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.
Some of our major projects are detailed below, while all projects may be found in the project archive.
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.
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).
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.
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.