects. Uptake of these practices and new tools and technologies will provide a degree of resilience to predicted climatic changes for KI and decrease reliance on nutrient and chemical inputs enabling KI farmers to capitalise on increasing market demands for ethically and sustainably produced food.
This project will be delivered in collaboration with regional agriculture industry leaders such as Agriculture KI, KI Industry and Brand Alliance, KI Wool Growers Association, as well as agronomic service providers such as Elders and Landmark. The project will work with farmers to establish trials and field day sites, and host community engagement events. The project will use previously collected baseline data and tools and techniques to monitor progress and deliver services. It will work closely with the Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator to engage the community and build their capacity and will deliver outcomes of the Future Proofing Agriculture on Kangaroo Island project in years two to five. Methods to address specific Investment Priorities are described below.
The region’s high levels of soil acidity will be addressed through encouraging the adoption of improved soil pH testing methods and best practise management techniques. The project will support long term point based soil testing and will provide data interpretation and prioritised lime and soil nutrition farm plans based on test results.
Hill slope erosion and soil carbon
To reduce the rate of soil erosion and improve soil carbon and pasture species diversity, demonstrations of regenerative agriculture will be established on four farms on KI to test techniques under KI conditions. Workshops with experts will be held and demonstration results promoted through field days and a ‘how to’ guide will be developed for KI conditions. A local mentoring network will be established to support farmers transitioning to this approach.
New agricultural tools and technologies that improve the sustainability of agricultural systems will also be promoted to KI farmers through field days and local and social media and regional networks. These tools and technologies will include those that reduce soil compaction, increase organic matter and therefore soil carbon and biota, and increase water infiltration and water holding capacity, thereby reducing runoff and erosion.
Native vegetation and biodiversity
The multiple benefits offered by healthy native vegetation to on-farm production will be demonstrated to farmers and farming systems groups, in particular the pollination services and pest suppression. Two Integrated Pest Management trial sites will be established on KI farms to demonstrate the benefits to agricultural systems. The trial results will be promoted to KI farmers through ‘demonstration days’ and a planting guide detailing beneficial native plants to host favourable insects for pest suppression in agricultural systems will be developed and distributed.
Water quality (affecting freshwater biodiversity)
The project will host a workshop to promote Natural Sequence Farming techniques that slow water movement through a catchment and rehydrate the agricultural landscape. Information about Natural Sequence Farming will be promoted to KI farmers through local and social media and regional networks.
Adaptation to climate change and market demands
The project will promote management practices and tools to KI farmers to mitigate and adapt to projected climatic changes on KI which are identified in the KI Agricultural Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan currently being developed through the project Future Proofing Agriculture on Kangaroo Island. Local and social media and regional networks will be used to promote the activities. The project will also host annual seasonal forecasting workshops, presented by Bureau of Meteorology staff, to improve on-farm decision making that is affected by a changing climate.