Project Funder: Australian Government: Future Drought Fund
Project Lead Organisation: Charles Sturt University
Project Duration: March 2022 – June 2024
This project aims to build farmer knowledge, skills and confidence leading to an expansion in the investment farmers make to improve their pasture base – either using practices to enhance favourable species already present, or to establish new pastures. Critically, this project targets the biggest concern of farmers for drought resilience – feedbase management.
Drought resilient pastures contain a high proportion of productive (native or introduced) perennial grasses accompanied by well adapted legumes inoculated with effective strains of rhizobia bacteria. The establishment or enhancement of these pastures provides permanent habitat for above and below-ground biodiversity, protect soil erosion and structural loss, buffer against high temperatures and rapid desiccation, maintain higher organic matter and soil fertility levels, and therefore better support ecosystem function, particularly during times of drought. These drought resilient pasture systems also suppress weeds, cycle nutrients, provide a higher and more stable source of nutrition to stock and wildlife and, importantly recover rapidly following the break of drought. Recent research also highlights their potential to reduce livestock methane emissions. Well adapted, more drought resilient pastures have the potential to contribute to Australia’s goals for both net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and an Agricultural Industry achieving $100bn in farm gate output by 2030.
The Southern NSW Innovation Hub (SNSW Hub) will establish a series of demonstration sites across the mid to high rainfall zones of central and southern NSW to showcase modern pasture species combinations and management practices known to build greater resilience into their landscapes. Pasture species and the soils they protect are the major natural capital sources across 82 percent of NSW land area, and even small improvements can have widespread impact.
This project fosters proactive institutional interaction and the development of knowledge brokers to translate information to local audiences and augment social learning between farmers. Demonstration site outcomes will be upscaled to farm and landscape scales using advanced modelling, ensuring regional applicability by engaging farmer reference groups.
This project is a partnership between Australian Government, Charles Sturt University, NSW DPI, NSW Local Land Services, Central West Farming Systems, Holbrook Landcare Group, Riverine Plains, Farmlink and Monaro Farming Systems.