Watershed makes waves

Watershed Landcare is very pleased to announce that we have confirmed our keynote speaker for our 9th annual Green Day event.

We have been fortunate to secure the services of Ruben Meerman, a.k.a the Surfing Scientist!

Ruben is a passionate science educator, who travels extensively throughout Australia running exciting and engaging science sessions for primary and high school students. He has featured on popular television shows including Catalyst, Sleek Geeks, Studio 3, Sunrise, Roller Coaster, and was the first ever resident scientist on Playschool. He recently authored Big Fat Myths, which explores common myths around weight loss and dieting.

Ruben will run three, one hour sessions focusing on our key themes of water, waste, biodiversity and energy, and focus particularly on the science behind the problems and solutions for key environmental challenges, including plastic pollution.

The theme of this year’s event is GoMAD, an acronym for Go Make A Difference. In addition to our keynote speaker, we will have 20 workshop sessions being delivered by a number of local businesses and organisations.

Green Day would not be possible without the support of Mid-Western Regional Council, Office of Environment and Heritage, Central Tablelands Local Land Services, Peabody Energy, Red Hill Environmental Education Centre and Niche Environment and Heritage.

These important sponsors and supporters mean that Watershed is able to plan and execute Green Day with no costs to schools and students. All aspects of the day including transport and lunch are provided.

We need you? We still need a couple more volunteers for the day. Roles might include assisting with the Sculptures in the Garden Waste to Art activity, tracking the time of different sessions or setting up or packing down before or after the event.

If you’re available to help on Thursday 7 September, or would like any additional information, please contact Vivien Howard on 0427 446 245 or 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.

Going mad for our Green Day

Watershed Landcare is busy organising its 9th annual Green Day event, happening this year at Mudgee Showground on 7 September.

We’ve got record numbers for this year’s event with 625 students from 16 schools participating.

The theme of this year’s event is GoMAD, an acronym for Go Make A Difference, the theme aligns with a popular environmental education program undertaken by the NSW Department of Education.

“This year’s theme is all about taking action. Workshops will provide students with key take-home messages around the themes of biodiversity, energy, waste and water.” said Vivien Howard, Watershed Landcare’s Green Day Project Manager.

A total of 19 workshop presenters from a number of different local businesses and organisations will take part in this event. Students will learn about managing pest species, water quality, habitat protection and waste reduction.

“The workshop sessions are a vital part of the event, complimenting the keynote speaker and providing students with hands-on demonstrations from industry.” said Ms Howard.

“This year we have workshops from staff at Central Tablelands Local Land Services, Mid-Western Regional Council, Red Hill Environmental Education Centre, NetWaste, Niche Environment and Heritage, Barnson Pty Ltd, Royal Agricultural Society, Crave Natural and Rosby Sculptures in the Garden. We are very grateful for the participation of these businesses in our event.” she continued.

Keen to help out? We are always in need of volunteers at Green Day, this year we have a particular need for volunteers to help with the Waste to Art activity being run by Kay Norton-Knight of Rosby Sculptures in the Garden.

If you’re available to help, or would like any additional information about the event, please contact Vivien Howard on 0488 224 025 or 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.

A spinning spider’s good side

A healthy spider community means a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem.

How do you measure the health of something as diverse and complex as an entire ecosystem?

Ecologists use top-level, or apex, predators as an indirect measure of the biodiversity and functionality of the entire system.

The reasoning is that if those at the top of the food chain are healthy, diverse and resilient then that must also be the case for each link in the chain – other predators, herbivores, plants and algae, insects, soil microbes etc.

But did you know that you can apply the same principles on your own farm?

Spiders can act as indicators of ecosystem health and habitat quality. They play a critical role in agricultural pest management and you are never more than about one metre from a spider as they go about their business of consuming insects and other creepy crawlies. Having a healthy spider community on your farm means you have a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem.

As part of a research project on landholder collaboration for landscape-scale conservation and sustainable production lead by the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales, Watershed Landcare will be hosting a spider monitoring workshop in Mudgee.

We are very lucky to have a special guest speaker coming to the event. Dr Mary Whitehouse is a CSIRO scientist who has spent many years researching spider biodiversity particularly in crops.

Mary will be happy to identify spiders if anyone wishes to bring some along in a glass jar.

We will look at a cost-effective and easy-to-use method of monitoring spiders by using spiders’ webs as a substitute (the Web2Spider guide and supplementary material provided by the Australian Museum).

This workshop will cover:

  • How to identify and monitor spiders on your property
  • How spiders respond to good land management
  • Why working together on spider monitoring is beneficial
  • How to upload the information onto an online collaborative tool
  • How to use this data to make more informed land management decisions

The Mudgee Spider Monitoring workshop will be held on Tuesday Tuesday 8 August, 5:30-8pm in the Burrundulla Room, Mudgee Golf Club.
All welcome. The workshop is free to attend and dinner is included.

Please RSVP for catering purposes by Monday 31 July to Agness Knapik, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0435 055 493 or info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This event is supported by the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and Watershed Landcare and is a part of the Landholder Collaboration Project funded by the NSW Environmental Trust.

More information on the project is available here.

Need help managing serrated tussock?

Watershed Landcare are launching a new project to help landholders manage serrated tussock on their properties.

The project, funded by the Central Tablelands LLS through funding from NSW Catchment Action and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, will deliver a broad range of activities catering to landholders with different experience levels in dealing with serrated tussock.

Serrated tussock

“Building on interest in serrated tussock management in recent months, we have received funds from Central Tablelands LLS to help landholders develop management plans that take in a range of factors that are critical to managing serrated tussock.” said Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Co-ordinator.

“Things like grazing management, pasture species, control options and the scale of the problem all need to be considered.” she continued.

The project will utilise mentoring and support to develop a whole of farm approach to serrated tussock management, rather than focussing on individual control methods or strategies.

Participating landholders will have the opportunity to develop a serrated tussock management plan, tailored to their property, as well as some funding to assist in implementing some of the identified actions.

“A number of workshops will be held over the coming months including identification and grazing management. For those landholders who have been managing serrated tussock for some time, we are keen to trial alternative ideas you may have as well as give you support as it can be a tough battle to fight on your own.” said Ms Wythes.

Want to get involved? Whether you are actively managing serrated tussock on your property, just spotted a few isolated plants or would like some help with identification, we want to hear from you.

For further information or to register your interest contact Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0412 011 064 or claudiawythes@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This project is supported by Watershed Landcare through funding from the Central Tablelands LLS from NSW Catchment Action and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme 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.

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.

Come study native legumes

Legumes are desirable species in any pasture mix, not only for their stock feed value but also because of their nitrogen fixing ability. But did you know there is a diverse range of native legume species?

Native legumes have the benefit of being adapted to local environmental conditions and it is thought they may be more drought tolerant than their current exotic pasture legume counterparts. But relatively little is known about these plants.

Local Land Services Senior Pastures Officer, Clare Edwards, is conducting a project to learn more about native legumes and where they are found in the Central Tablelands.

“Many of our native and naturalised paddocks on the Central Tablelands have native legumes as part of their composition. They play a vital role in biodiversity, as well as a legume component in our pastures for livestock.” said Ms. Edwards.

“Unfortunately, we know very little about some of the native legumes such as Glycine and Desmodiums or their associated rhizobia and their potential to fix nitrogen. This study will investigate the nodulation of these native legumes and record where they are found in the landscape. Sometimes, we overlook these species even though they can play an important part in our pasture systems.” she continued.

The Central Tablelands Local Land Services is looking for landholders who have native legumes in their pastures to be part of the first survey to be undertaken into such species.

As part of the study, the Local Land Services will be taking plant and root samples from the paddocks, a soil test to correlate soil nutrients and an estimation of the composition of the other plants found alongside the native legumes.

“The Desmodiums, often known as native tick-trefoils, and the Glycines are woody year-long green perennials. They are commonly found in our grasslands all year around, however they are more noticeable at the moment due to their flowering at this time of year.” said Ms. Edwards.

“We are seeking producers who think that they may have these species in their paddocks to call in and register their interest in being part of the study.” she continued.

For further information and to register your interest as part of the survey please contact Clare Edwards on 0428 435 615 or by email clare.edwards@lls.nsw.gov.au.

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.