Kirkbys in line for Bob Hawke Landcare Award honour

Justin and Lorroi Kirkby, Amarula Dorpers, Gravesend, nominated for 2020 Bob Hawke Landcare Award

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Lorroi and Justin Kirkby, Amarula Dorpers, Gravesend, are in the running for the 2020 Bob Hawke Landcare Award. Photo: Supplied

Lorroi and Justin Kirkby, Amarula Dorpers, Gravesend, are in the running for the 2020 Bob Hawke Landcare Award. Photo: Supplied

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The Gravesend producers are among the award's three 2020 finalists.

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YEARS of commitment to Landcare has been recognised for two North West producers in the form of a nomination for a prestigious award.

Justin and Lorroi Kirkby, Amarula Dorpers, Gravesend, are among the three finalists for the 2020 Bob Hawke Landcare Award, which celebrates producers committed to Landcare, natural resource management and sustainable agriculture.

The Kirkbys will represent NSW while Andrew Stewart, Yan Yan Gurt West Farm, Corangamite will represent Victoria and James Walker, Camden Park Station, Longreach will represent Queensland.

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Landcare Australia chief executive officer Dr Shane Norrish said an overwhelming number of people were nominated for the award.

"We received very strong nominations from across the country, demonstrating there is a strong interest to be recognised for this distinguished national accolade," Dr Norrish said.

"The award will be presented to an individual who actively pursues, introduces and shapes innovative farming systems to improve productivity, profitability, sustainability, and the quality of our natural resources."

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the award would honour those who were leading the way in the industry.

"Australian farmers are among the most productive and efficient in the world," Mr Littleproud said.

"We also farm more sustainably than just about any country on earth, and our clean green image is already paying off and helps us send our food all over the planet.

"This award is now more significant than ever, with our internationally-recognised clean green reputation helping to underpin our recovery from COVID-19."

Working alongside North West Local Land Services (LLS), the Kirkbys recieved the nomniation after years of work which has allowed them to transform bare hills on their Gravesend property into thriving pastures with improved soils.

As part of the LLS' Check, Ready, Grow program, the Kirkbys have planted a variety of different pastures, which has improved soil health, groundcover and biodiversity.

"This has allowed us over the past two years, to undertake fencing, increase plantings of multi-species annuals, pasture, saltbush, trees and shrubs," Mrs Kirkby said.

"This financial and professional support allows us to get essential infrastructure in sooner: without this, the projects we've undertaken would have been smaller and taken longer."

As a result of the measures, the operation has enjoyed better conception rates with its stock, as well as achieving greater profits, despite running less stock.

Another positive result of planting multi-species annuals has been a reduction in weeds as well as the return of native legumes and grasses such as emu bush and curly windmill grass.

Problem plants such as galvanised burr, mintweed, and castor oil have become much less prevalent on the Kirkbys' property and in turn have caused the operation's chemical bills to drop.

Mr Kirkby said other benefits of reduced spraying included opening up the soil for better infiltration, providing carbon and supporting soil biology, that will be there when the native grasses return.

"Going away from herbicides to kill weeds, we are seeing the return of native species, and improved soil biology," Mr Kirkby said.

"We view weeds now as useful, by leaving the weeds we get the use of their root systems to build soil health and biology, aid water infiltration and provide humus later on, which is a part of the soil-building process.

"Of course, the other major benefit has been the saving on chemical."

The award winner will be announced at a virtual ceremony on August 5 and the winner will receive a $50,000 prize, which has to go towards further development of their knowledge and skills in sustainable land management.

To register for free as an online delegate at the National Landcare Conference and National Landcare Awards, visit https://nationallandcareconference.org.au

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