Right now, regional NRMs around the country are reviewing and making necessary changes to how they work in response to COVID-19 measures. They are investigating alternative ways to keep us connected and informed.

Despite the difficulties, NRMs continue to operate and deliver on programs. This update represents just a handful among the hundreds of NRM projects going on across Australia, which are made possible through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and from respective State governments.

COVID-19 and impacts on Australian Agriculture.

Australian agriculture is a highly globalised industry, depending on export markets to sell our produce and importing key inputs such as chemicals and fertilisers from overseas countries. So, what will be the likely impact on the industry from this pandemic?

The Australian Farm Institute has collated a list of resources concerning the virus’ impact on our industry. They’ll be continuing to add resources as they become available so bookmark the page and keep checking back from time to time. http://www.farminstitute.org.au/ag-forum/covid-19-impact-on-australian-agriculture

Fighting fire with fire: In the wake of the 2019-20 bushfires, Victor Steffenson’s approach to cultural burning and land management has become a hot topic. Victor has been offering workshops with regional NRMs across the country for many years, and since the recent fires his knowledge has been more in demand than ever. He was recently featured on ABC’s Australian Story as well as SBS Insight.

In March he carried out workshops at Jimbour Station, hosted by Southern Queensland Landscapes NRM. You can take a look at the video here.

The new Restoring Superb Parrot Flyways project is about to launch in the Mulwala-Savernake area to restore superb parrot foraging habitat in the Mulwala-Savernake district of the NSW Murray region.

This project will work with landholders to restore foraging habitat and flyways for Superb Parrots by protecting remnant vegetation, planting and direct seeding of known food plants for superb parrots and creating revegetation flyways to improve connectivity between foraging and breeding habitat.

This project is supported by Murray Local Land Services, through funding from the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust. For more information, visit the project page.

Rangelands NRM is working in partnership with Banjima Country Management (BCM) to monitor bilbies around Fortescue Marsh (Manggurdu) using motion cameras. While no bilbies have been spotted yet, data collected on feral cats, dogs and rabbits is helping BCM rangers to advocate for and undertake future management projects (such as baiting programs and fire and weed management) to care for Banjima Country and tackle the ongoing impacts of feral animals and unmanaged wildfire. For more information on the project, visit https://rangelandswa.com.au/banjima-rangers-bilby-monitoring/

The ‘Nest to Ocean’ turtle protection program is an ongoing commitment by the Australian and Queensland Governments to protect marine and freshwater turtle sites from feral predators.

BMRG’s Nest to Ocean project targets the region’s fox populations which are key predators of turtle nests. The use of conservation detection canines to locate fox dens is a highlight of the project.

Check out this video of super-sniffer spaniel Rocky and his handler Tom Garrett surveying turtle nesting beaches in the Burnett and Fraser Coast regions to reduce the threat of the European Red Fox. Head to the BMRG’s project page for more information.

Image from the field day. Note this workshop was held prior to current social distancing regulations.

The 2020 Talkin’ Soil Health (TSH) Conference was held in mid-March in York, WA. Hosted by Wheatbelt NRM, participants heard from a range of speakers on issues such as ‘Adding Compost to Sandy Soils‘ and ‘Soil Organic Carbon: Challenges and Opportunities‘. You can now find these presentations, and many more on the TSH website.

After successfully establishing and monitoring soil acidification pasture trials along the coastal sands farming region in Tasmania’s north east, NRM North is now looking at developing similar trials on Flinders Island. Ten farmers on the island have already committed to the trial.

Most of the farmers use locally quarried lime sand. The lime sand is cheap but has relatively low effective neutralising value (ENV), meaning higher rates of the product need to be applied to increase calcium and pH in the soil. NRM North and participating farmers will trial whether using imported high value (ENV) lime products compares with the local lime in terms of increasing pH and calcium levels as well as the cost/benefit ratio.

Many of the pasture soils on the island have very high organic matter levels which may be inhibiting or locking the effectiveness of lime and other nutrients. Adding a high ENV product may assist with unlocking some of these nutrients as well as breaking down the organic matter and increasing soil microbe activity. For more information on NRM North’s soil acidification project, head to their website.

FARM BIODIVERSITY SCHEME

In 2019, the Australian Government announced the implementation of the Australian Farm Biodiversity Scheme.

The aim of the scheme is to reward farmers for managing biodiversity on-farm through market-based mechanisms and thus enable the continued provision of natural capital benefits to the wider community.

Phase 1, to look at existing methods that could be applied in Australian agricultural systems, is underway and an integral part of this is a series of consultative forums, which will be offered online.