Trials show promise in restoring eroded land in Great Barrier Reef Catchment

Graziers and producers in the Don and Burdekin River catchments were invited to Minnie Vale Station earlier this month to inspect the progress of pasture trials being conducted to restore eroded land to help improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Don River Catchment Sediment Reduction Project forms part of Reef Aid, which is working to restore 700 hectares of priority coastal wetlands and 2,000 hectares of eroding gullies across the Great Barrier Reef catchment.

Onground work will improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef through cost effective restoration, pasture management and engagement of landholders.

Greening Australia project manager Damon Telfer said the purpose of the field visit was to demonstrate the positive effect that improving overall land condition can have on retaining soil on paddocks in the Bowen region.

“Jim Fletcher from Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has been working with us on these trials which began in January this year,” Mr Telfer said.

“The trials were designed to determine the optimal methods for improving both pasture proportions (grasses and legume mix) and pasture yield which in turn are fundamental to reducing top soil loss and creating a productive, sustainable grazing system.

“Several plots were established on two different soil types, red clay loam and white sandy loam.

“Different combinations of soil preparation, fertilizer application and seeding were applied to each plot and a control plot was also included in the trial.

“Costs for each treatment were captured and an analysis produced some very positive results”.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Officer Jim Fletcher explained that one of the real benefits of these sites was that they provided an ongoing point of discussion for producers in the local area who could come and have a look at the initial response to the treatments.

“The site incorporates a number of renovation techniques that include ripping, offsetting, seeding with pasture and legume varieties, and the use of strategic fertiliser regimes based on geo-referenced soil tests,” he said.

“Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is now assessing the efficacy of the treatments and looking at applying cost benefit economics.

“Grazing BMP is all about bringing best practice management to the attention of graziers. By learning about ways to improve and rehabilitate pasture, graziers are able to increase land condition.  They can also learn the techniques to gain a better understanding of the cost and benefits in order to achieve a better establishment outcome.

“Improved grazing land management leads to improved business profitability and better environmental outcomes, so it’s a win-win all round.

“Producers who attended the field walk got a lot out of the discussion on pasture establishment and this was well timed for those wishing to do similar work on their own properties. We are all looking forward to coming back here in the New Year to see how the plots have responded to another wet season.”

In addition to the pasture trials, more than 130 erosion structures have been constructed,  the use of high intensity stocking rates to address erosion scalds and gullies is being trialled, and stock management methods are being used to alleviate erosion in susceptible soils in the Don River catchment.

The project is funded by the Australian Government and delivered in partnership with the Don River Improvement Trust, a Queensland statutory authority, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Bowen and Collinsville Landcare group, and the Reef Trust.