Improving the lay of the land

Conservation, earthworks and productivity in the North West

Cropping
AN OBVIOUSLY pleased John Cranney, Combo, near North Star, as Soil Conservation Services builds bays on his property earlier in the year. As each bay was finished it was planted to barley throughout June into early July. All photos: MEL JENSON

AN OBVIOUSLY pleased John Cranney, Combo, near North Star, as Soil Conservation Services builds bays on his property earlier in the year. As each bay was finished it was planted to barley throughout June into early July. All photos: MEL JENSON

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Endangered brigalow woodland has been protected and erosion-prone country altered at Combo, in the North West.

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JOHN Cranney, Combo, near North Star, was pleased with 22 millimetres of rain at the weekend, his barley, sown bay by bay as recent earthworks were completed is now about 5 centimtres out of the ground.

The barley is being used as ground cover as he moves towards permanent pastures made up of sub tropical grasses, mixed legumes and "to bend the feed curve a bit", winter grasses.

Planting the subtropical pasture mix - featuring Gatton panic, reclaimer Rhodes and premier digit, with phalaris as a winter feed - will begin in October and be done by November as it starts to warm up.

Mr Cranney said he's going for "mickey mouse preparation" for the fine-seeded tropicals and also keeping a close eye on performance at a trial plot including plantain, chicory, brassicas and red and white clovers.

What had previously been steep country with erosion problems has been stepped into large bays by Soil Conservation Services to capture rain that falls across the property and generally slow water down.

A 50-50 co-investment with both federal and state agencies via North West Local Land Services has enabled Mr Cranney to tame slopes, decrease the chance of erosion and fence endangered brigalow near the edge of a water course.

He has worked with North West LLS and SCS to build infrastructure needed to protect the woodland.

He says it's a win all round because he's curating some good existing shelter with great environmental value for his commercial Angus herd, creating a wildlife corridor and looking after the country at the same time.

Earthworks have made slopes gentler, reducing erosion and slowing water.

Earthworks have made slopes gentler, reducing erosion and slowing water.

The project began in 2019 with a funding application. Mr Cranney secured that, and LLS funding to protect and improve groundcover on other parts of his property.

He is also working to improve groundcover and soil health with funding from Catchment Action NSW; again working with Soil Conservation Services.

"As part of the long-term work on the land, we want to improve the soil health and ecosystems here," Mr Cranney said.

"We want to improve the brigalow stands, they're big trees, and improve groundcover and soil health across the property."

Soil Conservation Services northern works coordinator David Johnson worked closely with Mr Cranney to develop the soil erosion control plan.

"Our approach was to work with John to design a body of soil construction work that took advantage of existing property assets like dams and contour banks," Mr Johnson said.

"These earthworks will divert water flow from the brigalow stand, reduce the impact of gully erosion and lead to a huge improvement in the overall condition of the vegetation."

Senior LLS officer Pippa Jones agreed these were major and positive improvements.

And then came barley, Pippa Jones, David Johnson and Mr Cranney survey the work.

And then came barley, Pippa Jones, David Johnson and Mr Cranney survey the work.

"John first approached LLS with major erosion issues; his land is quite steep in sections and prone to erosion," Ms Jones said.

"By working with John and Soil Conservation Services, we have been able to limit erosion, which was impacting groundcover in the brigalow stand.

"Fencing around the brigalow woodland has meant he can now control grazing and improve its health and condition," she said.

"This project has been a fantastic partnership between landholders and government departments, and I look forward to seeing the results."

The project is supported by North West LLS, via funding from the federal government's National Landcare Program and Catchment Action NSW.

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