Why is it that other farmers just don’t do it the same way?
Shirley, in answer to your question above, I thought I would post this letter that Peter and I received a few days ago. It is self explanatory....and contains a very positive message about Peter's work and the take up occuring across the country.
Australian Natural Systems – repairing our damaged ecosystems.
My name is Mick Alexander. My wife and I operate a highly successful grazing management business (Grazing BestPrac) based in Queensland, assisting farming and grazing families to become both profitable and productive long term. We deliver the most exciting grazing management courses in Australia “Technology of Growing Grass” which assists producers to better understand the importance of soil management, pasture management and linkage with production and profit. In the program, we explain (with real science) the important features of soil biological function, water quality and “How grass grows” and then consider the role of many of the alternative management options including:
· Rotational/ cell grazing
· Natural sequence farming
· Pasture cropping
· Green belt development (viticulture/ ally farming)
· Compost teas/ nutrient brews etc.
In the last week, I have been able to spend two days (March 27th and 28th) with Peter Andrews on “Baramul” in the Widden Valley and “Tarwyn Park” in the Bylong Valley of the Hunter River region of NSW. I like many people in the past few years have believed that Peter has some great knowledge and skills, but it is difficult to truly get a grip on the concepts unless you have been and seen the outcomes of his activities. I believe the real impact of Peter Andrew’s knowledge about landscape function will be the biggest breakthrough in managing for climate change and food security in Australia’s history.
As a trainer, I promote the concept of managing the landscape every week to primary producers, agency staff and CMA officers (more than 400 in the last 9 months). As a method of repairing the landscape, I believe the “Natural Sequence Farming” processes are a key platform with which to build any healthy system. In the last year, I have been involved with arranging four NSF field days (90, 60, 80 and 30 people attending) and eight onfarm consultations with Peter in Queensland and have seen a remarkable change in primary producer attitude to grazing and landscape management.
Many people have never considered they could change the degradation which is now evident. Even more people have believed the practices of the past were sustainable until recently.
In the past few days, I got an understanding that we really can make a difference to the ability of our land to retain water, transfer minerals and be more productive. Tarwyn Park and Baramul are perfect examples of regenerative landscapes, which are able to manage climatic variability. It was very exciting to compare catchments side by side which had varying degrees of degradation and be able to understand how they got to be that way. If we recognise how they got to be that way, then we can now do something about it.
My role in the grazing industry has been to gather research and strategic onground information, put it into a learnable package and teach farmers to implement it on their land. I am a very practical person who can see the NSF package is working. The problem as I see it is that everyone is too attached to their own intellectual property and believe theirs is more important. We need to work together.
One of the greatest problems we are facing as a population/ civilisation is the lack of water being retained in the landscape for plant function and water table recharge. We have reduced our soil carbon levels from arguably 8 – 10% (SOC) to in many cases less than 1% (SOC). Our soils are not able to with-stand dry periods or make use of wet seasons. In fact, they have completely lost their resilience. Grazing systems alone cannot repair the damage to the landscape drying out. Pasture resting and management will assist plants to become more healthy and will repair the carbon cycle in time.
However, our system needs a larger injection of energy to reduce the impact of the extreme rainfall events, erosion, degradation and salinity. I believe both “Tarwyn Park” and “Baramul” demonstrate the mechanism required to kick start the system (the trigger) as they demonstrate the:
· Management of the daily Water Cycle (green area)
· The role of mulch and litter in building landscape function
· Role of steps in the landscape
· Role of weeds and plants in the landscape and how to utilise them.
· Importance of managing floodplains and upland systems
· Management of the alleopathic effect of Eucalypts
· A variety of methods of reducing the impact of overland flow
· Mechanisms to reduce salinity
· Leaky weirs
· Level contours to reduce impact of eucalypts
· Contours to rehydrate upland dry areas
In the past 20 years, I have not seen such a comprehensive array of tools and methods to manage the natural landscape. I believe the real impact of Peter Andrew’s knowledge about landscape function will be the biggest breakthrough in managing for climate change and food security in Australia’s history. We must look to tomorrow’s ideas to solve today’s problems.