Would you like to discover the fundamentals of Holistic Management and regenerative agriculture?
That was the theme for the workshop on the first day of the three-day 'Farming Matters - for our love of the land' conference and field days held in Albury at the end of March.
Brian Wehlburg, the Director of Inside Outside Management, based at Port Macquarie delivers Holistic Management training and mentoring for farmers, environmental organisations and family business across Australia and was one of the keynote speakers.
The concept behind the Holistic Management philosophy is to improve the long-term viability of farming businesses through landscape regeneration.
Mr Wehlburg challenged his audience to consider their current land and stock management practices.
"Are you heading in the right direction or are you only really confirming what you have already done?" he asked.
"Holistic Management is about changing the way we make decisions to build resilience in our landscape and our communities."
We have to learn to live as a part of our landscape and Mr Wehlburg pointed out just about every 'square inch' of the planet is managed today, some well and some not so well. Our environment is a result of human management.
"Everywhere you go, you can see the varied responses to management," he said.
"Periodically-grazed roadsides are managed differently to adjacent paddocks.
"Roadside fenceline comparisons during the recent drought often provided a great visual example of the effects of these different management decisions. Groundcover was hugely different although the rainfall had been the same."
Mr Wehlburg highlighted that groundcover greatly assists in keeping soil cool during summer and warm during winter, aiding the penetration and retention of any rain which falls.
"After a drought or dry period when the rain does come, you have a better chance of retaining the moisture if you have ground cover and the surface of the ground is soft," he said.
"Farmers pin their hopes on rainfall restoring business profitability but what they can manage is the effectiveness of the rainfall. Groundcover increases rainfall effectiveness so even 15mm can make a huge difference". Mr Wehlburg highlighted the enormous benefit of to the landscape of improved biodiversity which again increases the effectiveness of rainfall.
Farmers should be planning now for future droughts..
"As this BOM annual rainfall chart from 1900 shows, Australia's rainfall is increasing is getting wetter - however, the landscape is drying out," he said.
- Further reading - Annual Australian Climate Statement 2010 (bom.gov.au)
Mr Wehlburg said the key to landscape regeneration is not how much rain falls, but what happens after it falls.
"Every farmer should make sure every drop of rain which falls on his land is used, not wasted. As we lose water from the landscape we lose resilience. "
Mr Wehlburg shared an observation that he had never come across a farmer who wakes up in the morning and says 'I'm going to go out and destroy a bit of my farm today', yet we all do just this, decision by decision.
"Therefore it is important that we change our decision-making process," he said.
"Not all decisions made are bad, we do make some very successful decisions but it is how we manage complex problems that is the issue.
"Every decision we make has a ripple effect.
"As landholders, we are trying to manage a very complex situation involving soil, animals, plants and microbial activity. Holistic Management gives us the framework to assist in overcoming this complexity."
Mr Wehlburg said it is up to each and every farmer to show the way.
"There are no boundaries, we need our neighbours and we have the capacity to share our knowledge with others," he said.
"Farmers should no longer think they are isolated but part of a large mutually supportive group."
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