Over the past 25 years the Harden-Murrumburrah Landcare Group have held major events and participated in important farming and revegetation trials. Some of these projects have changed the understanding and acceptance of natural resource management methods and farming practices in the region and across the state. Most of our projects and events are listed and described below. Some of our major projects are also collected on the Major Projects page.
The Trouble with Sub (2015 - present)
Anecdotally in NSW it has been observed that pasture legumes appear to have become ineffectual, either not persisting or failing to thrive in pastures. Recent research has shown that 45% of legumes (in both permanent pastures and rotation with crops in mixed systems) in sampled paddocks in WA have had inadequate nodulation.
Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group has received funding from Riverina Local Land Services Strategic Partnerships to work in conjunction with Young District and Eastern Riverina Landcare Groups, Murrumbidgee Landcare Inc., Cross Property Planning Groups, Riverina Highland Landcare Network and Temora Agricultural Bureau to undertake this project to determine:
whether there are measurable growth and nodulation issues with pasture legumes in medium/high rainfall areas of the Riverina; and, if so,
the factors that may be contributing to this decline,e.g. soil restrictions, inadequate nodulation, false autumn breaks, etc.
As part of this project 100 paddocks containing sub clover will be surveyed, from the shires of Wagga, Lockhart, Coolamon, Bland, Temora, Junee, Cootamundra, Gundagai, Young, Harden and Tumut. The rhizobia nodulation and strain identification will be initially surveyed at the end of July. A second farm visit in October will samples for nitrogen fixation effectiveness.
This project is working closely with other relevant MLA/GRDC funded projects. This project has been funded by the National Landcare Programme and Riverina Local Land Services.
Matching Crop Inputs with Potential Yield in the Harden district
with the "Yield Prophet" decision-support tool
Yield Prophet is an on-line crop production model designed to present grain growers with real-time information about their crops. Yield Prophet generates crop simulations and reports to assist in decision making. By matching crop inputs with potential yield and soil moisture in a given season growers may avoid over- or under- investing in their crop.
In 2015, this project established 25 Yield Prophet sites throughout the Harden, Young and Cootamundra areas on different soil types and made the monthly reports available to farmers and consultants via the Yield Prophet portal on the HMLG website.
The project will be repeated in 2017.
Across the Fenceline
Real-time soil water measurements to aid crop management
In its current form, Across the Fenceline measures and compares changes in crop-available water in different paddocks, usually under different crops, on either side of a fence line. This enables growers to not only know the current soil water status of their crop, but to compare the water use of different crops and/or different management across the fenceline. The title also reflects the value gained by landholders discussing and comparing their paddock experiences "across the fenceline" with their neighbours.
Across the Fenceline began as a collaborative initiative of the Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group and CSIRO. It was originally proposed as a project to monitor deep drainage under different management practices in the Jugiong Creek Catchment, at a time when the leakage of excess water from beneath crops was widely thought to be contributing to groundwater recharge and the extensive occurrence of dryland salinity in the area. HMLG rightly believed that to be able to control deep drainage by paddock management they first needed to be able to measure it, and were enthusiastic about a new device (a "drainage meter") then being developed within CSIRO to do just that. With the onset of the drought coinciding with the establishment of the project, the project evolved into one monitoring plant-available soil water and continues as such to this day (see Across the Fenceline).
The project's origins date back to 1999, when the Harden Tillage Trial site became the first test site for the drainage meter. Its success inspired the development of a funding proposal for a National Heritage Grant (awarded in 2001) to cover the infrastructure costs of establishing five on-farm paddock comparison sites - comparing soil moisture and deep drainage in two paddocks with different management on either side of a fenceline.
The original project lapsed in 2011 with the end of the involvement of CSIRO and the need to replace equipment. It was revived in 2013, and the measurement and reporting program came into full swing again mid-way through 2014.
At various times the project has been supported by Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Delta Agribusiness, Woolworths Ltd, Landcare Australia, National Heritage Trust and GRDC, as well as receiving in-kind support from CSIRO.
The role of alternative fertilisers in native based pasture production on the Southern Tablelands of NSW was investigated in a 6 year trial (2009 - 2014) conducted by the Binalong Landcare Group (a subgroup of the Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group) with technical support from South East Local Land Services and NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI). The aims were to demonstrate the effect of these fertilisers on available soil nutrients, pasture production, botanical composition and soil microbiology. Prior to this work, there was little knowledge available to land managers in the Southern Tablelands about the effect of traditional and alternative fertilisers on native perennial grass pastures. Single superphosphate had been the conventional fertiliser for top dressing such pastures.
The project and its findings were widely disseminated through field days and other presentations and culminated with a symposium in September 2015 attended by 140 landholders and available to be viewed on YouTube (see below).
Carbon cycling and storage in a grazing landscape on the south-west slopes of NSW
Members of the Binalong Landcare farming community were interested to know how much carbon they were taking out of the atmosphere and how much they were releasing through their activities. Were we net emitters or sequesters? In 1997 Binalong Landcare asked the then NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation to develop a management plan for its area. The plan documented the vegetation cover and productive capacity at that time. It also proposed remedial action to address soil degradation (salinity and acidification) and erosion, including a significant program of tree planting. The 1997 work provided a baseline for this project, which assessed the impact on the local carbon balance of the remedial action by assessing the changes that occurred over the period between 1997 and 2011.
This project analysed the carbon dynamics of the Binalong farming area against the background of the natural carbon dynamics. It focused on the region’s potential to minimise local emissions while boosting its capacity to contribute to the global effort to restore and maintain the overall carbon balance.
In 2011 approximately 1.68 million tonne carbon was stored in the Binalong landscape (an area of over 41 thousand hectares). Of this, about 76% was in the form of soil carbon, 16.7% in trees, 6.9% in grassland and 0.3% in newly planted trees (see pie chart). Rainfall over the fourteen year period varied markedly (top histogram) including 9 years of below average rainfall (from 2001-2009). As a result of this prolonged dry period, many trees died and new plantings failed.
The amount of carbon stored in trees fell significantly (middle histogram) directly as a result of drought. However, in 2011 (a year with around average rainfall) total sequestration of atmospheric carbon per hectare for the region was approximately 9.45 tonne carbon while total emissions were 5.32 tonne carbon per hectare, giving a net sequestration rate of 4.13 tonne per hectare.
One of the outcomes of the Group's earlier series of trials and demonstrations on Cereal Stubble Management was the adoption by many growers of a Speed-Tiller machine to chop stubble back into the soil. This allows improved soil contact for pre-emergent herbicides and potentially encourages faster breakdown of stubble due to better soil stubble contact.
The key aim of this project was to determine if there is a difference between the nutrient release from wheat stubble using different management techniques, including the Speed-Tiller, and to determine if there is a difference due to the timing of treatments (early in summer and just prior to sowing). Ten different treatments were evaluated using a replicated (3 replicates) randomly designed plot trial.
It was found that the stubble management treatments had an influence on the decomposition of some nutrients, in particular Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sulphur, Zinc and Calcium. The effect of burning on nutrient release was minimal, while the Speed-Tiller treatments showed a positive effect on the decomposition of stubble and nutrient release. The early Speed-Tiller treatments were more favourable across most nutrients than the late Speed-Tiller and knockdown treatments.
It could not be determined from this trial, however, if any treatment gave a higher level of nutrient release.
Celebrating a 20 year partnership between CSIRO and the Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group
Since the inception of the Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group two decades ago, the crucial partnership with CSIRO has provided a fundamental link between the invaluable scientific research and the Landcarers on the ground. The tillage experiment at 'Oxton Park' (often referred to as the Harden Tillage Trial) provided a platform for research directly relevant to the district. It not only generated early practical outcomes, but led to numerous ongoing projects both at the trial site and across the district.
In September 2009 CSIRO and HMLG organised a symposium to celebrate the successful collaboration and present, in one place, the results of some of those projects. The proceedings of the symposium were published and the brief papers describing each presentation can be accessed from the links below.
In response to increasing interest in alternative management practices that can reduce the need for burning cereal stubble by increasing the rate of breakdown of crop stubble over the fallow period, HMLG undertook a project to investigate the effects of mechanical, chemical and biological treatments on stubble breakdown. The project was carried out over a number of years; during the first two seasons detailed measurements were made on replicated plot trials. In subsequent seasons, however it was continued as five case studies looking at current best management practice of cereal stubble across the Jugiong Creek Catchment. It also formed part of a broader study of stubble management in the Murrumbidgee catchment described in a NSW DPI poster [ 129 kB].
Two non replicated on farm demonstrations (at Wallendbeen and Jugiong) were established to investigate the effects of two mechanical and four chemical/biological treatments on stubble breakdown over the summer/autumn period. It was found that mechanical treatments which laid the stubble flat on the soil surface generally improved the level of breakdown. However given the dry conditions over the project period there were no other major differences observed.
To help determine the direction of future demonstrations, a survey survey of HMLG members was also carried out to find out what management techniques had been attempted on individual farms and what the outcomes were. Responses were received from 42 growers. Most growers (86%) retained stubble for a period of time, but many growers (86%) still burn it prior to sowing the next seasons crop. All supported further research.
Following the very high level of grower interest in the in cereal stubble management project in 2004/05, HMLG continued this work into 2005/2006 with a focus on increasing the contact between stubble and soil surface.
A large plot experiment with two replications was established at Bobbara Station, Galong, to investigate:
management options that allow cereal stubble to be managed efficiently and cheaply; and
the impact of various cereal stubble management techniques on soil moisture, soil structure, ground cover and livestock condition.
Below average rainfall meant that seasonal conditions were not conducive to a high rate of stubble decomposition; no significant difference between the effects of various treatments was found for either resultant stubble loads or the amount of soil moisture in the top 5 cm of the soil.
This trial highlighted the variability that can occur with stubble loads across a paddock, and the implications this can have on assessing the effectiveness of various treatments. Due to this variability it was decided that continuing the trial in its existing format would be difficult. It was therefore decided in future seasons to undertake a number of case studies looking at current best management practice of cereal stubble across the Jugiong Creek Catchment.
From 2006/2007 the stubble management project was carried out as a number of case studies looking at current best management practice of cereal stubble across the Jugiong Creek Catchment. with a focus on increasing the contact between stubble and soil surface.
Once again due to drought conditions stubble loads in the region were much lower than normal, with an average of 1 to 2 t/ha of stubble compared to a potential of 5 to 6 t/ha. Due to these conditions and the variability of summer storms across the region over the summer of 2006 / 2007 the results were very variable and no clear conclusions could be made. However some trends were observed and are described in the results.
Five Case Studies of stubble management by HMLG members, stretching from Wallendbeen in the west to Galong in the east, were documented during the 2007/08 season. They demonstrate a range of stubble management methods and outcomes from previous work.
A full description of each case study and the overall results observed are detailed in the report linked below.
The five Case Studies of stubble management by HMLG members described in the 2007/08 report were followed again in 2008/09. They are described in the report linked below, which also includes descriptions of ten other case studies and their findings from the Central Riverina, Eastern Riverina and Junee Area Landcare Networks.
Investigating sources of salt in the Jugiong Creek catchment
The genesis of the Community Stream Monitoring Program was landholders questioning the accuracy of an aerial survey to determine the sources of salinity within the Jugiong Creek catchment.
In 2001 the Australian Geological Survey Organisation carried out an aerial survey to map areas of regolith within the catchment on the basis that regolith was the main source of salinity. This survey concluded that the north-west quadrant of the Cunningham Creek sub-catchment (essentially Demondrille and Connaughtmans Creeks) was the main source of salinity, a finding seriously questioned by long-term landholders within these catchments.
In order to resolve this, Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group (HMLG) developed a project in conjunction with the Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS) to assess landscape salt-stores in the Cunningham Creek catchment using four simple, low-cost, more direct techniques.
A key part of the study was community stream sampling carried out by members of HMLG using simple hand held salinity meters to take monthly stream electrical conductivity (EC) readings at 16 sampling sites. Stream EC readings for the period March 2003 to March 2004 were coupled with three other techniques implemented by BRS: EM31 surface electromagnetic surveys, drilling of the regolith and testing the samples collected for salt content and geophysical logging of the drill holes. While the study was concentrated on the Currawong and Demondrille Creek areas of the Cunningham Creek sub-catchment, it was found that there is strong evidence that any landscape salt-storage in the area is small and localised.
A further study was carried out by the BRS in order to determine the sources of the salinity and the community stream sampling was extended to cover all sub-catchments within the Jugiong Creek catchment. More accurate meters were used from April 2006 to take monthly EC and temperature readings. These readings continued until April 2012. Salt loads were determined by Theiss Environmental Services. Using the community stream sampling for the period April 2006 to April 2009 and the salt loads determined by Theiss, the ten sub-catchments within the Jugiong Creek catchment were ranked with respect to base flow water salinity from freshest to saltiest, and the high stream salinity in the Jugiong Creek catchment was identified as being in the northern and eastern regions of the catchment.
There have been many positive outcomes of the projects, not the least in building community group skills. This started via training on survey methodology, use of meters, sample collecting, taking surface flow and stream velocity measurements, and uploading data to the BRS web-based database. Skills were put into practice in the sampling itself and in accessing and interpreting the information, including monthly trends and maps interpreting the data. As well, meetings presented the biophysical data, trends and rankings to the catchment communities and management authorities.
Identification of the high salinity areas in the catchment allows the Murrumbidgee CMA to develop targeted on-ground land management projects where the greatest management impact will be realised and help achieve the aim of reduced in-stream salinity in the Murrumbidgee River.
This project provide support for landholders in the vicinity of the Boral - Blue Circle Galong Limestone Mine and Lime Kiln wishing to undertake on-ground environmental works on their property with the aim of rehabilitating land degradation issues for them and the wider Jugiong Creek catchment.
The project was a partnership between Boral - Blue Circle, Bobbara Pastoral Company Pty Limited, Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group (HMLG), Binalong Landcare Group and the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority (MCMA).
Plantings have increased the biodiversity across the region;
Increased opportunity for landholders to carry out catchment conservation, protection and rehabilitation;
Boral_Blue Circle & Bobbara Pastoral Company have been able to work closely with the landcare community surrounding the kiln contributing in a direct & significant manner;
A faster achievement by landholders of environmental planning and management and on-ground works than would have otherwise been achieved;
Protection of large actively eroding gullies by fencing to avoid animal impact removed, allowing banks to stabilise and reduce sediment leaving the site and entering watercourses of the Jugiong catchment;
Provision of alternate watering points as creeks and gullies were protected; and
Information exchange between landholders on successful methods of native vegetation establishment, gully repair and recovery of bare ground.
Binalong Landcare Group established this demonstration to investigate the profitability of topdressing native based pastures with lime. The site comprised 3 paddocks with different treatments of lime and fertiliser and grazed with young Merino wethers. The pasture consisted of predominantly native perennial grasses, annual grass and broadleaf species and subterranean clover, which is typical of much of the country in the Binalong area.
The five years of economic data collected indicate liming such pastures was marginal economically.
The monitoring of lime movement, soil phosphorous levels and pasture growth rates obtained during the project has been used to provide better recommendations to local producers as well as being used as a teaching aid for courses such as PROGRAZE.
Between 1988 and 2005, CSIRO entomologists tested and released insects to control thistles and Paterson's curse. HMLG was an enthusiastic collaborator in early trials, with 130 releases occurring in the Harden Shire. Growers in the district assisted with the releases and carried out follow-up monitoring and management of the biocontrol agents, concentrating primarily on the agent for controlling thistles.
The insects had a measurable impact on weeds and growers were enthusiastic about the benefits including the ability to reduce herbicide use.
The collaboration between CSIRO and HMLG provided an excellent model for community involvement in biological control.
Native Species Revegetation Guide - Greening the Grainbelt
A remnant vegetation survey of the Harden Shire carried out as part of an earlier project found only 2.8% of its original vegetation remaining. HMLG obtained Natural Heritage Trust funding from Environment Australia's Bushcare program to start to redress this situation, and called the project "Greening the Grainbelt".
The Group wanted the project to be based on a scientifically defensible vegetation species composition with environmentally compatible planting lists which would serve as a model for other Landcare areas throughout the country. It therefore approached the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research (CPBR, based at the Australian National Botanical Gardens and CSIRO in Canberra) to become a project partner.
So began a very successful and rewarding collaboration, which led to a number of desirable outcomes, including a list of species occurring in the Harden Murrumburrah region suitable for revegetation projects (with associated habit and cultivation notes) and a methodology/protocol for devising the indigenous flora of a heavily cleared region that can be transferred to other sites.
A report of the project, the resulting plant list (both as a database able to be searched on-line as well as an Excel spreadsheet) and more background information can be viewed on the Greening the Grainbelt website.
Sub-soil acidity was only identified in the early 1990’s as a major cause for some of the poorer performing paddocks in the Harden area. The aim of this project was to assess the extent of the sub-soil acidity problem across the Harden Shire by soil sampling and to establish if there are better local indicators of its occurrence.
Soil samples were taken in 270 paddocks at three depths (010 cm, 1020 cm and 2030 cm) in April 1999, on 48 farms located within a 40km radius of Harden. Soil pH and exchangeable cations (Al, Ca, Mg, K and Na) were measured on the samples.
Three quarters of the sites sampled had a soil acidity problem at some depth in the soil profile. At half of those, the soil was acidic below 10 cm but non in the surface 10 cm. This highlighted the need for subsoil testing. There was no evidence that the application of lime to the 0 – 10 cm layer had any effect on the acidity of the deeper soil layers.
This project demonstrated that a substantial problem of soil acidity remains in this high rainfall cropping area, despite over a decade of expanding lime usage. Greater lime input may be required to sustainably manage the acid soils in the area. It was highly successful in raising the awareness of subsurface acidity and the need for it to be explored as a limiting factor to productivity.
Funded by a National Landcare Program "Save the Bush" grant, this project identified the quality and quantity of different remnant vegetation classes with the Harden Shire and used this information to prepare an updatable vegetation management plan that identifies areas of outstanding value for preservation, areas worthy of improvement work and areas suitable for planting as wildlife corridors.
to identify the quality and quantity of different remnant vegetation classes with the Harden Shire;
to prepare vegetation plans, along with those for water table and salinity, acid soils, land use, erosion and stream bank planning, that will be useful to community groups, Local and State Government departments functioning in the Harden Shire;
to prepare an updatable vegetation management plan that identifies areas of outstanding value for preservation, areas worthy of improvement work and areas suitable for planting as wildlife corridors; and
to involve the whole Shire community in the development of the vegetation plan.
an accurate measurement of medium to dense remnant vegetation communities in the Harden Shire, 53 square kilometers or 2.83% of the Shire;
Good base line from this point for new plantings needed for fencing off so regeneration can occur to develop understorey/ground layer;
an accurate measurement of waterlogged area in the Harden Shire, 18.1 square kilometers or 0.97% of Shire – this is a basis for identifying saline or potentially saline sites.
Sustainable Farming Systems Database Project (1994 - 1997)
Funded by the National Landcare Program, this project used a standardised survey form to collect data relevant to crop dynamics from growers across the area throughout the growing season. Intensive monitoring was also carried out at a subset of sites. Data collected included detail of actual paddock practices (e.g. sowing and cultivation methods), yields, lime application, soil degradation, soil types and structure as well as rainfall. Initially focussing on wheat, the project was broadened to include a range of standard rotations.
The aim was to survey 50 farmers to develop a database of crop management, to allow optimum use to be determined to sustain profitable production without causing environmental damage. Analysis of the database enabled a picture to be developed about the sustainability of cropping within the Harden Shire, which will also assist in developing models for sustainable cropping over the wheat/sheep belt of NSW & Victoria.
The outcomes were many-fold (see the final report listed below), and the project highly valued by the participants, so much so that funding was obtained from additional sources (Chandlers IAMA, Harden Consulting Service, R&N Gebhardt, Kennett Rural Services, Alcorns Fertilisers and Harden Shire Council) to allow it to be extended without National Landcare Funding.