Farmers Connect EP

October 2022

Regenerative Ag update

Welcome to the latest edition of Farmers Connect EP from the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board and facilitators of our Regenerative Agriculture Program, Ag Innovation and Research EP (AIR EP).

This newsletter provides a summary of local sustainable agriculture issues and work happening under the Regenerative Agriculture Program which is supported by the Board, through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

This year’s wet conditions across a large area of our region has resulted in relief and decent crops for some but is challenging for others. We look at some of the rain data in this edition of Farmers Connect EP and also discuss a few ideas to help with wet paddocks. We also re-introduce our Sustainable Agriculture Project Officer and Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator so you know more about them and how they can help you.

Seasonal conditions across EP

Update from our Sustainable Agriculture Project Officer, Josh Telfer

2022 will go down in the history books as a wet year. The maps on the left show a comparison between this year, (January-September) with 2019, which helps us appreciate both how wet the ‘wet areas’ have got this year, but also how excessive rainfall has been distributed across the region. For example, the Cleve Hills are finally able to find the rainfall that went missing through the recent droughts.

Ground cover levels across the region are exceptional at the moment, with only very minor bare soil in satellite imagery. While they are from exactly the same time of year, the bare soil classification of the two satellite images (on the left) in 2019 and 2022 show high levels of coverage on what are normally problematic soils.

While there are definitely some negative outcomes of all this rainfall with increased reports of waterlogged crops, new Mallee seeps appearing, growing water table salinity, along with numerous crop diseases, it is a phenomenal year for soil cover, and also hopefully, crop production.

Local plant growth figures also show an above average trend for this year.

Waterlogging having an impact

Update from our Sustainable Agriculture Project Officer, Josh Telfer

We’ve seen waterlogging across the wetter parts of EP this winter and spring. There are differences in how different crops handle excess water, and this also impacts on how we might manage the problem.

While plants release oxygen through their leaves in photosynthesis, their roots actually need to breath oxygen to grow and function, and when the soil profile becomes saturated with water, roots can’t function well. There are strategies different plants use to get around this situation, some plants like rice, wheat, and faba beans can have air-conducting spaces known as ‘aerenchyma’ that allow oxygen to move within the root into a soil which then helps the roots function, even in very saturated conditions.

Back in February 2022, Malcolm McCaskill from Agriculture Victoria gave an excellent talk at the GRDC Updates on this. Read more about this or watch Malcolm give a great comparison between wheat, faba beans and canola in terms of their management for waterlogging.

Faba beans are much more tolerant of waterlogging compared to other legumes like field peas, lentils and lupins. When some of these crops get waterlogged - even if they survive - they often never fully recover and end up not using enough water which can hasten salinisation as the excess water can then flow into shallow water tables, and bring salts to the surface.

If you have a failed part of the paddock due to waterlogging, consider sowing a summer cover crop or pasture, as it gives an opportunity to both use excess water, but also improve soil cover.

Summer crop grants: use up surplus water

For most places on Eyre Peninsula, 2022 has turned out to be pretty wet. Spring/summer sown cover crops have the ability to use up surplus moisture from the winter period following events like waterlogging.

A summer crop can also be useful to improve surface cover after crops like grain legumes - which often leave minimal ground cover. This can then cause multiple issues like leaving land exposed to wind and water erosion, as well as the inability to store early moisture in the topsoil, along with enhancing capillary rise of subsurface water which is a problem with land prone to salinity or Mallee seeps.

While summer crops sometimes need to be managed so as to not dry out the soil too much, this is often more straightforward than managing summer weeds - and afterwards it can leave the soil protected, or the crop can be used as a forage source.

Through our Regenerative Ag Program, we seek to investigate and promote practices that improve the natural capital resilience of soil and farming practices. We’ve had a series of demonstration sites run over the past four years to support the use of summer and multi-species cover crops growing (in winter and the spring/summer period). For more information on growing summer cover crops, take a look at the case studies on our page or contact Josh Telfer on 0460 000 290.

A sticky beak at local crops

SAGIT funded AIR EP/EPAG Research Intern Bek Fatchen presenting her work on time of sowing and sowing depth at the Minnipa sticky beak day.

Update from our Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator Amy Wright who has been supporting Agricultural Bureau and farmer groups with their annual sticky beak and crop walk days during the past few months.

Across the Eyre Peninsula there have been 10 farmer-led events held with more than 400 farmers and industry representatives attending. This year a range of topics were discussed and sites visited, including SA Drought Hub funded demo sites, wheat, barley and oats NVT sites as well as a range of other trial sites that AIR EP & SARDI are involved with.

Lentils were a widely discussed crop on many of the days, with discussion around issues such as broadleaf weed control, suitable soil types, disease management and harvest-ability.

With the 2022 season being kind to low rainfall areas of Eyre Peninsula, it was great to see some very impressive crops as far west as Ceduna and Nundroo, right through to Cowell and everywhere in between.

Photo: At the Franklin Harbour Ag Bureau Sticky Beak, Nutrien Ag's Richard Norris presenting on using mixed species to improve soil health at one of our grant demonstration sites. 

In profile: our Sustainable Agriculture Project Officer and Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator

Josh Telfer and Amy Wright

Find out more about our team who deliver agriculture support across the EP.

Josh Telfer is our Sustainable Agriculture Project Officer. Josh works for AIR EP with his key role being the delivery of the EP Landscape Board’s Sustainable Agriculture Project. This covers the use of multi-species cover crops and pastures, salinity and acidity, plus most things agricultural as part of the AIR EP team.

Since starting this role, he’s run numerous workshops; taken soil, water and plant samples; and talked to farmers from across the region.

Josh says he loves hearing what different farmers are up to and being able to work with them to get better outcomes for their soils, animals and crops.

Before his work with AIR EP, Josh was working in the family farm business at Ungarra and has also worked for PIRSA as a soils officer, as well as working as an agronomist in Asia and Africa.

Josh is passionate about farming, the Eyre Peninsula, and helping farmers achieve long term production goals while looking after their land. Contact Josh about growing a mixed species crop or any other sustainable agriculture issues.

P: 0460 000 290

Amy Wright is the Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator for the Eyre Peninsula region, funded by the Australian Government. She works for AIR EP to deliver this role, working closely with Josh and the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board supporting the Sustainable Agriculture Project.

Growing up on the Far West Coast and in more recent years being based in Kimba, Amy has an understanding of Eyre Peninsula farming systems, and her past experience working as an agronomist is an advantage when collaborating with farmers and groups.

Amy provides project support to AIR EP and Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board, as well as supporting the EP Ag Bureau groups and farmer groups with events such as annual sticky beak days and seeking funding opportunities. Contact Amy to find out what opportunities are available for collaborating with other farmers or what events are coming up.

P: 0467 004 555

Lower Eyre salinity mitigation

Event report from our Sustainable Agriculture Project Officer, Josh Telfer

We held a salinity mitigation workshop with local farmers in September at Ungarra, following landholder enquires and concerns about how best to manage salinity, as well as an identified generation gap in experience in dealing with salinity.

High rainfall in early 2022 followed with above average winter rainfall, has resulted in areas that have been significantly waterlogged, and with surplus water in the landscape, this is turbo charging salinity issues - in a similar manner to what was observed in other recent above average rainfall seasons (2010 and 2016).

Workshop speakers included Brett Masters and Brian Hughes from SARDI; and Mallee seeps expert Chris McDonough from Insight Extension for Agriculture. The presenters were able to cover the spectrum of the sources and types of salinity, land practices that contribute to salinisation, the impact of salt on crops, and the impact of farming systems changes over the past 20 years.

There was visit to a nearby paddock with waterlogging and linked saline discharge area, where the group was able to discuss some of the different types of salinity and possible management issues. These included revegetation, summer crops to reduce immediate soil water and waterlogging, but also how to use strategic lucerne, salt tolerant species such as puccinellia, perennial shrubs and trees; and the strength and weaknesses of these approaches.

There was a presentation and discussion about how to use the Mallee seeps/salinity decision tree from Chris McDonough which has been developed by Mallee Sustainable Farming.

A presentation and Q&A session followed on the use of drainage in managing salinity with material presented from Brian Hughes (SARDI) along with how it related to other salinity management.

The key call to action for participants from Chris McDonough was “Do what you can to try to avoid damp, bare soil over summer”.

Junior Landcarer competition

Do you have a budding young photographer in your family? A What’s in your backyard? photo competition is now open!

Junior Landcare together with Landcare ambassador Costa Georgiadis, are inviting Aussie children, schools and youth groups to snap photos of the flora and fauna in their backyard – and share with Costa why their photo is special to them.

“Your backyard might be a garden. If you live in an apartment, your garden could be plants on your balcony. You may live near a park or bushland area, or a river or wetland. You may live on the coast close to the sea, or on a farm – these could all be your backyard,” says Costa.

Children can enter as many photos as they like, selecting a theme that best suits their photo - biodiversity, food production, waste management and recycling or First Nations perspectives.

The winning school or youth group stands the chance of winning a camera, book hampers and visit from Costa, with cameras and book hampers also up for grabs for individual State and Territory winners.

To enter or for more info, simply go to Competition closes 31 October.

And if you’re looking for other activities to inspire kids, the Junior Landcare Learning Centre’s Just for Fun section is packed with activity sheets developed to help children at home and at school explore Junior Landcare and create their own ideas.

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