ISSUE 6 DECEMBER 2008
in this issue
Tough island perennials
offers local opportunities
Weed risk protocol hits
Enrich set to bring on
the revolution and the
tree crops harvest set to
New harvest technology investment could give
the industry the vital boost it needs
i n n o v a t i o n i n p R o f i t a B l E p E R E n n i a l f a R M i n g s y s t E M s
Oil mallee industry
prepares to reap rewards
By Laureta Wallace ABOVE: Suitable harvesting technology could
Kondinin group see the oil mallee industry surge into full-scale
he future farm industries
Cooperative Research Centre
(FFI CRC) is firing up the “The oil mallee was first planted for the form and size of the oil mallee requires
nation’s oil mallee industry — driving environmental purposes — to manage water a unique harvester design — one that is
the development of the specialised and combat salinity in the Western australian more robust than existing forage harvesters,
technology needed to harvest the wheatbelt,” Mark said. but also lighter and more efficient than
oddly-shaped trees. conventional forestry equipment when
“However, the oil mallee is proving to be a applied to small trees.
versatile plant with a number of promising
australia oil mallee industry is ready to
market options such as activated carbon, oil During the late 1990s, WA Department of
take off and capitalise on new market
feedstock and as a component in Medium Environment Conservation (DEC) engineers
opportunities once the necessary technology
Density fibreboard (MDf). tackled the problem drawing on the
sugarcane harvester for inspiration. The
the ffi CRC has embarked on a project “There also has been research into using sugarcane harvester was modified to travel
to put together the technology needed to oil mallees as a renewable energy source — continually while harvesting and having
cost-effectively harvest Australia’s growing many people think of renewable energy as the ability to convert whole trees directly
number of oil mallees. the completion of the sun, wind and water but oil mallees present into bulk whole-tree biomass in a single
project will see a new industry open up for a very practical source of energy.” operation.
Australian farmers, many who are struggling
Supporting change Along with DEC, the Oil Mallee Association
with decreased rainfall and the resulting
and WA’s Verve Energy invested in the initial
reduced production in traditional rural Mark said essentially the FFI CRC is preparing engineering process. During 2005 Verve
commodities such as grain and livestock. farmers for the uncertainties of climate Energy proved that mallee biomass could
ffi CRC Commercial Director, Mark stickells, change and the impact that would have on commercially generate electricity while
said the ability to economically harvest oil their businesses. producing carbon and eucalyptus oil. The
mallees would provide farmers with a new company remains committed to investing in a
“oil mallees are well placed to provide
set of options. commercial-scale oil mallee processing plant.
farmers, particularly those in marginal areas,
with another weapon in their armoury,” The harvesting system was, in theory,
i key points Mark said.
“it is not too far-fetched to expect that
oil mallees could soon become an important
correct, but the modified machine needed
significant engineering to make the process
commercially viable. it was determined that
• New and developing markets for part of farm business in the not too
a machine needed to be capable of harvesting
at least 20 tonnes of oil mallee biomass per
oil mallee oil and biomass include distant future. hour to be cost-effective. it was estimated
renewable energy, oil feedstock
“they could also play a role in a carbon the project would cost about $5 million.
• An efficient and economic
Mark said there also needs to be significantly
FFI CRC involvement
harvesting system is key to the as part of its initial project commitments,
success of the alternate crop more oil mallees planted, and on a larger
the FFI CRC had a first-year target to
and the FFI CRC is coordinating scale, to ensure the viability of an australian
finalise a commercial business plan for the
the engineering of an oil mallee oil mallee industry. engineering of a viable oil mallee harvester —
harvester based on the principles developed using the
• The project has recently received
The harvest challenge
there are about 12,000 hectares of oil
modified sugar cane machinery.
a commitment of $1.5 million of
funding from the WA Government mallees in Wa’s wheatbelt. Crops of the the CRC realised the potential for oil mallees
dependent on additional public native tree are also becoming increasingly to provide farmers with another stream of
and private sector funding. popular in central new south Wales, victoria income while delivering land sustainability
and south australia. benefits. The CRC was interested in oil
focus N E R E N N I L L
focus O O NP P E R E N NAI A S S i n n o vat i o n in p R o f i ta B l E pEREnnial fa R M i n g systEMs
mallee research from the point of view of
genetic development, biomass production
and the development of possible end
markets. But the state’s cultivated mallee
population was growing and the FFI CRC
realised the urgent need to find a way to
economically harvest the native trees.
“in a sense we want to reward the farmers,
who have invested in oil mallees for their
environmental commitment, with additional
options for economic returns,” Mark said.
“The benefit of a body like the CRC driving
this project is that we can work with the
Commonwealth and state governments, as
well as industry partners to solve the oil
mallee harvesting challenge.
“It’s about industry, government, scientists
and engineers working together.”
Team effort pays off
As a result of industry and government
collaboration the Wa state government
recently put $1.5 million towards the oil
mallee harvester project. The funding is
through the Government’s Low Emission
Energy Development (LEED) initiative and
is dependent on the CRC attracting private
“The money will be used for the design,
fabrication, commissioning and field testing
of a new prototype harvester,” Mark said.
“the necessary private sector funds could
come from people looking to invest in an
ABOVE: A visiting delegation at Verve Energy’s Narrogin Integrated Wood
exciting new industry, as well as those with a
Processing Plant during 2005 to see the trial processing of harvested oil mallees.
vested interest such as potential processors,
end users and even farmers.”
WA moves forward with
a phase one (p1) prototype of the harvester
is planned to be ready for a field trial
in Narrogin during December 2009. By
industry development plan
December 2010, designs and specifications
for the final harvester, P2, are expected to
be ready for commercialisation.
“By the end of the project, the ffi CRC aims
to have an operational harvester capable
of reliably harvesting mallee trees at a high
rate,” Mark said. a nother positive sign the oil
mallee industry development
is maturing was the announcement
in the development of the industry. the
importance of the need to develop and
locate specific industries best suited to
“The most efficient rate of production by the Western australian regional biophysical characteristics and
is anticipated to exceed 50t per hour. government of the oil Mallee available infrastructure is also emphasised.
However, the rate will be determined after industry plan in november.
further systems analysis has been carried it is anticipated the Wa oil Mallee industry
out including an analysis of the nature of announced by the new Wa forestry Minister, will continue to gain momentum through
the chipped biomass. terry Redman, the industry Development plan the current interest shown by resource and
“The final outcome will be a machine that (iDp) provides an outline of Wa government’s energy-intensive industries in planting tree
can be commercially viable for a harvest favoured strategy to launch the industry’s crops to offset carbon emissions.
contractor — perhaps an operator already expansion into the State’s emerging carbon
engaged in the harvesting of similar and renewable energy markets. the iDp is a joint project between the
crops.” Wa forest Commission and the oil Mallee
In the plan, FFI CRC is acknowledged as
Industry of WA with funding from the
a leading stakeholder and makes specific
More information reference to the CRC’s responsibility in
national action plan for salinity and Water
Quality. The 106-page strategy can be
Kevin goss, overseeing the design and commercialisation
downloaded from the Wa forestry products
CEo, ffi CRC of an oil mallee harvester — viewed as a
Commission website: www.fpc.wa.gov.au
T: (08) 6488 2555 critical milestone.
E: firstname.lastname@example.org Central to the IDP is the identification of More information
the roles the Wa forestry Commission, other
Mark stickells, Greg Lawrence,
government agencies, the private sector,
Commercial Director, ffi CRC research institutions, natural resource Communication Manager, FFI CRC
T: (08) 6488 1429 management groups, industry bodies, T: (08) 6488 7353
E: email@example.com landholders and rural communities will play E: firstname.lastname@example.org
focus O N
Genie provides online
ABOVE: The saltland genie website provides By Laureta Wallace
farmers with the tools and knowledge needed to Kondinin group
turn their salt-affected land into profit.
f inding the right solutions for Collaboration proves fruitful
The interactive, easy-to-navigate,
tacking your salinity problem site provides customised, on-farm
Saltland Genie, and the 11 saltland solutions
can now be found on one easy- recommendations on how to make more
are the result of a huge body of research and
to-use website — the Saltland Genie. money from salt-affected land.
development carried out by the successful
ffi CRC researcher Dr nick Edwards, south national Sustainable Grazing on Saline Lands
the website is the result of almost seven australian Research and Development (SGSL) initiative between 2001-07.
years of research into sustainable farming on institute (saRDi) says Saltland Genie is the
salt-affected land and has been brought to Dr Edwards currently leads ffi CRC’s Saltland
first of a new generation of land management
life by the ffi CRC. Knowledge Exchange project and was
websites that allows users to quickly bypass
previously the national coordinator of the
the new Saltland Genie website, irrelivant information and get the answers
SGSL research sites.
www.saltlandgenie.org.au is the one-stop and information they want.
shop for farmers, agronomists and others “a lot of really useful and practical
“The site has a fresh and modern design, information on managing saltland came out
tackling salinity. but more importantly it is well laid-out with of the SGSL initiative and we want to make
farmers able to quickly find the information sure people who need this information can
they are looking for,” Dr Edwards said.
i key points
get hold of it easily and use it by having a
“Visitors to the website can go straight to the single, credible source of information,”
‘your saltland: genie’s advice’ section and by Dr Edwards said.
answering four simple questions about their
• The new Saltland Genie website property can find out which of a possible 11 Information at your fingertips
will provide farmers, agronomists solutions is suited to their situation.” Saltland Genie users can view research
and other land managers with the papers, case studies, videos and stories from
information they need to manage The questions relate to region, rainfall, the
farmers that provide scientific and personal
salinity severity of the salinity and waterlogging,
insights into how salinity can be managed
and the motivation for seeking a remedy —
• By answering a few simple productivity and/or profit. The proposed
to boost productivity and improve the
questions farmers and extension solutions are diverse ranging from excluding
officers can determine the best grazing through to establishing saltbush, “the website is even able to provide farmers
management strategy for their salt-tolerant grasses and legumes. with knowledge of what work is being done
on salinity in their area by accessing the
• The website includes research
As well as providing advice on the most
suitable pasture options and how to best
‘What’s Happening Where’ section,”
papers, case studies, videos Dr Edwards said.
manage salt-affected land, Saltland Genie
and farmer stories as well as an
contains one of the largest information “you click onto whichever state you are in
collections about australian dryland salinity, and a map will come up outlining all the
in the website’s ‘genie’s library’ section. research, farmer trials and case studies
focus ON PERENNIALS i n n o vat i o n in p R o f i ta B l E pEREnnial fa R M i n g systEMs
information on the site. for those farmers
who have a unique problem or would just
rather talk directly to an expert they can.
By clicking on the ‘Interactive’ tab and then
‘forum’, farmers can post a question so
that one of the Saltland Genie team can
the forum also allows farmers to interact
with each other — share their stories,
experiences and solutions.
Getting back to basics
For those land managers who are new to
tackling salinity, the ‘Saltland Uni’ section
covers seven units outlining the basics of
salinity, its history in australia, its effect
on livestock and the environment, the
economics of rehabilitating saltland and
A dynamic resource
the Saltland Genie website is regularly
updated with the latest results from the
ongoing saltland research and development For those new to salinity problems the ‘Saltland
The ‘Advice’ section guides farmers as to which, by the ffi CRC and its partners. Uni’ provides a masterclass in the basics of
out of 11 possible solutions, is the best way to salinity including its history in Australia and the
tackle salinity on their property. Saltland Genie is an initiative of the land, current status of the problem.
Water and Wool program and the FFI CRC,
both of which receive funding from Australian
relevant to your district — and this will be Wool innovation (aWi).
added to as work continues.”
for more information visit:
the resources section of the website includes www.saltlandgenie.org.au
other information applicable to the whole of
Australia along with other material such as More information
an electronic version of the SALTdeck plant
species identification cards produced by Dr nick Edwards, saRDi
SGSL. the 50 individual cards cover common T: (08) 8762 9184
grasses, legumes, herbs, shrubs, rushes and
trees associated with saltland or used in E: email@example.com
Each card has pictures of the plant to help
identification, along with a description,
information on its value, growing conditions Saltland Genie: out of the bottle
and salt tolerance.
Interact and stay informed
the interactive features of Saltland Genie
U ser-friendly, thorough and very
impressive’ were the words
Dan Ferguson of the Avon Catchment
of salinity — extension officers who are
giving information direct to farmers,”
complement the wealth of digital Council (aCC) used to describe the
Saltland Genie website. “Before they go out to the paddock, or
after they come back, they can use the
Employed as the aCC’s sustainable website to find the best and necessary
Agriculture Program Manager, Dan recently management actions for their client.”
attended a Saltland Genie workshop and As a part of the workshop, the group
was suitably impressed with the travelled to some salt-affected paddocks
innovative resource. south of Doodlakine, to test the website’s
“i think the level of information available accuracy. After assessing the paddocks,
was excellent — there really is just about Dan entered the information into
all you need to know about salinity on the website.
the site.” “it returned the recommendations i
“i particularly like the land capabilities thought it would,” Dan said.
assessment, whereby answering a few “Because the website is continually being
simple questions, people can find out updated it will be a great site for people
the best options for dealing with their like myself, to jump onto and check out
salt problem. the latest developments when it comes to
The ‘Explorer’ section provides farmers with a “i foresee Saltland Genie as being a really salinity in australia.”
range of resources on salinity including research useful resource for people at the coal face
papers, case studies, photographs, videos and
focus ON PERENNIALS
g i E s
n o l o
E t E C H
D l i n
H E a
Island safari finds tough
perennials with local possibilities
By Laureta Wallace ABOVE: Tedera’s ability to survive the hostile
Kondinin group environment of the Canary Islands could see it
epartment of Agriculture adapt easily to Western Australia’s wheatbelt.
and food Western australia’s
(DafWa) senior plant breeder
Dr Daniel Real is, along with his
Spanish collaborators, are developing a
chat with spanish farmers and spend time Tough going
studying Spanish breeding plots.
perennial plant that has been left alone it is no surprise tedera has excelled in Wa’s
for thousands of years. the Canary islands are the only place in the wheatbelt — it’s homeland is a much more
world where the plant in its many varieties, hostile environment.
Bituminaria bituminosa var albomarginata, albeit in small quantities, is found. During the Canary islands cluster is made up of
or tedera, as it is more commonly known by his trip, he spoke with spanish researchers seven islands each with their own distinct
Canary island farmers, has the potential to who have been working with the plant for the climate. the islands are characterised by
offer a solution to lucerne’s shortcomings past 15 years. Daniel was excited to learn volcanic activity, rocky, poor-quality soils,
in Australian farming systems. Dr Real is that the legume had withstood 2000 years of low rainfall and extreme temperatures —
determined to develop the perennial to its goat grazing and more than 500 years subject both hot and cold.
full potential even if it means battling the to rabbits, all while battling the arid climate
unforgiving land of the Canary Islands. of the Canary islands. islands, lanzarote and fuerteventura,
are the closest to africa and the warmest
Most people visit spain’s Canary islands with as a result, a fruitful collaborative project of the islands. it is on these islands that
a holiday in mind, but not Dr Real. Rest and began between Spain’s Murcian Institute albomarginata or albo tedera is found.
relaxation were not on the agenda when he of Agriculture (IMIDA) and Australia’s FFI
set out in search of the rare legume. The CRC and DafWa . the project has seen Dr Lanzarote, is of volcanic origin, and is
trip, which was funded by the australian characterised by a surface smothered with
Real work closely with iMiDa plant breeder
academy of science, was Dr Real’s second volcanic rock. it was on inspection of the
Enrique Correal and pilar Mendez and arnoldo
Canary island expedition. this time he island, with his spanish counterparts, that
Santos from Canarian Institute of Agricultural
combined plant collecting with a chance to Dr Real began his hunt for the promising
Research (iCia) .
“it has so far been a very successful “i was joined by the Canary islands main
partnership with Spain providing us with
i key points the germplasm and the previous breeding
and agronomy experience to develop a joint
breeding program,” Dr Real said.
botanist, Arnoldo Santos, and forage
researcher from iCia, pilar Mendez,”
Dr Real said.
• A collaborative plant breeding Dr Real has had exciting test results in
“Without these two colleagues I could not
have found what I was looking for.”
project between Australia and australia with two tedera varieties,
Spain saw breeder, Daniel Real albomarginata and crassiuscula . the results The trio’s plant collecting endeavours were
travel to the Canary Islands carried out at the end of June this year — in
have seen tedera become a star student in
to investigate Bituminaria the middle of spain’s summer and when the
the FFI CRC’s plant breeding program.
bituminosa var. albomarginata, or landscape was at its most baron. after some
Tedera as it is better known “The thing about these plants is their careful searching Albo Tedera was located
• The plant has impressed with its remarkable ability to maintain green foliage
throughout a tough summer and withstand
— looking green and healthy despite the
toughest of conditions.
drought tolerance and hardiness
against grazing, particularly when heavy grazing,” Dr Real said.
pitted against lucerne At home in the desert
trial plots in south-west Wa have
• Farmers in the Canary Islands are demonstrated Tedera’s willingness to survive
in areas that had, during the past two
next stop was the island of fuerteventura.
The island is relatively flat, by Spanish
endeavouring to graze their goats
seasons, an annual rainfall of 200 mm. standards, and the countryside resembles
more heavily on Tedera as they
the sahara desert with an annual rainfall of
highly rate its nutritional value.
“The plants are both drought tolerant and just 150-200 mm. Goat farming, for cheese
productive,” Dr Real said. production is the main rural industry and
focus ON PERENNIALS i n n o vat i o n in p R o f i ta B l E pEREnnial fa R M i n g systEMs
while the goats require supplementary fed how they believed their goats did better, and Dr Real says he continues to be impressed by
they spend much of their day grazing native were healthier, when grazed on the native tedera hardiness, ability to withstand
forage — mainly Tedera. forage alone. But with an increasing number drought and palatability and is excited about
of goats, there is not enough Tedera to the role it could play in Australian farming in
“We walked four hours over very difficult- the future.
sustain the whole flock.
to-negotiate rocks into to a group of cacti,
where the plant was growing, protected from “One innovative young farmer has collected
goats by the cacti,” Dr Real said. seeds and is attempting to replant Tedera in More information
a more coordinated manner to allow him to Dr Daniel Real, DafWa
“Every plant outside the cacti had long ago
obtain a sustainable mix of native forage
been eaten but the protected ones were T: (08) 9368 3879
and supplementary feed for his flock,”
thriving, even flowering , during the middle E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Real said.
“the farmers were able to afford corn and BELOW: Tedera has the ability to flourish under
High on the mount grain when they became part of European conditions that would find lucerne struggling.
the island of tenerife is home to spain’s Union, but lately subsidies have been going (Photo: Dr Real)
highest peak, Teide Mountain. The mountain down and the price of grain, especially, has
is home to the variety crassiuscula or been going up.”
Trial plot investigation
“Here this variety of tedera spends six
months under snow, which demonstrates it is Returning to Murcia and Alicante in the
very cold tolerant and would be most suited extremely dry south-east corner of spain,
to our colder climate farming areas,” Daniel caught up with his Spanish research
Dr Real said. partners to check out their latest tedera
breeding plots. Where Tedera was
Fact finding from farmers compared with lucerne, the results
were startling. Lucerne, a deep-rooted
Canary Island farmers are struggling with perennial, had completely dropped its
input costs, mainly that of corn and grain
leaves as a survival mechanism while the
needed to feed their goats.
Tedera was still covered in green foliage.
on the small island of la palma, farmers After he had selected the promising
are returning to what they believe is their tedera varieties, Dr Real made sure they
best source of native forage, Tedera. Dr Real passed Biosecurity Australia’s vigorous
spoke with farmers who reported about the Weed Risk Assessment before bringing
excellent nutritional value of tedera and them into australia.
Turning on to Tedera’s hardiness
t he challenge ahead is to
find why Tedera, a shallow-
rooted, perennial is more drought
“other students have also been fantastic
in their encouragement and said from their
experience they had found unexpected
tolerant than lucerne. results.”
PhD student Kevin Foster (UWA) has made it With two field trials of Tedera in low- and
his mission to get to the bottom of Tedera’s medium-rainfall areas of Wa’s wheatbelt,
hardiness, determined to leave no stone Kevin will spend two years examining the
unturned in his investigations. plants across a range of parameters.
“We know how lucerne survives drought and “I will be looking at a many different issues
summer, its deep roots simply access another including stigmata control, leaf folding,
water supply and it decreases evaporation by light-avoiding mechanisms, water usage and ABOVE: Rain out shelter containing drought-
shedding its leaves,” Kevin said. leaf water content,” Kevin said. tolernt perennial legumes as part of Kevin
Foster’s research. (Photo: D Real)
“But tedera is shallow-rooted and it does not An integral part of the study will involve
“The seedlings were amazing, growing even
drop its leaves. comparing the Tedera with lucerne in both
in the hot of summer, while the large lucerne
irrigated and non-irrigated environments.
“I’m taking an extremely lateral approach plants with canopies did not perform well,”
and not closing my mind to any possibility.” “Research into understanding how plants use Kevin said.
water has become popular recently with the “I will be also looking at the plants levels of
Kevin is progressing with his three-year study
increased focus on climate change,” drought tolerance at varying times during
under the supervision of one of australia’s
Kevin said. its lifecycle.”
leading plant biologists, Hans Lambers of the
University of Western Australia (UWA). Prof “and while it is early days yet, tedera has preliminary results of Kevin’s research are
lambers is accompanied in supervision by performed so well it could just be what expected to be available during April/May
plant breeder Dr Megan Ryan, also of UWA, Australian farmers are looking for.” 2009.
and Dr Real.
Kevin said Tedera seedlings in a trial plot at
“Hans has provided me with some invaluable Lake Grace, WA had performed better during
physiological input on measurement,” the past summer than mature lucerne plants Kevin foster
Kevin said. in the same trial. E: email@example.com
focus ON PERENNIALS
Did we forget to mention...
D uring the past 12 months the Following are just a few of the wallflowers
ffi CRC has achieved some from the past year that deserve a special
significant outcomes across mention as the year draws to a close. some
of the following projects have received
its program portfolio. Many of these
coverage in Focus on Perennials and Future
have been featured in the past five Farm, many have not. It just goes to show
editions of Focus on Perennials — but how much is going on behind the scenes with
by no means have they all received the ffi CRC researchers and our collaborators
limelight they deserve. across the country.
Even more new Lotus varieties hit the hot spot Woody perennials establish their way
the development of new perennial pasture rainfall of 500-1000 mm, particularly where The benefits of woody perennials such as
varieties is a key focus for many CRC’s winter waterlogging is an issue,” saltbush are well know. During the past
researchers. Their quest is to breed or find Dr sandral said. year researchers in the Future Livestock
new and better-adapted variety options for Production Program have made inroads into
“sale of these cultivars to farmers could
southern australia to improve producers’ successful establishment techniques and
transform areas of land previously thought
ability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate technology to facilitate their use.
as being too difficult for a productive
in a sustainable way.
perennials legume.” “New technology for the establishment
While John ayres’ work on the development of specific woody perennials has been
and commercialisation of two new Birdsfoot More information developed to increase efficiency and lower
trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) varieties has costs,” project leader Dr phil nichols said.
featured twice in Focus on Perennials recently Dr graeme sandral, nsW Dpi
(see issue 2 and issue 5) there have been some “these technical advances make it likely that
T: 0409 22 6235 oldman saltbush will be reliably established
other quiet achievers waiting in the wings.
E: firstname.lastname@example.org from seed with conventional agricultural
ffi CRC Researcher Dr graeme sandral, equipment using a combination of seed
nsW Department of primary industries harvest, physical and chemical treatments.”
(nsW Dpi) said his work with Dr Daniel Real,
Department of Agriculture and Food WA Specific treatments have been identified
(DafWa) had lead to new Birdsfoot trefoil to enhance establishment of a number of
cultivars, which have extended the species’ recalcitrant species.
range well beyond the boundaries set by
current varieties. More information
“these new varieties come with the Dr phil nichols, DafWa
expectation of being highly productive and
hardy when grown in acidic and low-fertility
T: (08) 9368 3547
soils in areas receiving an annual average E: email@example.com
New species: new opportunities
FFI CRC researchers look not only at adapting several trial sites and seasons in south overcome, research from this project
existing species, but identifying new and australia and Western australia. will result in the release of a new
novel species that could prove useful. salt-tolerant pasture legume cultivar and
“Recent measurements have shown about 70 an accompanying salt-tolerant rhizobial
an example is the Understorey project, a per cent of plants are failing to nodulate in inoculant. This will represent a significant
new salt- and waterlogging-tolerant pasture the year after establishment,” andrew said. advancement for Australian agriculture
legume (Melilotus siculus) has been identified which will allow greater utilisation of this
as having substantial stress tolerance Eliminating or significantly reducing
nodulation failure is the first research marginal land.
advantages over current commercial options.
priority for this project.
Understorey is now developing a new More information
salt-tolerant Melilotus siculus cultivar as part “Considerable effort is being directed
of the CRC’s PastureSearch initiative. the towards identifying a rhizobial inoculant that Andrew Craig, SARDI
challenge is now to find better performing will persist in highly saline pastures,” T: (08) 8762 9193
root bacteria suited to saline environments. andrew said.
Project leader Andrew Craig, South Australia In addition, studies of various agronomic
Research and Development institute practices that may increase rhizobial
(saRDi) said nodulation failure has occurred survival and reduce the impact of salt are
repeatedly in regenerating plots across being assessed. After these constraints are
focus ON PERENNIALS i n n o vat i o n in p R o f i ta B l E pEREnnial fa R M i n g systEMs
Research expands pasture species’ range Wireless sensing still on the radar
it’s not all about new varieties and species of persisting in medium- to low-rainfall Developmental research continues to
though — researchers in the Future Livestock cool temperate/mediterranean regions that develop wireless sensing technologies for
Production program have been investigating receive some summer rainfall. vegetation studies.
the options with existing varieties.
lucerne remains a key focus for researchers This offers benefits of improved experimental
“our team has discovered the unrealised in the livestock production team and the design via flexible equipment deployment,
potential of sub-tropical perennial grasses in hardy perennial continues to prove its improved monitoring access in logistically
northern new south Wales. grasses that can superior drought tolerance and persistence challenging environments (such as tall
greatly extend the perenniality of pastures in across a diversity of sites, justifying further tree canopies) and increased density of
regions receiving a high proportion of summer efforts to extend the limits of adaptation observations for better validation of models
rain,” program leader Dr Joe Jacobs said. of this valuable species with a focus on and hypotheses.
The research optimised the agronomy of increasing tolerance to grazing, waterlogging
pasture establishment in the region and and acid soils. More information
produced benchmark performance standards “We also have recognised the excellent Steve Burgess
for production, quality, water use and persistence of the Australian native grass
water-use efficiency. All the information Austrodanthonia caespitosa, which is
T: (08) 6488 2073
was combined to demonstrate the economic enabling the subsequent development and E: firstname.lastname@example.org
implications of the new techniques. release of the first cultivar of this species,”
the potential of chicory as a short-term, Dr Jacobs said. “Austrodanthonia caespitosa
high-quality forage break crop in the cereal also has a low-to negligible environmental
belt and medium-rainfall permanent pasture weed risk, compared to cocksfoot and
zone of southern australia has been further Postgraduate training
explored, extending its use well beyond its For low-rainfall areas legume germplasm
traditional use in the high-rainfall zone. has been consolidated with lancelot trefoil ffi CRC has seen the successful recruitment
(Bituminaria bituminosa var. albomarginata) of 18 new postgraduate students for this first
“We have investigated the role of winter-
showing the greatest potential. year of the CRC.
active Mediterranean ecotypes of cocksfoots,
fescues and phalaris in the medium-rainfall
wheatbelt and the need to select for increased More information More information
levels of summer dormancy,” Dr Jacobs said.
Dr Joe Jacobs, Dpi victoria Daryll Richardson
Researchers have also been busy identifying
T: 0427 947 692 M: 0409 312 574
the value of Lotononis bainesii as the
perennial subtropical legume most capable E: email@example.com E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Perennials make a bold statement
a fter more than seven years
of research and almost
one year in preparation the ffi
one way mixed farmers can maintain
plants are most suitable for their needs and
also find out more about different farming
systems which include perennial plants.”
CRC’s Prospects for profitable the Prospects for profitable perennials in
perennials in mixed farming mixed farming systems publication is based Farmer case studies support the scientific
systems publication will soon be on six years of research by the former CRC data and demonstrate, in a practical way,
distributed to farmers, extension for Plant-based Management of Dryland how perennial plants are being successfully
officers and other industry salinity and provides perennial plant options and profitability incorporated into Australian
stakeholders. for farming regions across southern Australia. mixed farming operations.
Put together by UWA researcher Dr sarita “It takes a region-by-region approach based The publication also includes a cost-benefit
Bennett, the publication comes as changing on temperature, rainfall and soil type,” analysis comparing perennial plants with
conditions threaten the sustainability of Dr Bennett said. annual forage and out-of-season feed and a
farming operations across southern Australia. weed risk analysis.
“During the past lucerne has been the most
“An increasingly variable climate and recent popular perennial but i have also looked at the Prospects for profitable perennials in
drought years have led to the realisation other perennial legumes, grasses and herbs mixed farming systems publication is set to
that current farming practices in the low- to such as chicory.” be released early during 2009.
medium-rainfall farming areas of Australia
need to be altered in order for farmers to Dr Bennett said the publication was a handy
reference to perennial plants for both
remain viable,” Dr Bennett said.
farmers and extension officers. Dr Sarita Bennett, UWA
“perennial plants with deep roots can access
water in the soil profile, and as a result “they can look at the information that is T: (08) 6488 4841
provide out-of-season feed, are regarded as relevant to their area, decide what perennial E: email@example.com
focus ON PERENNIALS
Risk protocol proves its
worth with researchers
By Jill Griffiths ABOVE: Researchers have used the protocol to
Kondinin group assess the potential weed risk of Enrich species
such as Rhagodia preissii. (Photo: J Emms)
he Weed Risk protocol,
developed under the ffi CRC
Biodiversity Program, has Dr stone said that researchers already had ffi CRC researchers have been assessed
well-developed measures for assessing using the Protocol (see Table 2). Each
been published on the CRC’s website
aspects such as a plant’s toxicity, and meat plant was assessed separately for Western
and in the Journal of Experimental and wool taint potential, but methods for australia, south australia, victoria and new
Agriculture. But what does it mean for evaluating environmental weediness are south Wales, as a plant’s potential as an
researchers and landholders? still evolving. environmental weed depends upon where it
Dr stone explained that the protocol was is grown.
Dr lynley stone, Department of Environment
and Conservation, Wa (DEC) worked with developed for southern australia and as such “When species are found to have a low or
researchers in the ffi CRC and CRC for was quite general in the level of information negligible environmental weed potential,
Australian Weed Management to develop a it could provide. she sees the protocol as a that signals the end of our involvement,”
Weed Risk assessment protocol. the protocol dynamic document, which will be refined Dr stone said.
uses a series of questions about a plant’s over time and could be adapted for
biology and ecology to assess its potential to specific areas. Take these for example
become an environmental weed.
“Natural Resource Management groups may for example, birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus
The CRC recognises it has a responsibility want to develop specific weed risk protocols corniculatus) (see Focus on Perennials
to minimise the chance of new perennials for their catchments, using the Protocol as issue 2) has a low environmental risk so
causing harm and to foster a risk-management a starting point, with information on local researchers can promote it knowing that
culture within the organisation. conditions and priorities incorporated,”
it is unlikely to cause problems in
Dr stone said.
Invasiveness, impacts and distribution similarly, Melilotus siculus was found to have
i key points Questions on the protocol are divided into
sections relating to invasiveness, impacts
and potential distribution. plants are
negligible environmental weed potential.
Melilotus siculus is an annual legume that is
highly tolerant to salinity and waterlogging.
• scored depending on the answers. Scores Although the plant is naturalised in Australia,
The Weed Risk Protocol uses it is new to Australian agriculture and not
for each section are multiplied together to
a questionnaire to assess its
acknowledge the interactions
potential environmental weed risk
between the criteria and
• NRM groups can use the Protocol to give a broad spread of
scores (i.e. invasiveness
Table 1. Weed Risk Protocol categories
as a starting point for developing Frequency band Weed risk score Weed risk
their own risk assessment protocol x impacts x potential
80 — 100% greater than or Very high
• Questions are divided into
distribution). plants are
then assigned a score (top 20% of possible scores) equal to 236
sections relating to invasiveness, and one of five weed risk 60 — 80% <236 High
impacts and potential distribution categories (see Table 1).
• Researchers are embracing the Dr stone said that it is a
40 — 60% <111 Medium
Protocol in their investigations of lengthy process to assess 20 — 40% <49 low
potential plant species. a plant and, to date, 0 — 20% <18 Negligible
15 plants of interest to
focus ON PERENNIALS i n n o vat i o n in p R o f i ta B l E pEREnnial fa R M i n g systEMs
Table 2. Completed weed risk assessments of species in the FFI CRC
Species WA SA Vic NSW
“The guidelines will be for land managers,”
Orange wattle (Acacia saligna) Medium High High High
Dr stone said. “the protocol is for plant
old man saltbush (Atriplex nummularia) low low Negligible low researchers but the management guidelines
will give land managers information so they
Wallaby grass (Austrodanthonia caespitosa) low low Negligible low can make informed decisions about how they
use a species, or if they use it at all.”
Chicory (Cichorium intybus) Negligible Negligible Negligible Negligible
Guidelines may cover management aspects
Cullen (Cullen australasicum) low low Negligible low
such as preventing seed set or recommending
Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) High Medium Medium Medium that a plant is not grown in particular
areas, such as near watercourses. such
Perennial veldt grass (Ehrharta calycina) Very high Very high Medium Medium recommendations would depend upon an
flat-topped yate (Eucalyptus occidentalis) Negligible Negligible Negligible Negligible
understanding of the plant’s biology.
Dr Stone said for many plants, management
Flooded gum (Eucalyptus rudis) low low Negligible Negligible
for profitability would also lead to
Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) Negligible Negligible low low appropriate management for environmental
weed risk. for example, the best pasture
Panic grass (Megathyrsus maximus) Medium low low Medium production of perennial grasses is generally
Melilotus (Melilotus siculus) Negligible Negligible Negligible Negligible
when plants are kept in an active growing
phase, rather than a reproductive one. in
Kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum) High High Medium High their reproductive phase, grasses tend to
grow rank and unpalatable and are less
Rhagodia (Rhagodia preissii) Medium low low low nutritious. and it is in this phase that they
Mountain rye (Secale strictum) Negligible Negligible Negligible Negligible set seed and disperse propagules, which
causes them to spread beyond pasture areas.
for species that are found to have a very
available commercially. saRDi researcher Some of the same biological traits important high risk, the CRC policy is to not recommend
Andrew Craig is assessing its worthiness for for agricultural potential were also important their use and to remove them from trial
commercialisation and its potential value for weed potential. others were measured sites. Veldt grass (Ehrharta calycina) scores
to agriculture. primarily due to their effect on weed a very high risk for WA and SA so would not
potential. For example, seedling recruitment be recommended in those states. in victoria
“We can go through a process to make sure
is not generally considered when assessing and nsW it scores a medium risk, so would be
the plant is worthwhile agronomically but we
subject to management guidelines.
also need to know it has low risk. We have perennial shrubs’ agricultural potential, as
a duty of care to make sure there are no they are planted out at optimal density when
insidious side effects, including its chances of the ffi CRC Weed Risk protocol can be
a stand is established so recruitment is not
becoming a weed,” Andrew said. downloaded from: www.futurefarmcrc.com.
a necessary attribute. However, seedling
andrew, who was also involved in the early recruitment is a contributing factor to a
stages of developing the Protocol, likened plant’s weed potential so was measured on
it to insurance. He said it draws upon species of interest to Enrich researchers. More information
a different skill set to those that plant Dr lynley stone, DEC
Dr Emms said that the protocol provided a
breeders and agronomists traditionally have. T: (08) 9334 0313
necessary safe-guard for researchers but
“Plant breeders and agronomists are not it was important not to consider it to be a E: firstname.lastname@example.org
necessarily asking those questions that the licence to proceed without caution.
Protocol asks. You need to ask the right BELOW: Dr Lynley Stone sees the Protocol as
questions to get the right answers,” he said. “We don’t really know a lot about Rhagodia. a dynamic document that can be adapted for
As our knowledge grows, our assessment may specific areas over time. (Photo: J Emms)
“With Melilotus, we don’t really know how
change. It may be prudent for us to come
it will perform. the weed risk assessment
shows its potential as a weed is quite low back to the protocol and reassess it later,”
— it does not appear to pose a significant Dr Emms said.
threat. We have the reassurance that we
have a necessary check and balance that we Management guidelines
didn’t have before.” When a plant is found to have a medium
to high risk, management guidelines
Enriching experience are developed to minimise its
Dr Jason Emms, a saRDi researcher with environmental impact.
the Enrich project, said that one of the
Enrich species, Rhagodia preissii, has been “for example kikuyu (Pennisetum
thoroughly assessed under the Protocol. It was clandestinum) is widely promoted,
found to have low weed risk in sa, nsW and but has a high to medium weed risk,
victoria and medium risk in Wa. especially in riparian environments,”
Dr stone said.
Dr Emms said that Rhagodia preissii was not
well researched previously and there were Dr Stone is currently working on
scarce published data. as such, the Enrich guidelines for kikuyu. The kikuyu
research was vital to completing guidelines will be the first developed
the protocol. under the revised protocol and will
“Data collection has been increased to provide the prototype for developing
gather information for the weed Protocol,” future guidelines. they are expected
Dr Emms said. to be completed by mid-2009.
focus ON PERENNIALS
g i E s
n o l o
E t E C H
D l i n
H E a
business of farming
By Jill Griffiths ABOVE: Workshop participants work in pairs
laying farmer for a day can to experience the vagaries of farming during a
have great benefits for anyone one-day workshop featuring a complex computer
associated with the agricultural simulation. (Photo: A Abadi)
industry, according to researcher
Dr amir abadi. environment and markets, all of which one area of the farm can affect other areas
interplay in a real-world scenario. of their business.
Dr abadi, a business analyst with the
Department of Environment and Conservation Dr Abadi said that a wide range of people “it’s not a lecture, seminar or symposium,”
(Wa) and the ffi CRC, facilitates workshops have participated in the workshops and all Dr Abadi said. “It is a group of participants
where participants experience the sorts of can benefit in doing so. Participants have working with a facilitator to go through a
challenges farmers face on a regular basis. included scientists, students, researchers, set of circumstances. the software keeps
participants use a computer model to make bankers, natural resource management us on track and ensures that agronomic and
planning, managerial and financial decisions officers and farmers. financial requirements are met.”
for a hypothetical dryland broadacre farm.
they are confronted with opportunities, Growers who participate benefit from the software at the heart of the workshops
risks and uncertainties posed by climate, seeing how innovations such as perennial was developed by Dr Abadi and colleagues
pastures, trees or drains fit into their at the ffi CRC. it places participants as
business from a whole-of-farm perspective. the managers of a hypothetical broadacre
i key points It helps paticipants see the cash flow,
profitability and hydrological consequences
of past decisions and their implications for
the future. The CRC also benefits because
Credit, topographical and hydrological
information is provided for the farm’s
• A computer model has been Dr Abadi brings the perspectives of the nine paddocks. year-to-date and forecast
rainfall, market information, and commodity
developed to help simulate a participants back to the centre to help
hypothetical dryland inform future research directions. prices are also provided, but in a limited
broadacre farm way — participants receive the information
“Farming is complex,” Dr Abadi said. as ‘news’, piece by piece. they must make
• Workshop participants are “It incorporates many things — biology, their decisions on the information available,
confronted with realistic hydrology, finance.” then wait to see what happens in a way
challenges and opportunities that mimics real-life, where farmers must
which replicate real-life, on-farm Facilitating a greater understanding make decisions on the basis of available
experiences information but with much uncertainty.
Dr abadi said it is useful for researchers and
• The workshops simulate up to bankers to see the many different aspects
that farmers need to contend with in making
25 years of farm management
experiences in a single day. their decisions. And for farmers, it is good for The workshop is run over one day, during
them to see how their decisions in managing which up to 30 participants work in pairs
focus ON PERENNIALS i n n o vat i o n in p R o f i ta B l E pEREnnial fa R M i n g systEMs
H E a D l i
n E t E C H
n o l o
g i E s
to manage their ‘farm’ for up to 25 years,
dealing with the cumulative impacts of
their decisions and seasonal fluctuations.
Everything is explained to participants —
they are not expected to have expertise
or extensive background knowledge on the
Participants are challenged to make
commercially viable choices. for example,
the program will not allow participants to
revegetate the entire farm at once. The
program will not provide ‘finance’ for such a
project; the software tracks the equity of the
business from year to year and it will only
permit commercially viable options.
Similarly, decisions must be agronomically
sound. Participants will see their profits
continue to decline, and their need for
unrealistic assumptions or perceptions. the ABOVE: Each tile (at left of screen) gives a
inputs continue to rise, if they try to crop
facilitator needs to have knowledge of farm summary of how a paddock is being managed in
wheat across the entire farm year after year. any given year. It also shows the returns from
management, finance, risk, adult learning,
However, if they sow lupins for a year or the field in that year. Participants learn about
agronomy, livestock and hydrology. This
lucerne for a few years, then they will see an the farm and its features including the nine
helps the facilitator bring out the teachable
increased return on the wheat they sow the paddocks (fields).
moments for the cohort of participants,
following year, reflecting the real-life benefit
who come from different walks of life,”
of crop rotation.
Dr abadi said. “It’s real enough to perturb people but it’s
The parameters of the game are set, but not so real as to bog people down. It’s about
Monica Durcan from Avongro and Michael
the results are contingent on the decisions having fun and learning something as well.
stace from Rabobank participated in a trial
made by participants. During the course
version of the Farm Business Workshop during “The game is a scenario. Where else are you
some participants find that their earlier
August this year. going to be able to see how your decisions
management decisions impede their ability to
implement desired farm plans. Depending on will play out 25 years on?
Monica, who is in the business of promoting
how they manage their ‘farm’, participants tree crops on broadacre farmland, said the “You can go to various specialists to find out
may have insufficient funds and equity to workshop was a “very good” exercise. about different things, but who tells the big
cover the costs of their proposed farm plan. picture of how it all fits together? No-one
Understanding this dynamic aspect of “It’s good for people like me who promote
sits down and talks about how all these new
running a business is a real eye opener for tree crops but don’t really know about other
things fit together. The game lets people see
many participants. farm business considerations and it’s good
the ‘whole-of-the-farm’ concept. it helps
for farmers who know all about cropping and
people manage risk in the short and
Capacity building planning but don’t necessarily know about
tree crops,” Monica said.
Dr abadi considers this workshop to be Dr Abadi said that participants work together
a training opportunity that is ideal as Michael said the workshop was thought
to bring a new dynamic to the situation.
a capacity-building exercise. It enables provoking and a worthwhile exercise, but
the facilitator’s role is to push participants
mutually beneficial consultation between felt that it was too biased towards putting
to make new distinctions, to work together
CRC researchers, growers and agribusiness trees on farms. He added that he thought
to question each others’ paradigms and
specialists. the program had been fine-tuned since the
complement each others’ work.
workshop he did.
a farmer who attended a precursor to the The workshops are sponsored by the FFI CRC
current workshops said that he enjoyed the Dr Abadi said the program is updated using
information from completed workshops so and attendance is free.
workshop and believed it was “a great tool to
learn more about risk”. that errors and biases are removed and the
program continually improves. More information
A commodity marketing advisor who attended
that same workshop said: “no other workshop “The most important thing is that the Dr amir abadi, DEC
so clearly illustrates the real profitability training workshop has evolved as business, T: (08) 9334 0816
drivers of farm businesses. A good feature is policy and scientific needs have evolved
that the program encourages participants to since 1995 (when he first started working
get a feel for risk/reward ratios, or how to on it),” Dr abadi said. “the workshops are
handle farm business risk according to their continuing to evolve to address the business
own needs and preferences”. and environmental needs of the community.”
Dr Abadi said that although the software
Expert facilitation required package was designed to mimic reality, it is
Dr abadi said that for the workshop to be not reality; it is a game, and there are no
effective, a skilled facilitator is required. right or wrong answers.
“It can’t go on the internet or be an off-the- “it’s about a narrative that we tell that
shelf product,” he said. “Participants benefit engenders debate and discussion in the room.
from having a facilitator help diagnose the It’s an awareness-raising exercise,”
issues, integrate the ideas and question Dr abadi said.
focus ON PERENNIALS
LEFT: The development of perennial crop
varieties, such as perennial wheat, could be the
solution to the age-old challenge of ecologically-
sound food supply. (Photo: C Nicholls)
grain production — the ultimate goal is to
grow perennial grains in cropping systems
that contain more than one species.
“the simplest system would include a
perennial cereal and a legume that grows
only vegetatively, for nitrogen fixation,”
Dr Cox explained.
“But eventually, two or more species
Perennial crop systems
both grown for seed harvests in as-yet
undetermined sowing arrangements could
provide more resilience, closer to the highly
diverse perennial systems that covered what
— future of food
are now agricultural lands.”
In Western Australia, alternating strips of
trees and perennial wheat could serve to
obtain successful production while preventing
the rise in water tables that causes
erennial grains combined “Unfortunately our ancestors made an honest increasing salinity problems.
with established and novel mistake 5000 to 10,000 years ago,” he said.
sustainable-agriculture Local developments
“They ended up domesticating exclusively
practices could help end the conflict annual crops such as wheat and maize, Research into suitable perennial wheat
between food production and even though they were gathering seed from options for australian conditions continues to
ecological health according to perennial plants at the time, they did not progress (see Focus on Perennials issue 3).
Dr stan Cox, senior scientist at the domesticate those. CSIRO researcher Dr Phil Larkin is leading the
Land Institute, United States. “that led to a host of problems over the team of Australian researchers investigating
centuries. More civilisations have fallen to the suitability of perennial wheat germplasm
Visiting Australia to speak at the recent imported from the US for Australian
Australian Society of Agronomy Conference, the plough than to soil erosion.”
Dr Cox shared his views on the role
researchers and agonomists are playing in Legacy of the annual crop the perennial wheat team recently met at
broadening future food supplies through the Dr Cox explains that before the dawn of the new south Wales Dpi Cowra research
development of perennial crop varieties. agriculture more than 95 per cent of the station in to consider how to best manage
planet’s surface was inhabited by a mixture the trial site to achieve favourable conditions
“Agriculture’s impact on the Earth has been that best express the variety’s capacity for
of perennial crops.
amplified by industrial farming, but the perenniality and summer dormancy. How to
fundamental problem has its origins 10,000 “Agriculture has undone all of that and the maximise seed increase for more extensive
years ago, in the domestication of annual lower layers of the soil suffered because of assessment of the most promising accessions
crops that are still the staples of the global it,” he said. was also discussed.
food supply,” Dr Cox said.
One of the most striking results of annual The team also made new plans regarding
annual crops with ephemeral, often cropping has been the emergence of soil future experimentation to assess extent of
low-density, root systems have a lower salinisation in parts of australia. the root systems, disease resistance and
capacity than perennials to foster microbial genomic composition for the different kinds
ecosystems in the soil or micro-manage In an effort to resolve a range of modern of perennial wheat being trialled.
nutrients and water. and the means agricultural dilemmas, such as salinity,
modern agriculture currently relies on to plant breeders in the US, Australia and “The accessions we have growing are diverse
overcome weaknesses of annual crops cannot other countries are now breeding perennial and interesting. Some are much like wheat
simultaneously resolve the key problems. counterparts of annual grain and legume in morphology and seed size, while others
crops, including wheat, wheatgrasses, more like the Agropyron grass parent,”
for example, no-till methods curtail erosion sorghum, sunflower and others. With longer Dr larkin said.
in the top layer of soil but, done consistently growing seasons and a greater opportunity
on a large scale, require heavier use of “As well as the prospects of contributing
for carbon fixation, these diverse systems a perennial habit, we suspected that
chemical inputs and leave the lower soil aim for both grazing and grain production.
profile unimproved. Conversely, organic the Agropyron parent would donate
methods eliminate toxic pesticides but not “The germplasm and strategies are in place new resistances to significant diseases.
the soil erosion and water deterioration that to develop perennial cereals, oilseeds, and preliminary experiments are encouraging of
occur as consequences of tillage. grain legumes,” Dr Cox said. this expectation.”
“We’re consequently trying to develop “The time scale needed to bring such crops
to the farm varies across species.”
perennial grain crops to replace annual crops
agronomists work with today,” Dr Cox said. Dr phil larkin, CsiRo
Although some perennial grain species could
there are currently no perennial crops be available many years before others, and T: (02) 62146 5060
in production. some could have dual uses — for grazing and E: email@example.com
focus ON PERENNIALS i n n o vat i o n in p R o f i ta B l E pEREnnial fa R M i n g systEMs
Bring on the
LEFT: Enrich aims to develop profitable and
sustainable integrated farming systems.
(Photo: D Revell)
great interest and funding support from JVAP
along with Meat & livestock australia and
australian Wool innovation.”
for alex, Enrich is the icon of the woody
the tree crops
revolution in southern Australia, presenting a
broad range of activities aimed at developing
profitable and sustainable integrated farming
systems in the livestock-cropping zones.
“One of these activities involves modelling
new farming systems that incorporate shrubs
in different areas of the cropping-livestock
zone, exploring scenarios based on biological,
economic and environmental issues likely to
affect the whole-farm profitability of shrubs.
By Bruce Munday “the MiDas model has been used to optimise
gricultural change occurs Jvap profitability against familiar factors such
incrementally, but every so often as plant density, biomass, nutritive value,
it takes a leap forward in what establishment cost, and commodity prices.
we might describe as a revolution. What is quite exciting is the modelling for
change, emissions trading, alternative energy
sources, and a move from drought assistance
The benchmark is probably the agrarian toward drought preparedness or resilience. “If agriculture is included in a carbon trading
revolution of 18th century Europe; most scheme, shrubs could potentially increase
recently we think of the green Revolution “to my mind this opens the door to a woody
farm profit by attracting payments for
following World War II with agricultural revolution based on ‘tree cropping’. long-term carbon sequestration,” Alex said.
chemicals and improved crops. “i use the term ‘tree crops’ rather than “Preliminary modelling indicates the profit
agroforestry, for several reasons: maximising area of shrubs on some farms
In a keynote address to the VegFutures
increases markedly as the price of carbon
Conference in toowoomba, Wa farmer • scale will only be achieved if the increases. if it reaches $50 per tonne of Co2
and board member of the Rural industries enterprise is profitable to the farmer equivalent, the optimal shrub area may be
Research and Development Corporation four-fold higher than without a carbon price.
(RiRDC), alex Campbell, predicted that “the • future woody crops in lower rainfall
next revolution of the 21st century will be areas are likely to be short rotation “Even without a price on carbon, incorporating
toward ‘tree crops’, or the domestication and more closely resemble an annual perennial shrubs into mixed farming
and commercialisation of a host of perennial cropping system than long rotation enterprises boosts profit. This means that
woody plants for a multitude of end uses.” plantation activity producers can confidently start plantings now
and be ahead, regardless of carbon pricing.
alex homed in on four simultaneous • Mechanisation of short rotation woody
triggers for this revolution, at least in crops could well use, at least in part, “given the economic and environmental
southern australia: existing farm machinery and handling conditions farmers are operating in, it is no
and storage infrastructure surprise that many are taking a very active
• the rapid decline of native forests,
• A ‘crop’ that is resistant to drought, interest in the Enrich project as the standard
or at least access to them bearer of the next agricultural revolution.”
flood, fire and frost and can be
• Rising global population and living harvested throughout the year offers 1
JVAP — a partnership of RIRDC, Land & Water Australia,
standards enormous economic diversification, and Forest & Wood Products Australia.
• Global warming and the need for social and environmental benefits.
carbon sequestration “Historically the mainstream RDCs have More information
• post ‘peak oil’ production and its shown little interest in farm forestry, but Bruce Munday, Jvap
implication for the price of fuel and ffi CRC’s Enrich project, evaluating native
woody shrub species for use as forage in T: (08) 8538 7075
integrated grazing systems, has attracted E: firstname.lastname@example.org
“More than a decade ago the Joint Venture
Agroforestry Program (JVAP)1 reported that
market potential for environmental services
provided by farm forestry were at best
minimal and generally non-existent,” he latest addition to the the trial shrubs have been selected from
alex commented. Enrich stable is a native an intensive screening of more than 60
“that report added that land use policies forage shrub evaluation trial species for biomass production, nutritive
at the time sanctioned or at least tolerated consisting of 50 species and 4700 value for livestock, and bioactive
many land use activities with high negative plants at the Condobolin new effects on rumen micro organisms and
externalities. there was little policy South Wales DPI Agricultural gastrointestinal parasites. They were
incentive for activities which generate Research and advisory station. selected from two project planting sites
positive externalities, for example improving in south australia and Western australia
catchment health, mitigating salinity, or The trial is exploring the potential during the past three years.
absorbing CO2. use of native australian shrubs for low
“Of course times have changed and markets rainfall (300-600 mm) farming systems. More information
and government policies now appear to be Condobolin was selected for the focus
of the main nsW evaluation as it Dr Dean Revell,
catching up with environmental realities.
We now have a government in Australia represents a large area of the NSW low CsiRo livestock industries
that is committed to recognition of climate rainfall mixed farming zone. E: email@example.com
focus ON PERENNIALS
About Focus on
Focus on Perennials is a quarterly research-in-progress newsletter
published by the Future Farm Industries CRC Ltd (FFI CRC) ACN 125 594 765.
ffi CRC was established in 2007 under the Commonwealth government’s
CRC Programme and builds on the research of the CRC for Plant-based
Management of Dryland Salinity. FFI CRC is a unique co-investment between
meat, grains and wool industry research corporations, the Landmark
agribusiness company, and the combined research power of CSIRO, six State
agencies and four universities. For further information about FFI CRC visit
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