Restoring native grasses for drought resilient farms

Greening Australia and Nukunu Wapma Thura Aboriginal Corporation are working on a project to harvest and plant native seeds to improve the drought resilience of farms in the Mid-North and Flinders regions of South Australia.

Funded through the Australian Government’s Natural Resource Management Drought Resilience Program, the project is particularly focused on re-establishing native perennial grasses and shrubs to create more resilient pasture for livestock, while also restoring habitat for native animals.

Dark brown direct seeding lines on arid , light brown land in South Australia. It is a grey, cloudy day with large white utes and dispersed light green, short, dry grass in the distance.

Re-establishing native perennial grasses and shrubs to improve the drought resilience of farms in the Mid-North and Flinders regions of South Australia.

Greening Australia’s Mick Durant says, “A key benefit of these perennial native pastures is that the plants establish strong root systems, so they can survive through droughts and put on new growth quickly when the rain comes. This is really useful for livestock grazing enterprises. The added benefit is that there are many local native wildlife species that will use perennial native cover and vegetation for habitat too.”

“There’s an increasing recognition among landholders that perennial groundcovers have been lost in the region, which means their livestock farming enterprises are less resilient to drought.”

“We’re focussing on working with the Upper North Farming Systems Group and some other groups up in the Quorn, Hawker and Peterborough region in the Southern Flinders – that arid, marginal agricultural country – but this is applicable anywhere.”

A brown, rusted seeding machine - a large seed storage box at the back of a trailer with two rear wheels, converted to a new, bright green direct seeding machine with red wheels and a new metal seed storage box on the back.

This particular seeding machine was playfully named ‘The Franken-Pitter’, as it is an old Camel Pitter (used for desert or dry-land revegetation) brought back to life with a few new body parts.

The past 10-20 years has seen a big reduction in the availability of seed for native species in the region. Landholders, farming groups and/or revegetation projects that want to reintroduce or sow a diversity of native seed are finding it difficult to source around the state.

Greening Australia and Nukunu Wapma Thura Aboriginal Corporation are swapping cultural and onground knowledge, working together to address the lack of seed in the region.

Elder and Nukunu Wapma Aboriginal Corporation Director Lindsay Thomas says he’s excited to see what impact the seed collection and resulting plantings will have.

“This is the beginning of a project for healthy Country and there’s a lot of organisations getting behind all this. So is just the beginning. We want to see how it will go and then maybe the Nukunu will turn it into a small business. We may go and collect seed and start a seed bank, get our own direct seeder we can hire out to farmers or anyone who needs it, supply them with seed from the remnant areas.”

“It’s exciting for me because I’m getting old and I just want to see something on my Country before I pass away. You know, I want to see some of the vegetation that was there hundreds of years ago, and to see some of my totems come back on Country.”

A group of landholders stand around a direct seeder in a dry paddock.

The project is working closely with landholders and First Nations peoples.

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