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What’s hiding in your grass?

News release
28 June 2021

Posted 28 June 2021.

Did you know that native grasslands are much more than just grass – they also nurture shrubs, lilies and small herbs?

Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board Iron-grass Native Grassland Project Officer Nicola Barnes said the variety of plants growing in these grasslands is significant.

“They all grow at different times of the year, and take up different space, both in the landscape and in the soil,” Ms Barnes said.

“Farmers are increasingly focusing on soil health, and healthy soil needs living roots throughout the year.

“A diverse grassland with plants that grow at different times throughout the year and have different types of root systems is a big win for farmers interested in maximising production and soil moisture holding capacity.

“Our iron-grass native grassland project that is assisting our farmers to learn about this area is approaching the three year mark, with two years to go.

“We started off doing landscape-scale vegetation surveys to get an idea of where this type of vegetation is growing and what condition it is in.

“Next, we selected sites in the best remaining condition and have been doing more detailed monitoring to find out what types of plants are in a healthy grassland.

“We are almost finished setting up our trials for the Iron-grass Native Grassland Project, with eight landholders involved in many trials, from Terowie down to Tailem Bend.

“To improve the remaining grasslands, the best way is to introduce rest periods from grazing and to bring back some of the crucial plant species that have been historically grazed out.

“The trials include testing numerous ways to get native grass seed back out in the paddocks, in combination with best-practice grazing strategies.

The next steps for the project are to work with the landholders who are implementing the trials and to support their grazing management with vegetation monitoring and remote sensing analysis.

The Iron-grass Natural Temperate Grassland of South Australia is a critically endangered vegetation community listed nationally under the EPBC Act 1999.

Ms Barnes said this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be grazed. Native grasslands world-wide have adapted to periodic grazing. Still, they also need rest periods to re-build root structure and grow back.

“Most of this Iron-grass Natural Temperate Grassland is managed for sheep grazing. So we are keen to work with farmers to determine what they value about their grasslands, and how to sustain and improve the condition, both for sustainable agricultural practice and for the environment,” she said.

“We will be holding field days and native pasture walks in spring, which we will advertise through our e-newsletter and on our social media platforms. So, look out for them and come along to find out more.

This project is supported by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the landscape levies.

More information

Media and Communications Project Officer