Help provide homes for pollinators

Pollinators are vital to keep plant species flowering and re-producing. But did you know that many of our food crops such as fruit, wine grapes and vegetables rely on native insects for this service?

Australia has about 1,600 species of native bees, with around 250 to 300 species being found within a 100 kilometre radius of any given area.

Many native pollinators are also predators, feeding on other pest insects. Wasps, hoverflies and shield bugs can reduce the numbers of insect pests in orchards, vineyards and other agricultural crops as well as your ornamental or veggie garden.

Many native pollinators are under threat; land clearing and the extensive use of pesticide and fungicide sprays have removed their food source and their habitat.

With over 75% of flowering plants relying on insect pollinators for reproduction, the decline of their populations is bad news for biodiversity, ecosystems and the security of many of our food sources.

Whether your backyard is a farm, bushland, suburban block or a balcony you can help to support and protect native pollinator populations.

Valuable pollinator habitat can be created by maintaining and enhancing native vegetation, planting lots of flowering plants and minimising or eradicating pesticide and fungicide use.

You can also provide habitat for cavity-nesting insects by bundling together hollow stems from pruning.

Native bee hotels or motels not only provide plenty of nooks and crannies for these beneficial insects to nest in but can be very decorative as well. These can be made in all shapes and sizes, the only limit is your creativity!

If you would like to learn more about our native pollinators and how to provide habitat for them in your backyard, Watershed Landcare will be hosting workshops to help you build your own bee motel at the Mudgee Small Farms Field Days in July.

Weed control during winter

The ideal time to control most weeds is when they are actively growing. This is usually in the warmer months. There are a few that can be controlled at any time of the year.

Two of those significant to this area are Serrated Tussock (Nassella trichotoma) and Cineraria (Cineraria lyratiformis). Both species are, unfortunately, common, and have adaptations for wind dispersal, but can also be spread by water, contaminated fodder, animals and vehicles.

Cineraria

Cinneraria has bright yellow flowers with eight petals which are borne in flat topped clusters at the ends of the branches. Mature leaves are oblong in shape and deeply divided. Juvenile leaves are small and rounded with soft serrations, somewhat similar to geraniums.

Cineraria is an annual plant that can grow and flower through winter. Being an annual, the root system is not very extensive and most plants can be pulled out.

This plant has the ability to produce seeds even if it is pulled out with young buds present. Therefore plants with any sign of a flower or bud must be bagged and later destroyed. At present there are no chemicals registered for Cineraria lyratiformis.

Cineraria is palatable to sheep and can be effectively controlled by confining a number of animals over an infestation. This plant is highly invasive and a dense perennial pasture is the best way of preventing seedling survival.

 

Serrated tussock

Serrated Tussock is a highly invasive perennial grass, which, if left untreated, can take only seven years to dominate a pasture or native grassland. It has virtually no grazing value due to a high fibre and low protein content.

The leaves of Serrated Tussock are very fin

e and when rolled between the index finger and thumb, roll smoothly – like a needle. In Autumn and Winter the leaves are a yellow-green, the tips of older leaves are often bleached by frost.

Isolated Serrated tussock plants can be dug up before flowering and turned upside down so no roots make contact with the soil. Fluproponate is the main chemical used in the control of Serrated Tussock. It is a residual chemical that will stop seedlings emerging for a period of about 2 years. Fluproponate is somewhat selective in that it will only kill certain types of grass. However, many of the grasses susceptible to Fluproponate are highly beneficial.

As with Cineraria a dense perennial pasture is the best way of preventing seedling survival.

Further information for identification of Cineraria can be found on the web, for example http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/weeds or http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au.

There are also many good resources for Serrated Tussock on the web. However, Serrated Tussock as a grass is a lot more difficult to identify, and more importantly, to distinguish it from other similar species. A hands on approach is recommended. Watershed Landcare will be offering a short session to help landholders identify Serrated Tussock and other similar grasses at the Mudgee Small Farms Field Days in July.

Beekeeping expert back by demand

After a successful and booked our course earlier in the year, the Mudgee Bee Group have invited Bruce White OAM back to deliver another beekeeping course in August.

Renowned beekeeper and industry expert, Bruce White OAM has spent his career in the apiary industry in NSW DPI. He has extensive knowledge of rural beekeeping and frequently delivers courses for Local Land Services and the Amateur Beekeepers Association.

Participants for the February course came from the local area and further afield, including Parkes and the Capertee Valley. In no time at all Mr White had people opening hives, lighting smokers, trapping pollen, finding the ever elusive queens in amongst her thousands of offspring and catching and marking drones.

“The course was fantastic; it covered a broad range of topics and best of all it was hands on. The natural way Bruce handles bees instilled confidence in all of us.” said Mudgee Bee Group President and course participant Beth Greenfield.

“We used the Mudgee Bee Group’s 4 hives to practise on and it was invaluable to hear his opinion about their health and ongoing management.” she continued.

The Mudgee Bee Group will be hosting another course in August and invite novice and experienced beekeepers, as well as people interested in starting up their first hives, to attended.
The 2 day course will cover topics such as protective clothing, hive design, hive management, biosecurity, honey extraction and a whole lot more in a hands-on practical weekend.

The course will be held on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 August at the Straw Bale Shed , Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC).

Cost is $275 per person and includes course notes, lunch and morning tea on both days. A discount rate of $180 is available for Watershed Landcare and Mudgee Bee Group financial members.
Numbers are strictly limited and you must pay in full to secure your spot. If you’d like to participate send an expressions of interest to Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0412 011 064 or claudia.wythes@watershedlandcare.com.au.

The Mudgee Bee Group and Watershed Landcare would like to acknowledge support from AREC, for hosting the Mudgee Bee Group hives and providing a venue for meetings and the course.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Winter salad for the livestock

With the onset of shorter days and cooler weather, soil temperatures are dropping too and in our region that means the growth of native pasture slows markedly.

This niche, created by a dormant winter pasture, is being exploited by landholders participating in Watershed Landcare’s ‘Pimp My Pasture’ project to grow a fodder crop.

Participating landholders planted multiple fodder crop species in autumn, utilising a technique where crops are planted directly into the dormant pasture, or Pasture Cropping.

As well as providing livestock feed over the winter feed gap, Pasture Cropping has many advantages over conventional techniques, as ground cover and soil structure are not only maintained but improved.

Using direct drill or zero till seeding equipment is beneficial for poorly structured soil and encourages water infiltration. Utilising multiple species also enhances soil structure and paddock species composition.

Pasture Cropping in less productive paddocks, with fewer perennial species can be used to increase the perennial species in the summer pasture. In paddocks with poorly structured soil, Pasture Cropping can improve soil structure, soil health and water infiltration.

The project paddocks were grazed heavily pre-sowing to remove some of the tall grass and create mulch on the soil surface. The purpose of the heavy graze was to remove weed species and create mulch from the standing grass, by using the animals to lay the grass onto the soil surface. The animals also removed the green leaf material from the plants which, in turn, pruned the plant roots. This removes competition for the, soon to be sown crop, from above ground and below. The dying plant roots also add decaying material and nutrients to the soil.

The animals also add manure and urine, which, when combined with plant litter creates a composting layer on the soil surface.

There are many advantages in using a combination of forage species instead of a single species sown as a monoculture: better quality stock feed (faster fattening, less or no scouring); improvements in soil structure; improvements in soil health; good nutrient cycling; balance soil carbon/nitrogen ratio; attracting beneficial insects.

For this project a mix of annual forage species (oats, vetch, field pea, daikon radish, tillage radish, forage brassica and turnip) was planted. This mix is beneficial for improving soil structure, nutrient cycling, and produces good stock feed.

The multi-species pasture crops are growing well and will be grazed over the coming months. The ‘Pimp My Paddock’ project participants will be monitoring whether this helps to enhance pasture management and increases paddock rest times over winter.

This project is supported by Watershed Landcare through funding from the Central Tablelands Local Land Services and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Working on erosion solutions

As part of the ‘Digging Deeper into Watershed Soils’ project local landholders had the opportunity to explore soil health issues within our region at a series of workshops held last week.

Watershed Landcare invited David Hardwick, Agricultural Ecologist and soil guru, to provide his expertise on some common erosion issues, their causes and solutions, and to provide participants with an understanding of how to implement these solutions and improve the soil health on their own patch.

The workshops focused on improving soil health, the aspects which influence it, and adapting management decisions as a result of understanding the landscape.

One of the properties visited was Karrabool Olives where the owners, David Sargeant and Judy Rogers, wanted to repair erosion and degraded soil in their olive grove. They also wanted David’s insights into how to improve soil fertility for the olives.

The olive grove was planted on the side of a hill, with rows down, rather than across, slope. The top of the hill is poor, gravely soil and supports only some scraggly native vegetation. Runoff is causing sheet and rill erosion through the olive grove.

David’s suggestions included a number of measures to slow the flow of water at the top of the hill. These included putting in a rip line along the fence at the top, allowing the native vegetation to re-establish and utilising olive prunings as a physical barrier to further slow the flow of water at the top of the hill.

Dissipating the water in the olive grove was also an important consideration and the field day participants got their hands dirty, learning how to construct small rock structures to slow and fan out the water flow along the rows of olives.

A soil pit dug to look at the soil structure in the olive grove indicated a layer of compacted soil.

As a long-term management strategy to improve water infiltration and fertility and reduce compaction, David recommended widening the inter-row vegetation to reduce the bare area under the trees and increasing the diversity, particularly with deeper rooted species as olives have shallow roots.

The tactics suggested by David are easy and relatively low cost options that David and Judy can implement before the problem got much more serious. Addressing issues early, or even preventing them when possible, results in manageable solutions. Over time small problems grow and when we are seeing the site everyday it can be easy to not notice the damage that is occurring. Monitoring of your land is the best way to stay on top off changes in your landscape and help you decide when its time to make a change in the way you mange an issue or erosion site.

This project is supported by Watershed Landcare through funding from Landcare Australia and the Jaramas Foundation.

What helps the environment, saves money and feeds the soil at the same time?

Did you know that each year, Australian households generate around 13 million tonnes of organic waste and that about half of that ends up in landfill?

May 7 to 13 marks International Compost Awareness Week in Australia. This is a week during which Australians are invited to pay closer attention to what they put in their rubbish bin and consider that often about half of that could be put to better use.

Compost is not only a valuable organic resource (plants love it and it helps to build healthy soils) but also it reduces the volume of material going to landfill, the associated detrimental environmental effects and makes economic sense too.

Diverting organic materials from landfill and properly composing them can help in the effort to mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing methane emissions and contributing to soil carbon storage.

Organic materials such as food scraps and garden waste breakdown to methane when decomposing without air in landfill conditions. Methane, a greenhouse gas, is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide so reducing its emissions is an important factor in combating climate change.

Using compost as a fertiliser or soil conditioner returns carbon into the soil, where it can be locked up or utilised for plant growth, rather than being emitted into the atmosphere.

Landfill is the most expensive form of waste management and while it’s free to drop your rubbish off at the Mid-Western Regional Council waste stations, don’t be fooled – as ratepayers we fund the operation and maintenance of these facilities.

The existing landfill cell at the Mudgee Waste Depot will reach capacity within 10 years. As space runs out and alternatives need to be sought, costs are likely to increase. So reducing the amount of organic waste going in will prolong the life of the existing landfill site and reduce the costs long term.

Composting reuses food waste and nutrients are recycled into fertiliser. By applying compost to gardens, farms and other land uses, nutrients are returned to the soil to feed diverse soil life. The bacteria, fungi, insects and worms in compost support healthy plant growth, rather than letting organic waste rot away in landfills.

So start a compost heap (or worm farm or get a few chooks to take care of the scraps), reduce waste and your carbon footprint. Happy composting!

The secret life of your kitty

Ever wondered what your cat gets up when you’re not looking? What if you could keep track of your cat’s whereabouts even when you’re not around? Now is your chance to get a unique insight into your cat’s habits.

Central Tablelands Local Land Services and Mid-Western Regional Council invites you to take part in the Domestic Cat Tracking project.

The project, which involves fitting a small, lightweight GPS tracker to cats and monitoring their movements for 11 days, has already been rolled out in Orange and Lithgow and is now coming to Mudgee.

The Cat Tracker Project aims to find out where cats venture to and to promote awareness of the distances that domestic cats can travel. It will also give a better understanding of the time spent away from home and the location of the cats when they roam.

Cats and their humans from Mudgee, Gulgong, Rylstone and surrounding farms and peri-urban areas are invited to join the program.

The participating cats will wear a small motion-sensored GPS tracker, fitted to a harness for a maximum of 11 days. The GPS device and harness combined weigh less than 50g and the harness is fitted with a a breakaway safety buckle to prevent cat becoming caught or snagged on an object.

The information collected by the GPS trackers will be downloaded and overlayed onto mapping imagery. This will be provided to the cat owner so that they can identify where their cat has travelled.

You can view results from a similar project run in South Australia at: http://www.discoverycircle.org.au/projects/cat-tracker/tracks.

Want to find out more about the project or how to get involved?

An information and registration session will be held on Thursday 18 May at 6pm at the CWA Rooms, 48 Market St, Mudgee.

For more information or to register please contact Julie Reynolds, Central Tablelands LLS Land Services Officer, on 6378 1706 or 0418 150 1676 or by email: julie.reynolds@lls.nsw.gov.au.

Dig deeper into erosion issues

Want to find out more about soil erosion issues, their causes and solutions? Join us on a Field Trip to local properties to look at some common cases in our region.

Watershed Landcare will be hosting two days of soil workshops as part of the ‘Digging Deeper into Watershed Soils’ project, on 11 and 12 May.

The workshops will be held on properties across the region, looking at issues common to the area and exploring how to implement solutions and improve the soil health on your own place.

Due to popular demand, Watershed Landcare has invited Agricultural Ecologist, David Hardwick, back to our region. David has been very well received at previous workshops he has held for Watershed Landcare. An entertaining presenter, he will help land managers dig a little deeper and look below the surface at their soil issues.

Lue Station will host a workshop on Thursday 11 May looking at an incised gully in a 3rd order stream. This poses a landscape scale problem with the surrounding floodplains draining quickly and becoming drier. David will explore solutions to rehydrate the landscape with participants and suggest methods on how to reduce the speed and volume of water runoff.

Participants will also have an opportunity to meet members of Bingman Landcare, find out what they do and how to get involved.

Two differing scenarios will be addressed at the workshop on Friday 12 May.

Our morning session will visit Matt and Emma Kurtz’s property where historical contour banking has been compromised resulting in a concentration of water, with sheet and channel erosion and scalding occurring as the water moves down-slope.

Then follow us out to the lovely Karrabool Olives on Botobolar Road where David Sargeant and Judy Rogers hope to reduce the runoff which is causing sheet and rill erosion through their olive grove. Here participants can get their hands dirty and learn how to construct small rock structures to slow and spread waterflow.

These are catered events so just bring yourself and some protective clothing (hats, boots, rain jacket) and water.

For more information visit our website: www.watershedlandcare.com.au/events and go to the May events.

The field days are free to attend but places are strictly limited. To register please contact Beth Greenfield, Digging Deeper into Watershed Soils project Coordinator, on 0438 090 525 or by email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

These events are supported by Watershed Landcare through funding from the Jaramas Foundation and Landcare Australia and are a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Ag program for rural women

In rural communities, many women have limited training opportunities. But Mudgee’s Women in Ag group aims to ameliorate that by allowing participating Watershed Landcare members to explore topics of interest and build capacity through mentoring, peer support, sharing of knowledge and skills and expert speakers.

In recognition of the shortage of professional development available to women working in agriculture or ag related industries, Watershed Landcare received funding from the Central West LLS to run a personal development program for rural women in 2015.

The program delivered targeted training, mentoring and built support networks to strengthen resilience, provide leadership opportunities and access to training and support services that enhanced confidence and skills through delivery of training workshops, webinars, and a regional forum.

“The feedback from the program was overwhelmingly positive. The women involved learned a lot and had so much fun we decided to keep it going.” said Agness Knapik, Watershed Landcare Coordinator.

“The aim of the Women in Agriculture group is to champion rural women by providing support, mentoring and professional development through vibrant and interactive conversation, and exposure to new ideas, approaches and innovation.” she continued.

The group is now in it’s third year and in that time has covered diverse topics such as social media, leadership and team dynamics, handling stress and building resilience, personal goal setting, conflict resolution, accounting, book keeping and financial training, fermentation, gardening

and has conducted a number of field trips.

The women involved have diverse backgrounds, from grazing and horticulture to running their own food manufacturing plants and natural resource management.

The Women in Ag group meets once a month for a cuppa and a chat and to explore a topic of interest and provides an opportunity to ask questions and share experiences and skills. Specialist speakers are also engaged to run workshops on different topics.

The Women in Ag group meets on the last Wednesday of the month, 9-11am.

This month the group will be exploring the Putta Bucca Wetlands, learning the history of the site, and gaining some bird identification skills.

Want to get involved? Contact Watershed Landcare Co-ordinator, Agness Knapik, on 0435 055 493 or email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

The Women in Ag group is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Got a bushfire plan for your property?

With the recent rain experienced in our district the immediacy of bushfire risk has passed. But if you’d had a fire at your place would you have been prepared?

This year saw a late but active fire season in our region with a number of severe events experienced, such as the Sir Ivan fire. With more than 55,000 ha burnt the property and stock losses were devastating. However, no human lives were lost and this has been put down to people having, and acting on, their bushfire plans.

Do you know who your local Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigade is? Have you got a plan for you family, pets and livestock in the event of a fire? Are you adequately insured? Are your business records backed up off-site?

There’s a lot to consider in the preparation of a bushfire plan and it may seem daunting, so Watershed Landcare will be hosting a workshop next Thursday to help you work through the process.

The Bushfire Planning workshop will be held on Thursday 30 March in the Lecture Room, Small Pavilion, Australian Rural Education Centre (Opposite the AREC office). We will commence at 9:30am and aim to finish by 12:30pm.

We have invited Jayne Leary from the RFS to facilitate the workshop and walk us through the planning process.

We will also be joined by Brett Littler (Livestock Officer) and Nigel Gillan (District Vet) from Central Tablelands LLS who will discuss considerations for livestock in bushfire planning. They will also share their experiences from the recent Sir Ivan fire. Nigel will also cover companion animals.

This will be a hands-on workshop with plenty of opportunity to ask questions and bounce ideas off others. The intention is that you will walk away with a bushfire plan for your property, or at least a draft.

The workshop is free and everyone is welcome, you don’t have to be a member. So please bring along your family and tell your friends and neighbours.

If you would like to attend please RSVP by Monday 27 March. For more information or to register your interest please contact Agness Knapik, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0435 055 493 or by email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW. Watershed Landcare would like to acknowledge support from AREC.