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Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 7:34 am
by duane
Yes, I have one:

Learn to spell correctly

Then we could understand your inane posts.....or just go back to Tasmania.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 7:57 am
by Stringybark
Ghosta, can you tell me why willows would grow in this down stream scenario? Or any other plant for that matter. Why does any plant grow where it has? Just tell me the answer to that last question please.

I must add. I am one of your ignorant hick farmers, as you put it.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:26 am
by ghosta
Im relatively new to the idea of NSF, so I came to this site to find out information about how others have been able to apply the principles and how the concept is progressing. This site looked a though it may be a usefull source of information for farmers wishing to adopt NSF. The subject certainly attracted a lot of interest following the ABCs "Australian Story" and at the time was a topic of much interest to the farmers I regularly dealt with at the time. I only read Peter Andrews book recently, and this prompted me to come here.

I had expectations of finding farmers posting their solutions and what research projects were being done by the CSIRO and Agricultural deparments to find practical solutions to NSF implimentation. Instead I found NSF was extremely marginalised, with much of the initial interest lost, and the proponents of NSF actually abusing the very government departments that could make NSF a mainstream farming alterntive.

Reading the CSIROs 1992 report I found that Peters work generalally had acceptance amonsts the scientific community although not all aspects of it were supported. Having a scientific background myself I though what a grat coup Peter had achieved; it is the nature of science to demand rigourous proof of new concepts and Peter, as a layman had acheived a remarkable degree of acceptance amongst the scietific community for some aspects of his work. All scientists hold theories that are yet to be proven, like many of Peters ideas, but the major difference I saw here was that unlike the response in the scientific community some proponents of NSF has chosen to dig in, and resort to abuse and belittlement. Scientists know they will get nowhere by adopting this sort of stance, instead they go about proving their theories through research.

The nett result seems to me that the mainstream scientific community has chosen to leave NSF pretty much alone. Why would they bother when all they get is abuse from the more vocal element of NSF, over some of the offshoot issues of NSF. Willows are an example of this, willows are not an essential component of NSF, there are alternative plants that could be used, but we may never know the most suitable ones because appropriate reseach is not being done, and the way its going, may never be done.

Not surprisingly the mainstream farmer has ignored most aspects of NSF; the concepts are not easy to put into practice an they cannot go to their local agricultural department for advice. NSF has had more sucess on the margins, with hobby farmers and a few Collins St Cockies putting in some real efforts. But the mainstream farmer is unlikely to look at the work they are dong with much enthusiasm simply because in general, this group doesnt acually know much about farming. Yes there are some that do, and some mainsteam farmers involved, but the numbers are small.

And they are likely to remain that way. The widespread wet season we are enjoying will have a major influence- NSF will be seen as not important at present...why worry about water management when your paddocks are flooded and the soil saturated. Farmers are more concerned about getting rid of the excess water rather than conserving it, and in these good times traditional farming methods with high input costs etc are actually quite profitable and they need to maximise the opportunities that have been denied to them for so long because of drought conditions.

Frankly if I was a farmer visiting this site to find out about NSF I would turn away in disgust. We have a very vocal poster, probably just a schoolkid, here, who abuses anyone who holds the slightest differnce in opinion, who has zero social skills and zero practical experience and continually rants from a book, saying just how easy NSF is. He is certainly doing the cause of NSF great harm.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:14 am
by duane that was a really excellent post !!

You articulated it well and gave clear, logical criticisms, many of which I agree with. Good, constructive criticism, that is what we want! And it is then something, which we call all learn from.

Keep going in this vein.....and your contributions will really be appreciated.

Well done.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:55 am
by Stringybark
Ghosta, I am a conventional farmer who came to this site seeking more knowledge.
I'm quite happy with the information and the other posters on this forum. If I don't agree with something, I will do my own research. It can be as simple as sectioning off a given area and watching what happens. NSF to me tends to be about leaving things alone to a certain extent. It makes you examine the land in a more detailed sense. It's not hard at all.
You came to this forum and introduced yourself with aggressive patronising statements. You show your lack of knowledge with your opinions. What do you think is going to result from that grand entrance?
I am not asking you to stop offering your opinion. However the very accusations you claim, can be thrown back at you.
As for farmers not worrying about the future. I am going back out after lunch to try and get a header out of the bog. It might be wet here now, but it won't be forever. Most farmers do look ahead. You make a bloody lot of assumptions about other people.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:24 pm
by duane
Ghosta said
Frankly if I was a farmer visiting this site to find out about NSF I would turn away in disgust.
Ian James is a WA wheat and sheep farmer. He has one of the most popular threads on this forum:

NSF is working in WA
1 ... 7, 8, 9by Ian James » Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:17 pm 126 Replies 21309 Views Last post by Ian James

Ian has had 21000 hits....this being. I believe, because he is firstly a farmer, trying new things and secondly, he is a gifted writer.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:02 pm
by matto
ghosta wrote: Lets look at this as a practical solution.
Your farm has willows which you underplant with suitble species. All is going well and the wilows begin to die out. We have a wet year and floods occur. Willow branches are torn off and are carried downstream for miles and are caught in the debris. They begin to shoot. What do you do now?
Well you could say its not my problem. Those with willows can underplant if they want to or remove them themselves.
You could adopte Duannes attitude and say Im doing you ignorant hicks a favour, the willows are great and you farmers are just stupid. I know better than anyone else, Ive read a book about it.
Any other suggestions?
Willows will only take hold along sections that have an open canopy and sparse understory.
Riparian corridors should be developed to halt erosion and runoff, but this doesnt seem to be a top priority in peoples management plans.
People espousing NSF and other regenerative practises tend to be open source and waz lyrical about their endevours.
Maybe we should become more open proponants for change in our local communities and catchments.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:36 pm
by Shirley Henderson
Hello again Ghosta,
I am back for that chat. Firstly I would like to say that you are asking questions we have all asked. We have gone out and asked questions, done our research and tried things out. If you are really interested, you will be doing the same. Let’s not condemn it until you get some of your own experience because there are plenty of others out there that have just listened to what is being said with out trying things out or learning for themselves. I believe we have taken a wrong direction with this stance on weeds and willows and it definitely warrants review with a different way of thinking. That is the first step NSF requires for you to even begin to understand it.

Your comment: Once it starts to effect someone else, in my view its cut and dried, its eradication or measures guaranteed to prevent the effect.

It works both ways. What is going on at other properties effects our own properties. So if things are wrong they effect us. If willows are the right thing for fixing waterways then you are doing your neighbours a favour, they just do not realise it yet.

Another of your comments: A farm is not a unit by itself, what you do can affect others. And the implications of the a dam that bursts must also be considered.

Dams are pretty bad in my view. You are correct about that! The unforeseen from the past is being seen now. NOW is the time for us to realise our past mistakes, although that is ongoing isn’t it?

DUANE: Your comment; the only way to get an answer is to ask the researcher the question (or in this situation); ask questions (about NSF) and Ghosta is doing that. I guess he is asking the questions that others may want to ask but have not. Also underlying questions for some. I like the way Ghosta is up front because as you know these questions can be answered here. To you Ghosta I would say that Duane is of great help but if you want to be treated with respect you must treat others with respect.

Ghosta: Your comment; The widespread wet season we are enjoying will have a major influence- NSF will be seen as not important at present...why worry about water management when your paddocks are flooded and the soil saturated. Peter addresses the wet seasons and there are many outcomes and concerns Peter has raised in regards to erosion, salinity, water disappearing down European style river systems, just to mention a few. This rain will provide short term relief but NSF provides long term solutions.
I read in one of Peters books a quote from Aldo Leopold and it struck a chord for me…….. "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

Now I don’t JUST read books, I extend what I read into what I practice.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 2:33 pm
by ghosta
Back to the topic of Willows.
Can anyone post the reasons why there has been a concerted effort to eradicate willows over the last few decades? What has changed? The answers are readily avaiable on the net, but Im wondering if anyone here is aware of them.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 4:11 pm
by sceptic
Well that was all quite interesting, lets look at a couple of points from the CSIRO press release:
“A comparative study of native vegetation water use lining the same watercourse, showed willows could be replaced with native vegetation and the annual water savings would be maintained.”
According to Ms Doody, the removal of willows leaves more water in streams, and replacing them with native vegetation like red gums, which have a lower evaporative loss and are more ecologically suited to Australian riparian areas, enables most of the water savings to be maintained.
Surely returning water to the system, given all the demands on our rivers is a good thing? Sure, you want to do the replacement properly, ideally you'd clean out a couple of patches, plant longstem tubestock, go another 100 metres downstream and do it again etc etc, come back over successive years and do the same thing, you've returned water to the system and maintained bank stability. Given the spread of the Willow Saw Fly we could lose most of the willows anyway.

While we're looking at research, lets have a look at what the ARC research report into NSF at Baramul had to say about willows. Actually not much, it did say lots about Casuarinas though.

Casuarina cunninghamiana accelerates bench development and plays a synergistic role in channel contraction (P7)
* Clonal grasses, reeds and tree C. cunninghamiana assisted geomorpic processes.
* River training works were effective after 1981 because they coincided with the main period of naturaal channel contraction.
* Baramul NSF stream works assisted vegetation recovery but occurred after the main period of channel contraction. (P21)
* Significant positive feedback between C. cunninghamiana recruitment and the rate of channel contraction after extensive channel widening. (P23)
Note: there's a lot more on pages 22 & 23 on Casuarina cunninghamiana but I really don't want to retype it all and it is quite positive about the Casuarinas.
* The recolonisation of native vegetation such as Casuarina cunninghamiana (given appropriate seed source) plays an important and synergistic role in channel contraction, negating the use of such weeds as Salix spp in NSF (P44)
Native plants such as river oak (Casuarina spp) have proven extremely effective at stabilising stream beds and banks. Stock exclusion and limited grazing enhanced the establishment of native seedlings. The use of natives for this purpose is preferred over exotic weeds. (P48)
There's quite a lot more in the report and nowhere in there can I see an endorsement of planting willows, it endorses planting natives and fencing off waterways which is what people in Natural Resources Management have been recommending for years.

(editted to put in page references)

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 8:50 pm
by duane
I could sit here all day every day putting up posts and information.

The internet is such an amazing resource.

The truth is out there........

Willows are the worlds top riparian plant.

They offer important environmental services, demonstrated through many restorative projects eg the Hunter River after the devastating floods of the 1950's. Their unique root mat captures sediments, cleanses water of excess fertilisers, which can prevent blue green algal blooms from occuring, and they can also build up fertility in degraded gullies.

A recent paper by Dr Michael Wilson from MDBA states, "Research demonstrates that a cleared river reach has significantly worse ecosystem benefits than either a willow lined or mature native vegetation lined stream. Clearing will mobilise sediment, nutrients and organic matter, will make heterotrophic streams more autotrophic, will threaten habitat values for invertebrates and fish and will threaten pool-riffle sequences. There is a better way to manage willows; succession."

This an important read for anyone involved in river restoration projects.... see Dr Wilsons paper link above. Any student of botany is well aware of the process of plant succession. Healing a damaged landscape, caused by fire, flooding or over grazing, or ploughing , sees Nature send in the repair and stabilizing plants to secure the (eco)system. As humans, we have a tendency to call these plants, weeds. Nature does NOT. We need to appreciate the environmental function these primary colonisers are performing before eradicating them with poisons and machines. Simple eradication can leave behind the very conditions in which the 'weeds' once again proliferate.

Succession is the process of allowing pioneer plants to build topsoil and improve conditions so that longer lived and less 'weedy' species will grow through. If you have studied botany, either at school or at tertiary level, or in Google or Wikipedia you will be well aware that willows are primary colonisers.

They secure the damaged stream beds and banks which would become exposed to further erosion and destruction if no plants were present. These willows prepare the landscape for the secondary colonisers, which in Australia are the casurinias. Secondary colonisers are typically N fixers. Guess what?? That exactly what casuarinas do !! There are the natural endemic, secondary colonisers.In the northern hemisphere it is the alders.

Same process. Different species.

Following the sequence come the tertiary colonisers or climax plants. This is Natures way and it is the natural order of things. Here we see the red river gums, grasses such as lomandras etc.

Willows are outcompeted by the secondary plants and when they are shaded out by these fast growing giants the willows work is done and they die, their accumulated mass, becomes the carbon that feeds the next lot of plants in the sequence.
More support for more sensitive treatment of willows from various researchers and land restorers here ... 61652ba948 and here ... capes3.pdf.

Red river gums are part of the climax veg. Planting them ahead of the primary and secondary colonisers will see them out of nature's syn pattern and more then likely many will die.

Many of our native plants fail to fill the role of primary coloniser. Sweet pittosporum and white cedar may have been once the primary streambamk colonisers and reeds the streambed colonisers....but many of these, TOO are declared 'weeds'. They once were able to repair incisions when the velocities of our creeks and streams were not as intense as we see today in our highly incised systems. Once water flowed across our landscape, with a mixed biodiversity of plants protecting and preventing the minimum erosion or headwall cut. These instream plants and bank plants along with our permanent floodplain plants such as lignins also allowed for the unlimited maximum flows during flooding. These floods caused little erosive damage as our floodplains were often 8-10,000 years old. We have lost all of this functionality now.

Understanding the role of willows can be clearly had by an appreciation of the role of plant succession in Nature.They are restorative plants NOT weeds !!

Plant succession exists universally from riparian habitats, to rainforests, to grasslands etc etc etc.

I don't know why we Australians get hung up on this whole attitude of Native vs Non Native. Plants don't discriminate on the basis of race....that is a human trait.

BTW: The ARC report failed to mention that the plant nursey set up by Peter at Baramul was the use of a large number of existing willows to stabilse the system. As usual they created the conditions needed by the secondary colonisers....Casurinas.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 9:33 pm
by ghosta
Ill ask the questions again- Can anyone post the reasons why there has been a concerted effort to eradicate willows over the last few decades? What has changed?

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:20 am
by Shirley Henderson
We are all asking that question and I demand and investigation.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:51 am
by ghosta
Shirley, the reasons are well established and well documented. Its simply a matter of doing a search on the internet or reading some of the publictions put out by authorities urging control of willows.
Perhaps the defenders of willows posting here dont want to know the reasons, or dont want the reasons outlined here.

Re: The War on Willows

Posted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:07 am
by Shirley Henderson
Hello Ghosta,
Yes I have read many a document and publication. It is not as simple as just doing a search on the internet. If you read the documents correctly you will find every step of the way that Peter Andrews work holds true throughout. For the main, the stance against willows is merely due to the fact that they are not a native plant. Gradually as climate change occurs and different weather patterns prevail there will be others targeted for spreading too quickly, filling the niches left by human disturbance. This includes native plants that grow extremely fast, take over areas where they were not seen before and become declared environmental weeds because they are growing in different places than what we are accustomed to. Pittosporum undulatum is one of those so called environmental weeds. Google that and I am sure you will find they are a hated native but research deeper and you will find much more. An excellent ally for the willow I might add. I work in the field of Conservation and land management along side the authorities. I can’t speak for everyone here but I can speak for myself in saying that I do not follow blindly any cause. I research thoroughly to the furthest reaches any subject that catches my interest and Peter Andrews has held my interest and then support from the minute I first heard him speak. This will be my final post to you. You choose your path Ghosta but I no longer wish to spend my time with you. I have a busy life to get on with.