Small Talk Summer 19-20

In this issue

Tackling the rabbit – Australia's most destructive agricultural pest

Healthy land – Healthy us and healthy horses

Everyday heroes – Inspiring stories of collaboration

Feral deer control – Please report all sightings

Free soil tests – Get yours now

Smart farms, small grants – Round 3 now open

Introducing Sophie Bass – Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator

2019 Landcare award winners – Congratulations to all

Events – Find out what landholder events are planned for this summer

Handy hint – Lime Rate Calculator

Things to do in summer – Get your property ready for the season

Tackling the rabbit - Australia's most destructive agricultural pest

PIRSA Biosecurity SA rabbit control coordinator Josh Rosser prepares oat seeds for a calicivirus distribution day on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

PIRSA Biosecurity SA rabbit control coordinator Josh Rosser prepares oat seeds for a calicivirus distribution day on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Landholders in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges are benefitting from the latest tips on controlling Australia’s most destructive agricultural pest.

As part of a PIRSA Biosecurity SA-funded program to help community and industry control rabbits, Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges (AMLR) staff recently supported five workshops for landholders. They took place in the Upper Torrens, Oakbank, Balhannah, Waitpinga, Victor Harbor and Coromandel Valley.

PIRSA Biosecurity SA Rabbit Control Coordinator, Josh Rosser, is working closely with Natural Resources staff and landholders for a state-wide collaborative approach to effective rabbit control. The aim is to foster connections between community organisations and neighbors to promote shared actions in effective rabbit control.

“Rabbits are estimated to cost South Australian primary industries $30 million annually,” he said.

“Over time, coordination of broad scale control programs has proven to be vital towards landscape scale success against the pest.”

Close to 160 landholders and producers who attended across the state learned about conventional and biological (e.g. calicivirus) control options for rabbits.

Many also took part in virus distribution days, where the K5 strain of calicivirus was mixed with seed oats and spread on their properties.

Mr Rosser said there are already reports of reduced rabbit numbers on participants’ properties.

“There have been other positive results, where some producers and landholders have formed groups to create broader control areas,” he said.

Natural Resources AMLR District Officer, Lisa Blake, said workshops created an opportunity for landholders to network and share information.

“We’re also seeing increased interest in fox control information and options, and increased sales of 1080 bait.”

To help further reduce rabbit numbers, bait distribution days will be held across the state in February 2020.

This project is funded by the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

For more information and for advice and support on controlling pests, contact your local Natural Resources Centre. 

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Healthy land = healthy us and healthy horses

By James Hall, Natural Resources AMLR Sustainable Agriculture Officer.

A Natural Resources AMLR supported farm walk at Williamstown in May 2019, with land management advisor Andy Cole discussing pasture and weed species with horse and land managers. Photo courtesy of Horse SA.

A Natural Resources AMLR supported farm walk at Williamstown in May 2019, with land management advisor Andy Cole discussing pasture and weed species with horse and land managers. Photo courtesy of Horse SA.

Horse welfare is important. So is caring for land.

It only takes one period of poor land management to severely impact on land, soil and water quality. So, ongoing training and awareness-raising for new and existing horse property owners is vital.

Better land management by horse property owners benefits us all by improved soil, water and vegetation quality and condition – along with making life better for horses (and their owners)!

Thanks to a ‘Sustainable agriculture industry support’ grant from the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board in 2018–19, Horse SA ran a project to increase landholder understanding of horse and land management titled, Small horse properties: annual management plans.

The AMLR Board is acutely aware of the strong links between healthy ecosystems and sustainable primary production. Well-managed land is required for social, environmental and economic well-being within the rural districts, as well as the adjacent area of metropolitan Adelaide.

Horse SA, as an advocacy, communication and education body, has a large and active membership throughout South Australia.

Properties with horses in the Adelaide Hills were once unfortunately known for poor land management practices, leading to erosion, soil degradation and water quality impairment. This situation has improved, however, through education and awareness raising efforts.

The Board recognises that ongoing and targeted communication and education are required to improve land care as well as horse care. New horse property managers need upskilling; while the knowledge of longer-term managers requires updating. Partnering with Horse SA has proven to be an effective way of achieving these aims.

Loving horses is not enough it seems! Understanding sound land management practices is also required.

Happy owners – happy horses

Over 50 horse property owners or managers attended themed farm walks and workshops, focusing on topics such as:

  • protecting aquatic resources
  • climate change adaptation
  • managing land by land class
  • developing property action plans
  • recovery after bushfire
  • weed control
  • plant ID and native grasses
  • maintaining soil cover
  • soil health
  • managing acid soils

Each event was evaluated – with 42 returned responses. Over 95% of attendees recorded an increase in knowledge and confidence regarding the topics covered.

More than 91% indicated they were planning to make changes on their properties subsequent to attending an event.

Comments included:

  • Thank you – very informative
  • I know we need to improve soil and land management
  • A good refresher – lots of new knowledge for me
  • Very well presented – thank you!
  • Thanks – and we need assistance with our property management plan
  • We will definitely make a property action plan!
  • Keep up the good work!
  • Good info for a future property
  • Thank you for offering this evening – it was very helpful
  • I’ve been thinking of developing a plan but don’t know where to start (comment at beginning of event)
  • Well-presented and informative

In addition, a perpetual calendar of horse property tasks, Horse keeping and land management – also available in hardcopy from Natural Resources Centres – was designed and developed to help horse property managers.

Feedback on the calendar from industry, property managers and veterinarians is also positive:

  • I just want to say what a wonderful initiative the calendar is – it’s fantastic!
  • I would love to have one (or two)!
  • This is a fabulous resource

Funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program for parts of this project is acknowledged.

Sustainable agriculture industry support grant

The Natural Resources AMLR Sustainable Agricultural Team group manages an annual grants program to help improve soil, vegetation and water management in lands under primary production.

Over 50% of the AMLR region is managed under primary production by farmers. Wise management of farmland gives us outcomes such as cleaner water, improved habitat for our native animals, as well as healthy soils, healthy food and contented livestock!

Horticultural, agricultural and other land management-based groups can apply for project funding to help improve land management practices.  Projects are co-designed and supported by Natural Resources AMLR staff. Keep an eye out in mid-2020 for information for our next round of grants and how you can be involved.

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Everyday heroes - inspiring stories of collaboration

Anthea Sellars and Kim Thompson worked together to remove weeds and revegetate the creek.

Anthea Sellars and Kim Thompson worked together to remove weeds and revegetate her creek.

Good land management isn’t always about large actions.

It can be about the everyday work landholders do on their properties to protect waterways and biodiversity, restore native habitat and nurture soils.

There are many inspiring examples of landholders and Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges (AMLR) staff collaborating to manage natural resources, improve productivity of the land, and protect the environment.

Here is a selection of our everyday heroes.

Lambs at bay

At Birdwood, the AMLR Board provided funds to help sheep farmer John Mundy fence off a significant creek on his Birdwood property. He says before the fence was built, his lambs liked nothing better than to run up and down the creek bed all day, destroying vegetation and making it bare and highly erodible.

Now, with the fence in place and stock out of the area, John’s creek is protected from erosion. The water quality is improving, and native plants are regenerating. 

“Fencing off the watercourse has made managing my property much easier,” he says.

Poplar problem

Mount Pleasant landholder, Anthea Sellers, had a problem with invasive poplars in a creek on her 52-hectare property and contacted the AMLR Board for help.

Anthea and AMLR district officer Kim Thompson developed a 3-year work plan to tackle the unwanted weeds and help re-establish the native vegetation to protect the creek and enhance biodiversity.

With Board funds providing plants, materials and some contractor work – and Anthea doing much of the labour – the creek was fenced off from stock and young native species were planted along the banks.

Anthea says without the support of the Board and AMLR staff, it would have been much more difficult to do.

“Without their knowledge, like putting in the right local species, I would have just gone to the nursery and got something to do the job as a windbreak. It probably wouldn’t have been from the area; it wouldn’t have complemented the local birds and wildlife.”

Dam breach

When the September 2016 storm event hit Adelaide, the dam on Tania Drevers’ Mt Pleasant property burst its banks. The large influx of water caused some gully erosion, then hundreds of litres of silt began running into the River Torrens.

The AMLR Board stepped in and with technical support from the Department of Environment & Water were able to provide an engineer’s report to assist in mitigating the damage.  The Board shared costs with Tania to build a rockway to trap the silt and prevent further erosion.

“The AMLR staff were very helpful and we’ve had a fantastic result from the mitigation of the catastrophic erosion,” says Tania.

“They’ve also given me guidance as to where to place fences, helped fund my revegetation work, and provided support for fencing. The fencing has made such a difference – the shelter gives so much benefit to the animals, and I think pastures also thrive a bit more when you have shelter around them.”

For advice on property management, contact your local Natural Resources Centre.

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Feral deer control - please report all sightings

Erosion trail caused by deer in the Mount Lofty Ranges.

Erosion trail caused by deer in the Mount Lofty Ranges.

In the dry summer months, feral deer are easier to spot as they venture into open spaces more often.

You might see one along the northern coastal areas, through the forests of the Adelaide Hills, or down on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Feral deer are a risk on public roads and cause environmental damage such as:

  • trampling, grazing and ring-barking vegetation
  • compacting soil in high use areas
  • fouling waterholes
  • competing with stock for pasture
  • destroying saplings and vineyards
  • damaging fences

If you do spot one, head to DeerScan and record your sighting. 

Your data helps all local biosecurity authorities manage feral populations to reduce the damage they are causing. Feral deer are becoming a major pest throughout Australia - your help is important!

For more information please contact your local Natural Resources Centre.

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Free soil tests to combat acidification

Dr Rebecca Tonkin looking at soil health and pH near Myponga.

Dr Rebecca Tonkin looking at soil health and pH near Myponga.

All landholders in the AMLR region can now apply for a free comprehensive soil test kit which includes soil pH, carbon and nutrients.

To qualify for a free kit, you must be within the boundaries of the AMLR NRM region.

Register your interest for soil testing at your local Natural Resources Centre, by emailing Sustainable Agriculture Officer Rebecca Tonkin, or by phoning 0400 488 786.

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Smart Farms Small Grants - round 3 now open

Smart farm grants

Grants of between $5000 and $50,000 are now available under Round 3 of the Smart Farms Small Grants program.

The Smart Farms Smalls Grants program funds organisations and individuals to undertake sustainable agriculture projects. They help build the capacity and capability of Australia’s farmers, fishers and foresters, as well as broader communities, to adopt best practice natural resource management methods.

This will deliver more sustainable, productive and profitable agriculture, fishing, aquaculture and forestry industries. It also protects and improves the condition of natural resources, especially soils and vegetation, and assists in protecting Australia’s biodiversity.

Organisations and individuals can apply for Smart Farm Small Grants to fund projects that promote and deliver adoption of best practice sustainable land management.

Applicants may also apply for projects that strengthen the capacity of Landcare groups and others to build their capacity to adopt best practices. Projects can be delivered locally, regionally and multi-regionally.

Get info on past successful projects and feedback on previous rounds.

Apply for a grant.

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Introducing Sophie Bass – Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator

Sophie Bass

I’m Sophie Bass and I have recently taken on the role of Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator with the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board.

Prior to this, I worked as a Volunteer Support Officer, supporting local Landcare groups and other environmental volunteering groups by providing training opportunities and on-ground advice. I have also worked as a District Officer in the SA Murray-Darling Basin region and am experienced in providing advice on pest plant and animal control, as well as general land management advice.

I have a background in creepy crawlies, having completed my honours project on pseudoscorpions and my PhD on trapdoor spiders at the University of Adelaide. I found 19 new species of spider!

I am passionate about sustainable land management practises and the benefits of incorporating biodiversity into properties wherever possible.

I’m now responsible for publishing Small Talk, so if you have any questions, comments or feedback, please get in touch with me.

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Congratulations to the 2019 Landcare Award winners!

Australian Government Innovation in Agriculture Land Management Award went to SANTFA – Ag Excellence Alliance, pictured: Greg Butler, SANTFA.
Photo courtesy of the Landcare Association of SA and Paul Heck PHPhotography

Australian Government Innovation in Agriculture Land Management Award went to SANTFA - Ag Excellence Alliance, pictured: Greg Butler, SANTFA. Photo courtesy of the Landcare Association of SA and Paul Heck PHPhotography.

State and Territory Landcare Awards events have been taking place across the country to celebrate the impressive achievements in the Landcare community.

Landcare plays a leading role in changing Australia’s approach to sustainable agricultural practices, environmental protection, conservation of land and waterways, coastlines, biodiversity and landscapes.

The 2019 Awards profiled individuals and groups from urban and rural communities who work together to care for our country.

Landcare champions for nine national award categories have been announced across the country.

Congratulations to the following South Australia 2019 Landcare Award winners:

  • Australian Government Individual Landcarer Award - Trevor Waldhuter, The Barossa Bushgardens
  • Australian Government Partnerships for Landcare Award – McLaren Vale Biodiversity Project
  • Australian Government Landcare Farming Award – Barossa Grape and Wine Association
  • Virgin Coastcare Award – Taperoo Dunes Group
  • Woolworths Junior Landcare Team Award – Barmera Primary School Young Environment Leaders
  • Australian Government Innovation in Agriculture Land Management Award – SANTFA – Ag Excellence Alliance
  • Australian Community Media Landcare Community Group Award – Kersbrook Landcare Group
  • Austcover Young Landcare Leadership Award – YACCA (Youth and Community in Conservation Action) Indigenous Land Management Award - Maralinga Tjarutja Lands, Oak Valley Community

The winners from the 2019 State and Territory Landcare Awards go forward to the 2020 National Landcare Awards, to be held during the 2020 National Landcare Conference.

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Landholder events are supported by funding by the NRM levy and the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

Controlling woody weeds in waterways (free workshop and information session)
Saturday 14 December, 9:30-11:30 am, Birdwood
More details and registration

Horse SA – Horse property success stories (free webinar)
Monday 16 December, 7 pm
More details and registration

Horse SA – Track your horse or livestock around the paddock or trail (free info and networking session)
Monday 13 January, 7 pm, Adelaide Hills Business Centre
More details and registration

Horse SA – Not all paddocks are created equal (free info and networking session)
Monday 17 February, 7 pm, Adelaide Hills Business Centre
More details and registration

More information on Horse SA events.

A practical guide to rural land management 
An 8 week course on rural land management, presented by specialist rural consultants and natural resources management staff. Will run on consecutive Wednesday evenings, beginning 5 February and concluding 25 March. A weekend farm walk is also included. You’ll learn all about soil health (theory and practical), pasture management, stocking rates, biodiversity, pest animal and weed identification and control, watercourse and dam management, bushfire preparation and property planning.
More details and registration.

Regenerative Grazing Clinic – a practical hands-on workshop that develops your skills as a grass manager
14 February – 16 February, Willunga 
More details and registration

Grass to Dollars 
A fantastic opportunity for producers across the Barossa and surrounding areas. Will run for 12 months, with 8 x half day group sessions and individual on farm coaching sessions. Likely to start early in the year but registrations must be made now.
More details and registration

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Handy hint – Lime Rate Calculator

handy hint lime rate calculator

A new handy tool for landowners will become available in the next few months. 

The Lime Rate Calculator allows landholders to quickly and easily look up the lime rate they need to apply to get their soil from the current pH (as measured in CaCl2) to a target pH of 5.5 CaCl2.  

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Things to do – summer

  • Review your stock numbers and assess your water and feed resources for the coming months. Will you have enough water and water points/troughs for your livestock? How much feed is available and how much feed to buy in? Get information on managing livestock.
  • Containment areas are a great option to carry stock through the summer with ease of access to water points and meaningful supplementary feeding, and as we wrap up harvest. Get information on stock containment.
  • Control woody weeds during their main growing season from November to the end of February. Also keep an eye on broadleaf weeds following summer rain. Get identification and control guides.
  • If it has been 5 years or more since your soil was last tested in grazing or hay paddocks, arrange for a soil pH and nutrition test. These can be provided free of charge for landholders within the boundaries of the AMLR NRM region. Email Sustainable Agricultural Officer Rebecca Tonkin, or phone 0400 488 786.
  • Targeted baiting programs can help mitigate the impacts of pest animals. Rabbit baits can be obtained from most agricultural retailers and Natural Resources Centres. Baiting is most successful in the hot summer months when rabbits are hungry and susceptible to heat. 
  • Plan your fox control before lambing season. Fox baits are available from your local Natural Resources Centres. (Please phone ahead to ensure they are available and you understand the legislated requirements). 
  • Register pest animal sightings on FeralScan where possible. FeralScan is a community website that allows you to record and map sightings of pest animals, damage, and control activities in your local area. Use data recorded in your region to help decide where to undertake control, and coordinate with your neighbours.
  • How’s your soil cover? We like to aim for 70% groundcover to prevent erosion and allow for maximum uptake of rains. However, we also appreciate the impact of the current dry conditions. Assess your total grazing pressure and talk to your local Natural Resources Centre regarding options for increasing groundcover.
  • Don’t forget that landholders are obliged to manage fuel levels on their properties. Clean-up for fire season by slashing long grass, controlling woody weeds and clearing flammable rubbish away from your house, sheds and equipment. Ensure you have a practical Bushfire Survival Plan

And remember to stay safe during snake season

Snake season is well and truly underway. Be snake aware and stay safe by: 

  • not attempting to catch or kill snakes yourself
  • wearing boots, long, loose-fitting pants, thick socks, gaiters, and gloves where possible
  • moving away from a location if you have seen a snake.

If someone is bitten, call 000. Wrap a pressure bandage tightly over the area of the bite, then use a second bandage and splints to immobilise the limb. Keep the person calm and still until you can get medical help. 

For more information on how to maintain your property to reduce the likelihood of snakes, visit the DEW website.

For more safety tips on what to do if you see a snake, check out this Good Living blog

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Related links