Planning the best farm layout

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                                           Planning the best farm layout

                                           whole farm plan considers the           and their short and long-term effects
                                           farm’s physical, financial and          on your proposed or existing farm
       Check the market                    human/personal resources for both       enterprise. This will help to reduce
       thoroughly before                   now and the future. For more            unforeseen risks and enhance your
                                           information about the FFTF program,     farm business.
       committing any                      contact the FFTF Project Officer on
                                                                                   REPs contain objectives for a Region
       finances to an                      (02) 9228 6506 or NSW
                                                                                   and cover areas larger than one
                                           Agriculture’s FFTF Program
       enterprise. Do your                                                         local government area. For example,
                                           Coordinator on (02)6391 3100.
                                                                                   REP 20 covers a significant area of
       homework. Have a                                                            the Hawkesbury/Nepean catchment.
       business plan.                                                              LEPs provide the mechanism for
                                           Thorough financial and market
                                           analysis are the key steps to           guiding development and protecting
                                           profitability. Check the market         the environment at the local
                                           thoroughly before committing any        government level. They contain
                                           finances to an enterprise. Do your      permitted activities in the local
                                           homework, especially if borrowing       government area.
                                           money — have a business plan.           DCPs provide more detail and are a
                                                                                   supporting planning document to
                                           Site assessment                         LEPs.
Farms should be designed to protect        An on-site assessment of a farm is      Council’s building approval or
the environment, allow for the             necessary so that a map can be          development consent (DAs) may be
maximum agricultural use and               drawn of the property’s topography,     needed for siting greenhouses, siting
profitability of the site, and make        boundaries, soils, water resources      and constructing dams or erecting
sure that the farming practices have       and so on, and a farm business plan     hail and windbreak netting. Council
minimal impacts on both on-farm and        can be formulated.                      approval to clear land or a ‘no
off-farm natural resources.
                                                                                   burning of crop debris or waste
                                           Government plans                        materials on farm’ may apply.
The ‘Farming For The Future’ (FFTF)
program can help you to plan the           Acquaint yourself with relevant         Consent will be required if odour or
best farm layout. It is an initiative of   Regional Environmental Plans (REPs),    noise is a nuisance likely to be
NSW Government agencies                    Local Environmental Plans (LEPs), and   generated from the development.
focusing on whole farm planning. A         Development Control Plans (DCPs)

                                                                         Windbreak trees    House      Machinery and packing shed
                                                                         around the house

                                                                                                                                                                       D e s i r a b l e L a y o u t o f a Ve g e t a b l e F a r m
                                                                                                                      Fuel tank
                                                          Poly and/or shade house                      Drive way                     Driveway
                                                          for seedling raising

                                                   Walkways between rows
                                                      Raised beds
                                           T-tape irrigation
                    Shallow and grassed runoff/drainage
                    channel on either side of the track                                                                                          Chemical store
                Fallowed bed with a cover crop                                                                                                    Tractor
              Mini sprinkler irrigation
                                                                                                                                            Windbreak trees or
        Contours to divert water into
                                                                                                                                            barner grass, especially
        dam and grassed area
                                                                                                                                            along the prevailing
                                                                                                                                            wind boundary
      Small to medium sized
      indigenous trees
      (native to the area)                                                                                                 Traffic turning area topped
                                                                                                                           with bog-free material, eg:
                                                                                                                           crushed stone

    Revegetation through                                                                                            Pump shed
    local CMC Group
                                                                                                             Slope not greater than 7 0
                                                                                                           to minimise erosion and

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      PLANNING THE BEST FARM LAYOUT
            Artificial wetland/stripping pond
                                                                                                             preferably on a N-E slope
                                          Grassed overflow area
                                                         Native vegetation                                 zone of 40 metres
                                                                                                    Buffer zone of 40 metres with
           Note: Not to scale                                                                       with native trees and shrubs
                                                                                                    local native trees and shrubs
                                                                                           PLANNING THE BEST FARM LAYOUT

Site selection                           Soil types                                 ugly. Also, their erection tends to
                                                                                    spotlight the presence of a farm.
Site selection is important. Slopes to   Soil types need to be suitable for the
the north east are preferred for         crop being grown. The better soil          Natural windbreaks using fast-
maximum sunlight, warmth and             types are deep, well-drained sands,        growing local native trees,
protection from wind. Slopes are         sandy loams and loams. Heavy               Casuarinas or Barner grass will
prone to erosion and need to be          clays are much less suitable as they       provide screening within three years.
farmed with care. To prevent soil        drain poorly and waterlog easily. If
erosion and the silting of waterways,    in doubt have a physical test of the
do not grow vegetables on slopes         soil type.
greater than 7°.
                                         Groundwater contamination
Buffer zones
                                         Check for groundwater contamination.
Buffer zones (areas of vegetated         Any contamination of the
land) need to be established or          groundwater by pollutants can affect
left in place to protect sensitive       your farm business operations.
environmental areas and provide a        Although well-drained soils are
habitat/sanctuary for wildlife. They     preferred for growing vegetables,
should be located between the area       there is a greater risk that pesticides,
of farm activity and any areas of        herbicides and fertiliser can leach
possible water quality impairment or     through them and contaminate
contamination. Water environs or         groundwater resources. Contact the
features to protect include:             Water Environmental Laboratory of
                                         the Department of Land and Water
• riparian areas (the area of
                                         Conservation (DLWC) at Arncliffe on        Trees with growth from the ground up provide good
land, including flood plains,                                                       wind protection and screening.
                                         (02) 9597 4444 for a benchmark
adjacent to rivers and streams and
                                         or baseline diagnostic test.
other watercourses).                                                                Some windbreak trees will require
                                                                                    maintenance such as the installation
• wetlands (the areas of land that       Windbreaks
                                                                                    of micro irrigation and need annual
are either temporarily or permanently    Wind protection and screening of           pruning. Some tree species such as
covered with shallow water, and          the whole farm and of individual           hybrid Willows and Poplars will
which play a crucial role in nutrient    large paddocks is recommended.             need more attention than others.
recycling). Wetlands have a high         Screening of the property, especially      Crops also have to be grown further
ecological productivity and should       with trees, prevents many complaints       away from windbreak trees because
not be drained, filled or used as        about farm activities. Windbreaks          their shadow can discourage prime
storages.                                also prevent drift and movement of         plant growth and quality, especially
                                         sprays, dust, pests, and noise to          from evergreen trees in winter. Do
• drainage lines.
                                         adjoining areas.                           not attempt to completely block out
Care for your creek. Leave a strip of                                               winds. Some air movement is
uncleared native vegetation between      Improved growth is normally                required otherwise hot, humid, still
the top of the bank and your farming     expected from crops grown within           conditions can occur in summer,
activities for at least 20 m for small   windbreak protection. A natural            causing leafy crops to droop or flop.
streams and 50–100 m for rivers like     windbreak will protect a crop for 6
the Hawkesbury–Nepean. This buffer       to 10 times the height of the
zone will intercept and filter farm      windbreak.
chemical and nutrient run-off.           You can use artificial or synthetic
                                         materials for an instant windbreak,
                                         but they can be criticised as being


                                                       water can damage both the physical                                     various vegetable crops can tolerate
                                                       and chemical properties of the soil.                                   is tabulated below.Water analysis and
                                                       Avoid high-volume sprinkler and flood                                  advice on water quality suitability for
                                                       irrigation in areas of high soil and/or                                vegetable production is available from
                                                       water salinity or where the water table                                the Water Testing Service of NSW
                                                       is rising. In such situations use low                                  Agriculture, the Water Environmental
                                                       volume mini sprinklers or drip irrigation                              Laboratory
                                                       and irrigate at night. A measure of the                                of DLWC or the Department of
                                                       concentration of salts in irrigation                                   Analytical Chemistry at the University
                                                       water is the electrical conductivity                                   of NSW.
                                                       (EC). This is measured in decisiemens
                                                       per metre (dS/m). Various pocketsized                                  Irrigation and stormwater run-off
                                                       and portable meters can be used for                                    from paddocks should be kept on-
                                                       testing both water and soil EC on-farm.                                farm. Intercept and channel run-off or
                                                       The salinity (as EC) that                                              tail water into specially constructed
                                                                                                                              sumps, settling ponds or channels
                                                                                                                              before it enters dams.

Barrier grass is fast-growing and has a smaller root
system than trees. It is frost sensitive.                                          Salt Tolerance of Vegetable Crops

Soil management                                                                                          Expected reduction in yield
You need to plan your soil
                                                                                          Nil loss
management strategies. It is                                                                                                    Total                             Total
                                                                                                 Total                  10%loss                           25%loss
important to provide good drainage                                                                                              Soluble                           Soluble
                                                           Crop                                  Soluble                 EC                               EC
                                                                                                                                Salts                             Salts
and install grassed drainage/                                                           EC Salts                         (dS/m)                          (dS/m)
                                                                                                                                (ppm)                             (ppm)
waterways in conjunction with fields                                                    (dS/m) (ppm)
designed to prevent erosion from
irrigation and heavy rain. To prevent                      Beans
                                                                                        0.7            450                1.0          640                1.5            960
soil erosion on a 3∞ slope on                              (green/french)
Hawkesbury sandstone derived soils                         Broad beans                  1.5            960                -            -                  -              -
(sandy clay loam), you will need                           Broccoli                     1.9            1220               2.6          1660               3.7            2370
contour banks at intervals of 50 m.                        Cabbage                      1.2            770                1.9          1220               2.9            1860
The Soil and Vegetation
Management Directorate of DLWC
                                                           Cantaloupe                   1.5            960                2.4          1540               3.8            2430
offers expert advice in this area.                         Capsicum                     1.0            640                1.5          960                2.2            1410
                                                           Carrots                      0.7            450                1.1          700                1.9            1220
Water management                                           Cucumber                     1.7            1090               2.2          1410               2.9            1860
Water management strategies require                        Lettuce                      0.9            580                1.4          900                2.1            1340
pre-cropping assessment. Water                             Onion                        0.8            510                1.2          770                1.8            1150
supplies must be able to meet the
                                                           Potato                       1.1            700                1.7          1090               2.5            1600
needs of crops in periods of drought
when water demand is the highest.                          Radish                       0.8            510                1.3          830                2.1            1340
Inadequately designed water supplies                       Spinach                      1.3            830                2.2          1410               3.5            2240
will limit crop production and                             Sweet Corn                   1.1            700                1.7          1090               2.5            1600
                                                           Tomato                       1.7            1090               2.3          1470               3.4            2180
Water quality is also important. Poor
                                                           Watermelon                   1.3            830                -            -                  -              -
water quality reduces the growth and
yield of crops. Using poor quality                     Table 1: Tolerance of vegetable crops to irrigation water at three conductivities - the first likely to cause nil reduction in
                                                       yield, the second a 10% reduction, and the third 25%.
                                                                                PLANNING THE BEST FARM LAYOUT

This water can be re-used and the         Groundwater bores also require
practice should be a major design         a licence under the Water Act; the
feature incorporated in the farm          DLWC issues these.
layout. Settling ponds or grassed
channels help to remove excess             Note. Licences for pumping
nutrients from run-off waters. Such        irrigation water from rivers, dams
tailwater run-off storages should be       and bores are issued by the
located above flood levels.                DLWC. Individual licences may
                                           have specific conditions
The DLWC not only gives advice in          stipulated such as times when
farm design and layout, but also           pumping is allowed, maximum
provides assistance in planning            pumping rate, minimum flow
earthworks programs to control             requirements, establishment of
surface run-off to minimise soil gully     buffer zones, etc.
and sheet erosion.

Dams in watercourses need to
satisfy rules of construction and
licensing. Almost any dam will
require a permit or a licence before
construction. You will need a licence
if an in-stream dam of any capacity
is used for irrigation purposes or has
a capacity greater than seven
megalitres. Flow rates from in-stream
dams have to meet the needs of
water users below the dam. A permit
is required for any works that will
affect the flow of a stream. It is best
if farm dams are not located on a
stream (whether flowing or not) and
you should not use natural wetlands
as farm water storages. A licence is
also required if water is extracted
from a watercourse for irrigation.

Dams act as sinks by accumulating
nutrients and other contaminants
when run-off water enters directly
from fertilised paddocks and crop
beds. As a result water quality drops,
and if crops are irrigated with this
impure or spoiled water they can
suffer detrimental effects, such as
leaf burn.

Further information dealing with both
in-stream and off-stream irrigation
dams is available from the DLWC or
NSW Agriculture.


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