Paddock trees in 40 years

When we think of the ecosystem services provided by trees, we often picture large stands of forest. But scattered paddock trees are also an important part of the landscape and deliver multiple benefits on healthy and productive farms.

Paddock trees supply production benefits by providing shelter for stock and crops, habitat for pollinators as well as birds and bats beneficial for pest control, and improve soil structure and fertility as well as aiding in the management of salinity.

Scattered paddock trees also serve an important function for native wildlife, providing a food source and nesting sites. They also act as stepping stones for animal movement between other patches of vegetation and water sources.

Paddock trees on agricultural land in temperate Australia are in decline. This is not isolated to paddock trees, mature trees in larger stands of vegetation are also disappearing, but often the effects are more pronounced in isolated trees.

A lot of these trees are simply dying of old age; most of the existing mature trees are old and little regeneration is occurring.

However, factors such as insect damage, mistletoe infestation, wildfire, stubble and log litter burning, clearing and cultivation also contribute to dieback. Changes to soil fertility and water retention levels due to pasture improvement and the use of fertilizers and hebicides can also have an impact.

The extent and severity of tree decline has reached historically high levels in the past few decades and some estimates predict that in 40 years all the paddock trees could be gone.

But even these dead or dying trees have a role providing homes and shelter for wildlife, particularly mature trees with hollows which are scarce nesting sites for a number of species. The cracks and crevices in bark likewise provide habitat for invertebrates and small animals.

There are a number of things you can do to help protect paddock trees and help their regeneration on your patch.

Fencing around selected trees will help to protect them from stock and limit detrimental agricultural practices such as applying fertilizer in the root zone and reducing herbicide spray drift. Wire netting can also protect from ringbarking by stock and feral animals.

Planting additional shade trees for stock can also take the pressure off the old giants.

Installation of temporary fencing will help natural regeneration to take place; an area twice the size of the tree canopy is ideal. Managing grazing and pest herbivores such as rabbits, hares, goats and kangaroos will also give the young saplings the best chance of survival.

Logs, stumps, and fallen branches are also habitat for ground-dwelling animals and allowing timber to rot on the ground benefits soil fungi, which play an important role in nutrient cycling. So refrain from burning; leave timber where it is or relocate to a more convenient remnant vegetation area or creek as wildlife habitat.

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.

Digging deeper into soil care management

Agro-ecologist, David Hardwick, will be working with local landholders to improve the soil health on their patch. Watershed Landcare have collaborated with Mr Hardwick on a number of soil health projects in the past and have invited him back for the Digging Deeper into Watershed Soils project.

The participating landholders will have their soil tested and work with Mr Hardwick to analyse the soil test results and determine management options.

The landholders will have the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the aspects which impact on soil health, such as soil chemistry, soil biology and ecology, and discuss their proposed on-ground works with Mr Hardwick to find solutions which are relevant to their operation, management approach and location.

Interested to see what they come up with? Watershed Landcare will be hosting a field trip to visit the participating properties in May.

David Hardwick will join us on the bus trip from Mudgee to visit the 3 farms and discuss the soil test results, work conducted and how the decisions were arrived at.

The discussion during the field day will also focus on soil biology, soil water, soil acidity and other soil health issues within our region more generally.

For more information on the Digging Deeper into Watershed Soils project or to register your interest for the field trip contact Bethany Greenfield, Project Coordinator, on 0438 090 525 by email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

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

AREC Abuzz with learning

The Mudgee Bee Group hosted a Backyard Beekeeping Course on the weekend of 25 and 26 February at the Australian Rural Education Centre’s (AREC) Straw Bale Shed.

Novice and experienced beekeepers, as well as people interested in starting up their first hives, attended. Participants came from the local area and further afield, including Parkes and the Capertee Valley.

Renowned beekeeper and industry expert Bruce White OAM presented the course and in no time at all had people opening hives, lighting smokers, trapping pollen, finding the ever elusive queens in amongst her thousands of offspring and catching and marking drones.

Participants learnt how to extract honey and even got to take a jar home.

Missed out on the course this time? The Mudgee Bee Group are planning to run another beekeeping course this autumn. 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.

Pitch in and help clean up the wetlands

Sunday 5 March is Clean Up Australia Day. Now in it’s 27th year, this simple idea has become the nation’s largest community-based environmental event.

The Friends of Putta Bucca Wetlands are inviting members of the community to help them clean up, fix up and conserve the environment of the Putta Bucca Wetlands.

The public reserve is managed by Mid-Western Regional Council and it’s main attraction is a large disused gravel quarry containing freshwater that seeps in through alluvial aquifers from the Cudgegong River. The quarry now function as as an oxbow lake (billabong) wetland supporting a highly biodiverse wetland ecosystem.

The fluctuating water level, periodic mudflats and abundance of snags and water plants contribute the vital habitat for a high diversity of waterbirds, frogs, fish, and turtles. A number of mammals also inhabit the wetland, including the platypus.

The wetland is also an important breeding site for many birds such as the rainbow bee-eater. Over 150 bird species have been documented at the site.

Rubbish is not only unsightly but can also harm the birds and animals that make the wetland their home.

Animals can become trapped or tangled in bottles, cans, plastic bags and other packaging. This can result in injury or even cause them to drown. Ingesting plastic can also have devastating effects.

Rubbish can also harm or kill wildlife indirectly, chemicals leaching form rubbish can impact on water quality or introduce toxic compounds into the environment.

Why not come along and do your bit to conserve the biodiversity in this little piece of wilderness right in Mudgee’s backyard?

The Clean Up Australia Day event at the Putta Bucca Wetland, Putta Bucca Rd, will be held on Sunday 5 March. We will meet in the car park at 9am and finish around noon.

Fully covered shoes or boots are essential. Please also bring gloves, hat and drinking water. Children are welcome but must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

For more information contact John McCrea jsmccrea@hwy.com.au.

Mobile phone App to map wild dogs

Wild dogs are not only a threat to native wildlife but also generate significant losses for primary producers; direct impacts such as killing and maiming stock, as well as the time and resources invested into control strategies, affect operational costs.

Landholders have a new tool available for use in their wild dog control toolkit, they can now access WildDogScan with their mobile phones to record wild dog data while in the field.

The new, easy to use website and Phone App (free for Apple and Android devices) was designed by landholders and enables iPhone, Android and iPad users to record sightings using their mobile phone. It also allows users to examine wild dog data throughout their local area.
Watershed Landcare spoke to FeralScan Project Coordinator, Peter West, to find out how landholders can utilise the new resource to aid in wild dog management.

“We are trying to encourage people to document wild dog activity in their local area and over time see a regional picture emerge in regards to wild dog movement, behaviour and timing of problems.” said Mr West.

“Wild dog research suggests that there are patterns in activity and we are hoping that providing farmers with a tool to easily record wild dog activity will help them to build a picture of wild dog activity for their entire region, and that this helps all landholders in a region to improve wild dog management by reducing costs and increasing benefits.” he continued.

The WildDogScan Mobile Mapping Facility allows landholders to:

  • record wild dog sightings, their damage and control activities,
  • use the data from their local area to create and print a map,
  • identify the priority areas for control on their property and local area,
  • link with neighbours and local groups and coordinate resources,
  • monitor the effects of control programs and improve their effectiveness,
  • review the map to see changes over time,
  • inform their community about wild dog problems.

“An added benefit is that it will help landholders and biosecurity staff connect. Key Local Land Services biosecurity staff can be notified of wild dog activity as it is recorded to keep everyone in the picture about current wild dog problems.” said Mr West.

Visit www.feralscan.org.au with your mobile phone or download the free FeralScan App to get full use out of the WildDogScan mapping service.
Landholders who would like more information about WildDogScan can contact Peter West on 6391 3887 or by email peter.west@dpi.nsw.gov.au, or contact the NSW Local Land Services.

Buzzing with Landcare

Are you interested in learning about bees, or perhaps having your own hive but don’t know where to start?

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Improve your soil health

Watershed Landcare are launching a new project which will provide landholders with the opportunity to increase their knowledge of aspects that influence soil health.

The Digging Deeper into Watershed Soils project will explore improving soil health with a focus on soil health issues within our region; soil biology, soil water and soil acidity; and adapting management decisions as a result of understanding the landscape. Read more

Landcare celebrates milestone

November 19 marks an important milestone – Watershed Landcare turns 20!

That’s quite an achievement considering that the Landcare movement in Australia is only 25 years old.

Watershed Landcare spoke to Sam Hamilton who was involved from the outset and did a stint as Chairman of the then fledgling organisation.

“Back then Landcare in our region consisted of a whole lot of small groups with set boundaries, acting independently and focused on their own needs.” said Mr Hamilton.

“As specific programs concluded and some of the smaller groups waned, representatives from the different groups came together to form a steering committee and over time individuals became members.”

“Eventually it developed into Watershed Landcare as we know it today.” he continued.

Watershed Landcare now has a footprint of around 900,000 ha, approximately the Mid-Western Regional Council area, and has run countless events and projects over the last 20 years focusing on raising awareness of environmental issues and promoting and supporting innovation in sustainable agricultural practices.

Although no longer involved in committee, Mr Hamilton is an active member of the Grazing group and has participated in a number of projects on his Lue property.

So what makes Watershed Landcare relevant to landholders 20 years on?

“Landcare is not an event or a project, it’s a movement.” Said Mr Hamilton.

“By promoting innovation and bringing sustainability into agricultural production, getting people to do business in a sustainable and viable fashion, it creates not just something that will be around in 100 years time but be profitable today.” he continued.

Watershed Landcare would like to invite our members and the community to help us celebrate this significant achievement.

We will be holding our AGM followed by a BBQ dinner at 6pm on Friday 25 November at the Straw Bale Shed, Australian Rural Education Centre.

Come along for a fun and relaxing social evening with other Watershed members.

This event is free to attend but please RSVP for catering purposes by Monday 20 November.

For more information or to RSVP contact Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0412 011 064 or claudia.wythes@watershedlandcare.com.au.

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Innovative cropping techniques

Watershed Landcare will be hosting a workshop on Multi Species Pasture Cropping with Colin Seis, pioneer of this innovative cropping technique which was developed right here in the Central Tablelands.

The concept developed over a beer when Mr Seis, together with Daryl Cluff, started exploring the idea of ‘fast tracking’ improvement in degraded soil and grassland while producing crops for human consumption and/or stock feed.

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