Beware herbicide application in very dry conditions

The ongoing dry conditions experienced over much of the state are cause for concern amongst land managers and gardeners for several reasons. The primary, and most obvious, concern is for the provision of adequate water and forage for the health and productivity of livestock.

Another cause for concern may be the disruption in the annual spray programmes to reduce weed species.

When plants are moisture stressed translocation and respiration slow dramatically, restricting the movement of herbicides to their sites of action. Plants experiencing high temperature, low humidity and low soil moisture conditions tend to have a thicker cuticle (the protective cover of the leaf) with more waxy deposits on the surface. This reduces the absorption of foliar herbicides.

The timing and amount of rainfall not only determines the moisture status of the plant but also removes dust from the leaves and modifies the leaf cuticle. Recent rainfall will therefore improve herbicide uptake.

Soil moisture influences soil microbial activity which assists in the breakdown of herbicides in the soil. Dry soil conditions prevent the biological and chemical processes that degrade herbicides, making them more likely to persist and injure subsequent germinations of perennial pasture plants.

When weeds are growing under extreme moisture stress it may be best to wait to apply herbicide until conditions improve.

Maintaining adequate groundcover is very important at all times of the year. Good groundcover protects the soil from extreme climatic conditions, supports biological activity within the soil, and reduces weed seed germination and growth through competition.

Will your groundcover absorb a ‘gully raker’ when the drought breaks?

When prolonged dry conditions break it is often with heavy a downpour, especially if this occurs within the summer months. These ‘gully rakers’ can cause much damage to farm infrastructure if there is no groundcover to absorb the moisture or to slow the flow of water across the landscape. There would be many in the district who can remember when drought breaking rains have reduced farm dams to a stinking crust of animal manure and other organic matter.

Alternative methods of weed control might be looked for in prolonged dry periods. Annual plants can be slashed or mown before their flowers mature and perennials can be chipped, pulled up if numbers are small, or slashed several times. These methods are labour intensive and therefore more costly, however perennial pastures will be protected and persistent herbicide residue in the soil will not be an issue. An added benefit will be the mulch of slashed, chipped or mown weeds covering the soil, protecting it from extreme climatic conditions and providing soil organisms with a food source.

Running an intensive soil extension program in 2020

Central Tablelands Local Land Services will be running an intensive soil extension program in 2020. The Diggine Deeper program aims to increase farmers’ understanding of soils and the processes driving productivity and to provide them with knowledge and tools to make decisions and implement change to address soil issues and improve soil condition.

This project is supported by Central Tablelands Local Land Services, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and will cover: soils and how they function; soil nutrients on-farm; how different farm practices affect soil health and fertility; soil tests – how to read them with confidence and assess your soil health in the paddock; monitoring, identifying and mapping soil types across your property; identifying soil constraints such as low organic matter, pH, soil salinity and compaction; setting benchmarks for your soils and taking effective action to address issues; and biofertilisers, fertilisers, soil amendments and the range of fertility input options.

Participating businesses will also have the opportunity to have a comprehensive soil test performed and the results interpreted, obtain professional advice, education and mentoring and get to know other local farming businesses who are interested in improving soil health.

The program will be facilitated by Agricultural Ecologist, David Hardwick, assisted by Central Tablelands LLS staff and specialists.

The Digging Deeper intensive soil extension program is open to farmers within the Central Tablelands region who are running an enterprise, from any industry, on 10 hectares or more.

Numbers for the project are strictly limited to 12 farming businesses. To be eligible to participate each interested business is required to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) and attend six soil health sessions in 2020 at a cost of $90. Tentative dates are: 10 February, 9 March, 6 April, 11 May, and 15 June with the final dates chosen by the group in February. Each session will involve a theoretical segment and a practical segment out in the paddock.

EOIs for the program are open and will close at midnight on Friday, 13 December 2019. To submit an EOI visit: EOIs will be assessed on set criteria. If a high number of applications are received, applicants may be asked further questions to assist with evaluation. Successful applicants will be notified in early January 2020.

For more information contact Liz Davis, Central Tablelands Local Land Services Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator on 0427 452 662 or by email:

Tiny ecosystem engineers

A single cow produces around 18 kg of manure each day. For a herd of 100 cows, that’s over 650 tonnes each year. That’s a lot of fertiliser!

Dung left on the soil surface releases nutrients and carbon to the atmosphere, through oxidation, or they are washed away and end up in waterways. Not only are beneficial nutrients lost but they become pollutants in the air and water. The amount of pasture available to grazing livestock is also reduced, as cattle will not eat grass growing near a cow pat.

Dung beetles can make a significant contribution to reducing these problems. By shredding and burying dung, they incorporate nutrients and carbon into the soil and stop losses to waterways and the atmosphere. Dung burial also means that more pasture is available for grazing and life cycles of internal parasites and flies are broken.

Dung beetle activity also has other benefits. The tunnels created by dung beetles improve the aeration, water permeability and water holding capacity of soils. Their activity also increases other biological activity (micro-organisms and earthworms), improves soil fertility and structure through mixing of clay sub-soils which results in stronger root growth and higher yields.

These benefits were recognised over half a century ago when the CSIRO launched its dung beetle project in 1968. The project aimed to introduce a range of dung beetle species into Australia, so that cattle dung would be shredded or buried within 48 hours in all of Australia’s climatic zones. Each dung beetle species is active for only a part of the year, so a range of species is required for activity over the full season.

Due to funding cuts the project was discontinued in 1984 with only around 50 of the proposed 150 species introduced by that stage. Of these, around 23 have established but do not cover the full extent of their predicted distribution ranges.

The Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers (DBEE) project is aiming to fill this gap. The five-year project, supported by MLA through funding from the Australian Government’s Rural Research & Development for Profit program, will fill seasonal and geographic gaps in the distribution of beetles across southern Australia as well as quantifying the benefits dung beetles provide for primary producers.

The DBEE project will conduct a nation-wide survey of dung beetles, import and breed three novel Mediterranean species and two endemic species and determining the economic value of dung beetles for sheep and beef producers as well as the understanding of the impact dung beetles have on the ecosystem.

For more information about the project visit their website:

Watershed Landcare would like to gauge interest for being involved in the project in our region. If you are interested in finding out more about dung beetles or doing a dung beetle survey on your property let us know:

Watershed Landcare AGM

Watershed Landcare will be holding its Annual General Meeting on Friday, 22 November.

We would like to invite all Watershed Landcare members and any interested members of the community to attend. The meeting will provide an overview of Watershed’s activities over the past year as well as an opportunity to mingle and chat at the dinner afterwards.

Are you interested in the role regenerative agriculture has to play in ensuring increased production of healthy food, as well as long term sustainability and resilience of our farm land and ecosystems?

Our guest speaker will be Dr Peter Ampt, consultant in ecological and regenerative agriculture, natural resource management, extension and rural development. Dr Ampt will talk about the role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon foot print, including recent research indicating that appropriate crop and grazing management can facilitate soil carbon sequestration and improve ecosystem services such as soil nutrient cycling, soil stability, water infiltration, biodiversity and wildlife habitat.

We are also seeking interested members to be involved in the Management Committee for the next 12 months. The committee meets the first Wednesday of the month at 5:30pm.

Watershed Landcare continues to have strong support from our members, sponsors and partners and Landcare membership remains strong and enthusiastic. We’re actively seeking funding from various sources to continue to deliver training, workshops, seminars, field days, on-ground works and projects to protect and enhance the environment and sustainability of our region.

Want to find out more about Watershed Landcare, our projects and how you can get involved in this enthusiastic, grass roots community group? Come along for a fun evening and meet other Watershed Landcare members.

The AGM will be held on Friday, 22 November at the Straw Bale Shed at the Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC), 6pm for a 6:30pm start. Dinner will be provided at the conclusion of the meeting.

All are welcome to attend the Watershed Landcare AGM. This event is free, but please RSVP by Wednesday, 20 November for catering purposes to Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0412 011 064 or

Art revitalising a rural Kandos community

Performance, sound, cabaret, interactive and electronic arts, video, photography, and installation will feature in a festival that celebrates the unlikely friendship between a small country town and a contemporary arts community.

When the Kandos Cement works, a major employer and backbone of the town, closed in 2012 the future of the town was uncertain. A group of artists rose to the challenge of resurrecting a rural community after the closure of a major industry, and Cementa was born. The arts organisation was founded to cultivate an art culture and raise the profile of the town to improve the visitor economy, attract new residents and contribute to rural regeneration.

Since the end of 2017 artists have been visiting Kandos on residency, getting to know the town, connecting with the people and the landscape and making work in response. A biennial festival of contemporary art has also been a feature of the group’s work.

The festival will again be held this year over 4 days and nights, from 10am Thursday, 21 November to 4pm Sunday, 24 November in venues and locations across Kandos and surrounds. Taking its regional situation as its focus, Cementa celebrates the rich diversity of voices that can be heard within the contemporary arts community.

The heart of Cementa19 is the Artists program with more than 40 artists making, exhibiting and performing work that address the identity, history and current social, environmental and economic context of the town and its region. This year there will be meteors, fireworks, melting sculptures, burning mountains, historical mobiles, industrial ice cream, musical vehicles, a thundering fort, and lots more.

In addition to the 40 artworks exhibited across the town, the festival program will feature both free and ticketed events including performances, exhibitions, workshops, music and several initiatives and larger projects engaging directly with regional communities, artists and culture.

The festival will culminate with a dinner prepared from locally foraged ingredients where the Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation will unfold their two-year journey of discovery: An Artist, a Farmer, and a Scientist Walk into a Bar. This project saw nine artists engaging with farmers, scientists, Aboriginal custodians, and other regional stakeholders who are changing the culture of agriculture, and adapting farming practices and land management in response to drought, climate change, and land degradation.

For more information and the full program visit the website:

Resilient farmers project

A number of landholders in the Capertee Valley are working together to improve drought mitigation and the hydrology of the valley, while at the same time promoting mental health and well-being through increased social activity and community connectivity.

Growing interest in restoring the natural cycling of water and improving resilience have led a number of landholders in the Valley to explore the technique of Natural Sequence Farming. Several have attended training courses at the Mulloon Institute and the community are now collaborating on sharing their knowledge and skills.

As part of the ‘Resilient Farmers’ project Capertee Valley Landcare will be hosting a screening of the ‘2040’ documentary film and a talk about Natural Sequence Farming from 5:30pm to 10pm on Saturday, 2 November at ‘Warramba’, Glen Alice. This event is also supported by Lithgow City Council, Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) and CEMENTA.

Natural Sequence Farming is an agricultural practice developed by Peter Andrews which aims to re-establish the natural function, fertility and resilience of agricultural landscapes. One of its primary aims, and main benefits, is a landscape that harvests more water, holds more water, and uses available water more effectively, resulting in increased primary production.

Capertee Valley Landcare have invited Peter Hazel from the Mulloon Institute to present a talk about rehydrating the landscape using Natural Sequence Farming methods. Peter will share their success story and discuss the possibilities of replicating this project in the Capertee Valley.

Image credit: Terrie Wallace

The event will also feature cello music by Georg Mertens and friend while the sun sets, surrounded by the spectacular sandstone cliffs in the valley, followed by an outdoor screening of the ‘2040’ documentary film. There’ll be popcorn and choc tops and simple food to buy (like hamburgers). Bring your own drinks and seats or blankets.

This event is free but numbers are strictly limited. For further information or to register please contact Julie Gibson, Capertee Valley Landcare, by email: or on 6379 7317.

Learn about our amphibians

There are around 200 frog species in Australia, many of these endemic. As amphibians frogs rely on the presence of water, they need to keep their skin moist and need water to complete their lifecycle. Not always an easy task on the driest continent on the planet.

Stoney Creek Frog (Litoria wilcoxii, male)

Some species inhabit the wettest parts of our continent, such as tropical rainforests and alpine swamps. Others have developed unique adaptations to take advantage of Australia’s intermittent rainfall patterns. Some species have even colonised the arid interior and survive prolonged dry spells by burrowing for long periods of time and only emerge after heavy rainfall.

Frogs are regarded as very good indicators of water quality and environmental health; their skin is permeable and they are very sensitive to changes in air and water quality. Frog populations in Australia, and around the world, are in decline. This is mainly thought to be a result of climate change, air and water pollution but land clearing, habitat fragmentation, changes in hydrology and disease may also be contributing factors. This is bad news as frogs play an important role in ecosystems, as both as predators and as prey they are an integral part of may food webs.

Want to learn more about these fascinating creatures?

The Mudgee Microscope Group would like to invite all interested to join them for an evening exploring frogs with our guest speaker David Coote, Senior Threatened Species Officer with the Biodiversity and Conservation Division.

We will learn about the range of frog species from the Mudgee Area as well as some interesting facts about frogs in general. David’s talk will also cover the status of frogs worldwide, in Australia and in NSW. We will also look at a case study of the Booroolong Frog and find out what we all can do for frogs.

Frog Night will be held in the Straw Bale Shed, Australian Rural Education Centre on Thursday, 31 October from 6:30-8:30pm. The cost for the evening is $10 and includes dinner (BYO drinks). All welcome but children must be accompanied by an adult.

To register please visit our website:

For further information or to RSVP please contact Agness Knapik, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0435 055 493 or by email:

Birds as a barometer for nature

October 21 to 27 is Bird Week, celebrating the incredible variety of our birds, many that are not found anywhere else in the world, and inspiring Australians to take action and get involved in bird conservation efforts.

Bird Week is held in spring, the season when birds are nesting and breeding and a lot of migratory species return to feed and breed after winter. As birds are more active and visible it’s an ideal time to survey their numbers.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
Image Credit: Mark Leary

You can contribute to developing an understanding of our local bird species and the trends in their populations by taking part in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count.

The 2019 Aussie Backyard Bird Count will be held from 21-27 October. Now in its sixth year, the citizen science project organised by BirdLife Australia gives a unique insight into bird biodiversity.

The huge data set collected, last year nearly 77,000 people participated and recorded more than 2.7 million birds, provides a snapshot of Australian birds at the same time each year, often from places not usually accessible to surveys, like people’s backyards.

The data, collected all over the country, fills a knowledge gap in understanding more about the bird species that live where people live. Common bird species can be used as an indicator of broader biodiversity trends; changes in their numbers and composition provide an insight into how our wild bird populations are faring and the health of the environment more generally. This informs ecologists and the BirdLife Australia team on where conservation efforts are best placed.

Its a great opportunity to learn more about the birds that frequent your patch and contribute to science. So register and start counting!

To participate simply find a spot to sit – whether in your back yard, local park, patch of bush, your school or even at a sidewalk cafe in town – and note down the number of each species you see in a 20 minute period. Once you have completed your count you can submit it through the online web form or via the free Aussie Bird Count app.

The app works offline and also features a handy Field Guide to help you identify birds you are not familiar with, but you will need to check your survey has been submitted once you are back online.

For more information and tips for your bird survey visit the Aussie Backyard Birdcount website:

Refresh and reinvigorate our community

Our communities are doing it tough at the moment and, in the midst of a drought, it’s easy to lose sight of how great life in rural and regional areas can be. Watershed Landcare will be hosting three events in October to refresh and reinvigorate our community, share our stories and be inspired by people who are passionate about rural life.

We have invited Sophie Hansen, founder and creator of Local is Lovely and My Open Kitchen and 2016 National Rural Woman of the Year, to present two workshops. Join us for ‘Share your story on social media’ and ‘Create fabulous newsletters’ and learn how you can use social media and newsletters to share your message with the world and convert your customers into a community.

‘Share your story on social media’ will be held on Wednesday, 16 October from 1:30pm to 5pm at The Little Cooking School, Mudgee. Sophie will cover the basics of social media for small business; from setting your goals to figuring out what you are saying, who you are saying it to and what problems you are solving for them. Then we’ll move on to creating and sharing useful content and the rules of engagement! Bring along your props and products to take your own photos on the day.

The ‘Create fabulous newsletters’ workshop will be held on Thursday 17 October 2019 from 9:30am to 1pm at The Little Cooking School Mudgee. Sophie will cover why you need a newsletter (hint – placing all your content eggs in one social media basket which you don’t own or control at all is a bit scary when you think about it), how to set one up, how to build it and fill it with content that people will actually read and act on.

Numbers for both workshops are strictly limited. Tickets are $50 per workshop and include morning or afternoon tea. Tickets can be booked online, ‘Share your story on social media’ with Sophie Hansen: and ‘Create fabulous newsletters’ with Sophie Hansen:

We will also be hosting a Rural Refresh evening at Roth’s Wine Bar on Wednesday, 16 October where Sophie will be joined by Jillian Kilby, NSW Rural Woman of the Year winner and founder of The Exchange, an organisation to support business startups in rural communities based in Dubbo. This event is about refreshing us and reminding us how great it is to live in rural and regional areas. A Panel discussion, led by Jillian Kilby, will inspire us about the wonderful things that rural women are achieving.

Tickets are $20 and include an evening with Sophie and Jillian, canapes on arrival, 2 drink tokens and Roth’s wood fired pizzas later in the evening. Drinks will also be available for purchase from the bar. Tickets:

For more information or to RSVP contact Watershed Landcare Coordinator, Claudia Wythes, on 0412 011 064 or email:

These events are supported by Watershed Landcare through funding from Western NSW Primary Health Network.

Learn about local eucalypts and their defining features

There are about 60 species of eucalypt in the Mid-Western Regional Council area. How many can you identify?

Eucalypts have a reputation for being difficult to identify. A ubiquitous feature in the higher rainfall regions of the country, the dominance of eucalypts lends a ‘sameness’ to our landscape. But once you look past the sameness, and start to notice the subtle differences in the eucalypt plant, you are well on the way to recognising some of the botanical characteristics vital in attempting the identification process.

The appearance of eucalyptus bark varies with the age of the plant. The bark can be smooth, rough, long and stringy or fibrous, it can completely cover the trunk and limbs or only the lower parts of the tree. The way the bark sheds can also provide clues; does it come off in large slabs, ribbons or small flakes?

Eucalypt leaves also change over a tree’s lifetime. The contrast between juvenile and adult leaf phases is a valuable feature in identification.

The reproductive parts of eucalypts provide distinctive features that aid in identification. The flowers, woody fruits or capsules, and the seeds themselves, vary in colour, size and shape and can be useful to distinguish between species.

Want to learn more about some of our local eucalypts and their defining features?

Watershed Landcare will be hosting a workshop on Eucalypt Identification on Friday, 27 September at the Cooyal Pub.

Join local ecologist, David Allworth, for a hands-on workshop to increase your eucalypt identification skills. David will take participants through the botanical characteristics to look for to allow successful identification, focusing on fruits, buds, leaf characteristics, including juvenile and mature leaves, and bark.

Using these key characteristics people will be introduced to a simple computer program that helps identify eucalypts of the Mudgee district. A nationwide identification computer program will also be available for people to try.

The Eucalypt ID workshop will be held at 6:30pm on Friday, 27 September at the Cooyal Pub. Admission is free, with dinner provided. All welcome but please register for catering purposes by Monday, 23 September to Agness Knapik, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0435 055 493 or by

This event is supported by Wateshed Landcare through funding from Landcare Australia and Michael King.