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Posted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 10:02 am
I love reading your posts....if you ever give up your day job, heaven forbid, your writing is full of such descriptive prose, you could turn to writing...
No wonder your blog is getting so many hits....thank you for sharing your nsf experience with all us www'ers.
Posted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 4:22 am
Thanks Duane, thats a very nice thing to say.
Now you put the pressure on!
I'll have to keep up the standard!
Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 5:30 pm
Recently I took up the invitation of Felicity and visited the blog of her fellow university student’s discussions on the interactions between drought and salinity.
It is very interesting to read and I strongly encourage anyone who finds that topic interesting (isn't that everyone?) to visit the site and read the students discussions and even as I did leave a post of your thoughts.
Today I received an email from Floris who identified herself as the students teacher, I am unsure of her title or position other than that but I was very flattered to be seen as relevant to the students education and the topic and really overjoyed that my two bobs worth is not being dismissed but is being truly considered and dissected.
Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 5:32 pm
Here is a copy of what Flois wrote in reply to my post.
"The paper Willem recommended reading discusses the...":
Thank you for your comment,
In my capacity as a teacher I have encouraged my students to be suspicious of everything they see and read. Too much these days we seem to take things on face value. We are interested in reporting spurious successes as opposed to questioning the facts.
In regards to your comment;
As a scientist I see nature as a set of scales. If we upset the balance on one side then we get a reaction or imbalance in the scales. To even this out we need to either put back what we have taken away or we need to take some equal quantity away from the other side of the scales to balance it up again.
Nature itself has an uncanny ability to right itself; however, often this is not ideal as in the case of salinity. From reading the students discussion sessions as well as from reading your blog site that we almost unanimously agree that
‘The action of removing trees has created a reaction of salinity (dryland and river)’
‘The current accepted model for the cause of salinity is rising groundwater table’
So what is the problem?
Dahlhaus et al. (2000) argue that a far from holistic approach has produced the accepted model and there are definite reasons for not accepting this model. They argue that the control of water logging in the soil is a key to stopping the spread of salinity.
Essentially this ties into your point that you need to control runoff, i.e. if you allow runoff to accumulate in one area this will encourage water logging and hence the accumulation of salts. Dahlhaus et al.’s recommendation is that salinity models should regard lateral flow through the ‘upper regolith’ as opposed to the traditional rising ground water models. Hence, controlling runoff becomes a major aid in stopping the spread of salinity. There is plenty you can achieve with a grader in order to control water logging.
Forgive me if you have already read this paper but I thought it and some of the references within may better explain you’re eyewitness accounts and feelings on the invalidity of the rising groundwater model (I am happy to provide a copy of this paper and other if you wish to read them). Like the climate change debate, there are those out there challenging this model and I believe that they have a stronger case than the anti climate changers, but again only time, hard work and critical thought will tell.
I commend you and others undertaking NSF, you say that you are farmers but you are experimenting like scientists to help us along a sustainable pathway towards the future.
Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 5:38 pm
Here is what Felicity wrote in her original post on this blog.
I hope some of you visit their blog and post your thoughts too.
As a degree our lecturer posts a subject realted to water which we discuss as a group, and then post as a blog.
Willem and Floris are our lecturers the rest are students. The most recent posts are at the top.
We are discussing the role of drought in salinity, and cover differnet scientific explanations for the causes of salinity, you may find it intreresting.
Please feel free to add comments.
Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 7:51 pm
The current paradigm that high water tables causes saltiny to rise is totally fallious....it is not even based on any science.
High school science students and First year science students learn that salt water is denser than fresh water, meaning, that in our hydrated floodplains a freshwater lens sat atop the salt. Salt does not rise...it moves laterally and usually occurs at the break of slope.
The incised nature of our streams and rivers means that the salt water is being drained into our waterways, whereas previously the fresh water would have held it mostly in check.
In a balanced floodplain system where there is an undisturbed coverage of green and growing plants sitting on top of a fully hydrated fresh water lens, salinity is not an issue.
The drought has prevented salt from moving...salinity will only rear its ugly head after rain...when there is water in the system to move the salt laterally. A prolonged wet cycle after the long drought will prove far more damaging environmentally than the effect of the drought.
Traditional irrigation also causes salinity because of the losses due to evaporation. Australia had evolved the most sustainable irrigation...that was the storage of fresh water in grass covered dams (our floodplains). High water tables meant that soils could be maintained at Field Capacity for very long periods and water would stay in the floodplain for 7-8 years defying drought.
Proper understanding of of natural systems would see a major change in our agriculture...salt was never a problem in this country before we removed most of its vegetation and we turned our rivers and streams into storm water drains.
The system ran itself for thousands of years...we in our ignorance have really upset the balance. The real solution to restoring the balance is I believe in NSF principles.
Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 4:06 pm
Everything has been quiet here while harvest was being completed.
Many of my vetiver plants which I thought were dead began to shoot once the summer set in.
The pond in my creek once again was overflowing a week before Christmas when we had a rain event of 45 ml in one day.
Unfortunately some of the weir was eroded down to the rock wall foundation of the weir taking with it most of the vetiver plants that had begun to shoot.
Even so the pond is teaming with small fish and has not once been even close to being empty since we built it in early July.
I now expect it to remain "full" throughout the year meaning I will have created a permanent wetland on my property.
The coming months will tell, we now enter the driest period of the year.
Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 4:10 pm
I have contacted a journalist from a well known agricultural news paper and told him of my trial.
He is interested and plans to visit Thursday.
He asked me to write him a short outline of what NSF was.
This is what I wrote him.
In preparation to your visit tomorrow I am writing for you an outline of Peter Andrews' NSF (Natural Sequence Farming).
Peter has written a book titled back from the Brink, this book has become a best seller and Peter has been in the media a lot in the east, the most impact of which was his coverage on Australian Story.
It is no coincidence that his popularity comes at a time of increased public awareness of environmental issues, the fact is that Peter has been trialing his theories since the early 70's on his Tarwyn Park property at Bylong NSW.
On reading his book my wife and I decided to do some trials of our own on our property to see if we could replicate some of his successes here in the West.
I do not want to attempt to rewrite his book of theories and explanations here, instead I will try to outline his basic idea and describe how his practices are relevant to us and how we believe they might show some successful results in our landscape here.
Peters’ idea revolves around hydrology, that is, the movement of water through the landscape from the point of rainfall to the ocean.
His basic theory is to slow the movement of that water at every point, to keep it where it falls as long as possible all the way through the catchment.
He explains that since the introduction of livestock, the clearing of the land, the extinction of natural wetlands and flora, most floodplains and catchments have changed from being large broad sponge like wetlands to being narrow drains cut deep by erosion with little root entanglement to slow or hold the water.
Following this, he explains that where a wetland is created, by the building of simple weir like structures across a creek line, creating a pond inside the channel of the creek a natural sequence of events will follow that will begin to restore to health the localised landscape by encouraging the establishment of micro ecco-systems, building deposits of nutritious humus and storing water in the landscape available for all life in the area to thrive.
In essence, by holding even saline water in the landscape, we are plugging the drain, the same drain that is draining from the landscape our precious fresh water.
Saline water is heavier than fresh water and it will drain from the bottom of the deep eroded creek beds and while doing so any fresh water in the landscape sitting above it will sink into the saline zones until it too will drain out leaving our land parched and dry so that any new rainfall is quickly absorbed out of the root zone.
The task is to create a series of weirs along the creek beds creating a chain of ponds, if possible along the length of the catchment. Once this initial objective is achieved a sequence of chain events is ignited where a fresh water lens will permeate out from the waterway across the landscape and in so doing will sit atop the natural saline water table and suppress it, exactly as it was before the arrival of man and the introduction of burning and so on.
Core to the successful implementation of such a strategy is the understanding that plant life is paramount.
Any plant life at all which is successful in gaining a foothold in a hostile environment must be seen as beneficial and be protected and encouraged. These plants, sometimes seen as undesirable due to their invasive nature will eventually suffer from their own success as other less invasive plants find that the new softer environment created by their predecessors is a viable habitat. This is nature’s way.
It is absolutely essential that this key point be understood by any and everyone intent on improving a landscape.
To create a healthy landscape the most vital ingredient is water, let nature take care of the rest.
Look forwards to seeing you Thursday.
Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:01 pm
Good to hear from you Ian in 2008.
A quick update for all those interested in NSF in WA.
There are now TWO NSA Local Chapters about to be launched in WA:
the first in the Blackwood Basin area headed up by Greg Hales and his group; and the second in Geraldton headed up by Brad and Denise McLean, with wide community involvement and sponsorship from a big mining company.
Greg and his team already have AG funding for an NSF project and Geraldton have a project for which they will be applying for funding.
Both are expected to be launched in the next couple of months.
Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:07 pm
Today Colin Bettles of the "Farm Weekly" visited my trial site.
He listened closely to my explanations of NSF practices and objectives.
My trial site did 99% of the talking for me and I could soon see that he was very excited by the possibilities for the salvation of our degraded farmland that were suggested by the amazing changes taking place in my creek.
I too was amazed once again by what I discovered as I inspected the site.
Scooping a handful of water from a small pocket of water that had collected close to the edge of the creek bed just down stream of the weir I had built I could not hide my astonishment to find that on carrying out my customary taste test to asses the salinity, the water was pure and fresh.
This in a creek bed where the burn from the extreme salt concentrations within the water would normally have me swiftly searching for the water bottle to gargle and avoid instant fossilisation of the tongue.
In fact I found that for about 50m down stream of the weir there lay large puddles obviously created from seepage out of the weir which were all fresh enough for me to swallow without discomfort.
Apart from my weir and these puddles the entire creek is bone dry for the length it runs though my property, some 5km or so, and white salt crystals cake the surface of the banks and creek bed completely.
Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 9:44 am
Looks like WA will be leading the charge in 2008 to form local chapters of NSA.
Presently there are 3 groups
preparing to launch in the coming months:
Geraldton Mingenew Chapter
Blackwood Basin Chapter.
People in WA in these areas who want to join to learn more and build capacity in NSF are welcome to register their interest on this blog.
As well, anyone else in WA or anywhere in Australia who wish to register their interest in getting a local chapter up in their community are also welcome to register their interest here or by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:19 am
Recently Duane made this explanation on hydrology.
I am going to paste it here because it describes exactly what I saw on my last inspection of my creek pond.
It is important to remember that where you get ponding upstream you create a (-ve) hydraulic pressure.....here only certain plant spp will grow, such as phragmites sp.
Downstream from the weired ponding the pressure is reversed i.e., it becomes (+ve).
This is the riffle area of the pool/riffle sequence.
Here you can grow grass. she oaks etc.. Note these plants WILL NOT GROW in the -ve zone.
The explanation of (-ve) and (+ve) hydraulic pressures is pretty simple.... water held back by ponding (pool) is at a higher level than the immediate area downstream (the riffle)....the mass of water in the pond exerts downward pressure in the pond (-ve pressure) forcing an upward (+ve) pressure and upward movement of water into the riffle area.
This is part of a natural landscape component and sequence which once operated universally in intact systems.
I am able to drink the water which is being pushed up by the (+ve) pressure of the pond, just downstream of the weir wall.
These quite large drinkable puddles/pools have formed in the creek bed in the riffle area of the pool and are separate from the more saline (not drinkable) water which leaks through the wall from the weir and trickles down stream for 100 yards or so before disappearing into the sandy creek bed.
As I mentioned before the creek is dry along its entire length except for these puddles/pools and the weir.
The presence of this fresh water which is being pushed up by the pressure created by the weir demonstrates the following.
1. That there is fresh water under the saline creek.
2. That the salinity of the creek may be confined to the surface.
3. That the salinity is likely present in high concentrations at the surface due to evaporation.
4. That the weir has created an effect of pushing this fresh water upwards in enough volume as to exceed the rate of evaporation.
I am sure I could go on and on but that will do for now.
I now have a question which must be investigated now that I understand the above.
What is happening in the area of negative pressure just upstream from the weir?
Stay tuned, I'll check it out soon.
Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2008 3:39 am
Recently I announced that I was planning to hold a meeting to form a chapter of the Natural Sequence Association here in the Avon catchment.
I contacted all who had shown a strong interest in NSF and who lived roughly within the catchment and invited them to my farm to view the trial site I have been writing about on here and to join me for the initial meeting of our new association.
We met in the fast dispersing cool of a brilliant blue summer morning and made our way down to the creek to examine the latest developments in the sequence of restoration that is evolving there.
We were a group of three women, four men and seven children.
The kids had a great time exploring the length of the pool and the adults who had not before seen the trial were keen to examine and question the complex array of cause and effect laid out before them like a tasty new dessert.
That the building of the weir had resulted in a remarkable and incredible transformation in the immediate area was not in question.
Nor that the site presented to the eye far and away improved, the stark contrast between the dry sandy creek bed viewed on our approach to the site and the abundance of water in the healthy pool zone evidence of the restorative process underway.
The visiting men all were fly bitten, sun hardened tough nut, broad acre WA farmers.
Pragmatic realists the lot, fancy new solutions flogged mercilessly from their hides by unrelenting lashes of unfulfilled hope, not ones to be taken lightly or easily impressed.
But I reckon I did alright.
We held a meeting and made a few elections and everyone present became members or joined the committee.
The common thread that spun from the banter was one of fine, cautious optimism together with a strong character of steely resolve.
A very comfortable combination and a fantastic knit of experience and exuberance with which to rope a landscape of restoration.
A growing awareness.
Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 6:00 am
I have been waiting for a chance to write about an interesting aspect of the growing awareness of NSF and Peter himself that is really taking hold among the population here in WA.
The other day, a man arrived on my farm with his Father to pick up an item of machinery I had recently replaced.
I have been in contact with him since mid November as a result of his reply to my advert I put in a local Ag. paper.
By now I knew him quite well and we had shared a few yarns, he is a young farmer hard at it. His name is Scott McLean.
Jodi, my wife invited Scott and his father Ron and their visiting friend into our house for a cuppa as it was a cold summer morning and we had been working on a modification needed to enable him to tow the implement home.
The topic as you would expect drifted to that of land care and Jodi mentioned a little of what we have been involved in re: NSF and our NSA chapter.
Without missing a beat Scott told us he had seen the land line program and had taken the chance to go see Peter speak on one of his visits to WA soon after the program was aired.
Buoyed by our common purpose we invited them to take a drive down the farm with us to view our NSF trial.
They were all very interested in what they saw, as they had followed a little of the NSF story they were fascinated to see the principles at work with their own eyes.
The latest development which I discovered and showed them with glee is to do with what I first discovered about two weeks ago when Colin Bettles, the journalist from “The Farm Weekly” visited.
At that time I found a small cup size pocket of fresh water nestled in a sheep hoof print in the riffle zone, just three meters downstream from the weir wall on foot of the southern bank of the creek.
By now this cup size pocket had developed into serving tray size puddle of “fresh” (I can taste a hint of salt) water with a large dark patch of damp earth surrounding it with small cup size pockets of even “fresher” water nestled in hoof prints scattered around it.
I explained all of what was happening to my visitors with my excitement difficult to contain and Ron told me of his involvement with the Beverly Land Conservation District Committee as president for a time and of conservation works that they had carried out on their farm.
He explained that their farm is at a junction of the Yilgarn and Lockwood sub catchments which both, like the Mortlock catchment which flows through my farm make up arms of what is know as the Avon Catchment.
Beverly if you look at a map of WA is 50 km of so south of York which itself is 75 km South West of my farm. Just to the south east of Beverly are the Yenyening lakes.
YENYENING LAKES MANAGEMENT STRATEGY 2002 - 2012
http://portal.water.wa.gov.au/portal/pa ... /WRM32.pdf
This link will give you information on the lakes.
Here is a photo.
As you can imagine with such a large floodplain they are involved in a huge battle against degradation and salinity.
These lakes are large enough to ski in when flooded.
To finish up my entry, I told Scott that Peter was visiting WA this week and offered to pick him up and journey together to see Peter when he visits the Blackwood and asked him if he would be interested in joining our NS Association as a member or even to join the committee.
He is very keen to do both.
I am very happy about that!
Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 11:32 pm
I rang Peter Andrews this morning.
He is in the Blackwood visiting farms.
It's about 4 hours drive from here but that's not a problem.
Hopefully I he is still around on Friday when I will have finished my fertiliser trucking for the time being.
If he is we should be able to catch up.
I have a million questions to ask him, I hope he is patient.