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Science at work in the southern Rangelands

News release
05 December 2022

Pastoralists are trialling methods in rangeland monitoring and will connect with pastoralists across Australia in similar trials as part of a new program in the SA Arid Lands.

Land managers at Billa Kalina, Buckleboo, Mergenia, Mt Lyndhurst, Pine Grove and Wintinna will trial the effectiveness of different remote sensing technologies and tools to map and monitor ground cover and pasture growth.

At Wintinna Station, a visit by the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) and SAAL’s Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator Andrea Tschirner aimed to collect baseline vegetation data to monitor the long term benefits of rest-based grazing systems. TERN is a national research organisation working across Australia to develop and implement innovative scientific tools to monitor Australian ecosystems.

Rest-based grazing requires the movement of stock and management of grazing behaviour in different parts of a paddock or property to allow pasture to grow and reproduce un-grazed during at least one growing season, as defined by an effective rainfall event. This form of grazing management allows healthy growth of palatable and productive pasture species, which are often eaten-out and missing in areas that are set-stocked.

This cross-border research project Mapping and Monitoring Feed from Space is being delivered by the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board. Project partners TERN and CiboLabs will support the collection and analysis of data of a variety of methods appropriate for supporting grazing management in rangelands country.

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data collected from a drone is being trialled by TERN to obtain information on vegetation structure and composition in mulga grazing country, and monitor changes over time. TERN collects in-depth information on vegetation composition and soils, using standardised monitoring protocols, at more than 900 one-hectare plots established across Australia. This data also helps validate remote sensing products collected from satellites. Tens of thousands of soil samples, soil metagenomic samples, plant voucher specimens, plant samples and plant genetic samples are archived in an extensive collection at the Waite Campus. This collection is openly available to researchers.

CiboLabs will measure and map pasture biomass in the southern Rangelands. Ground-truthing satellite imagery requires matching remotely sensed data with ground based measurements. This component of the project is critical in gaining a better understanding of pasture biomass across different land systems. Real-time mapping of pasture growth and feed reserves enables timely stocking decisions, particularly in less accessible parts of the property. Accurate forage budgeting maps and data supports good grazing management decisions to maintain cover and species composition in pastoral country.

The results of these trials will be presented at the Australian Rangelands Conference to be held in September 2023.

The Mapping and Monitoring Feed from Space project is supported by the South Australian Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund