Current projects and opportunities

The ACT Natural Resource Management (ACT NRM) Sustainable Agriculture Program is made possible by support from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program, the Managing Established Pest Animals and Weeds Program and the ACT Government.

The following describes ACT NRM's current flagship sustainable agriculture projects.

Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator

The ACT Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator (ACT RALF) Program works with ACT rural landholders to support sustainable land management on ACT farms.

A key theme of the ACT RALF program is groundcover management. Good groundcover management can be achieved through a range of practices including strategic grazing, subdivisional fencing, feed budgeting and understanding seasonal conditions

The ACT RALF program has been operating in the ACT region for over ten years and has enabled the development of a keen understanding of ACT agricultural enterprises and farming community which helps ensure the ACT RALF program is locally relevant and meets the needs of the ACT farming community.

The ACT RALF program supports sustainable land management by:

  • providing training and learning opportunities
  • bringing farmers, government and industry to work together on issues of common concern
  • promoting and supporting landholders to access funding and resources to support their management programs

Current work

  • Southern ACT Collaborative Pig Control Project – working with ACT rural landholders and the ACT Government's Biosecurity Unit to reduce the threat from feral pigs on rural lands and other tenures
  • Training
    • AQF3 chemical use accreditation training
    • 2019 Soils Roadshow – enhancing soil knowledge in partnership South East Local Land Services
  • Facilitating climate adaptation – trials of Blakely's Red Gum on ACT rural lands to identify provenance and families resilient to dieback and climate change.
  • On-ground
    • soil testing across ACT farms to inform improved land management.
    • Landcare for Singles tree planting events

Tools

The ACT RALF will be training landholders and other land managers in the use of a new groundcover monitoring tool, GEOGLAM.

GEOGLAM provides current and historical data and maps on groundcover. Watch this space for information.

Administration of rural grants and rebates

Better Land Management

Soil acidity, low soil carbon and poor groundcover is an issue on South East NSW and ACT grazing properties, constraining productivity and impacting on the environment.

The Better Land Management project, being delivered by ACT NRM in partnership with South East Local Land Services, aims to support landholders to address these issues.

2018 to 2019

Phase 1 seeks to understand the factors that influence on-farm knowledge and decision-making around soil pH, soil carbon and groundcover management through:

  • a survey of ACT and South East NSW farmers
  • baseline soil testing on a number of properties in the ACT
  • a soils knowledge roadshow that will travel through ACT and South East NSW

2019-2023

Phase 2 will use results from the survey and soil testing to help design a four year program of trials and demonstrations on 17 ACT farms to test approaches to improving soil pH, increasing soil carbon and improving ground cover. This project is taking a participatory approach. Landholders will be actively involved in the design and implementation of this project. Trials and demonstrations will be monitored and lessons learnt from this work will be shared with ACT and region landholders through field days, fact sheets and other forms of communications.

At the May 2019 Soils Roadshow in Tharwa, NSW Department of Primary Industries soil scientists talked about issues relevant to grazing industries, reviewed the fundamentals of soil carbon and soil acidity and the latest soils research, and offered practical advice and strategies on best practice soil and pasture management relevant to the ACT.

Resilient Farms

The ACT and region will continue to experience more frequent and longer lasting dry periods, increased frequency and intensity of storms, increasing threats from heatwaves and bushfires and reduced stream flows due to climate change.

From 2019 to 2023 the ACT's Resilient Farms project will support ACT farmers to adapt to significant changes in climate and market information.

Through this project ACT farmers will be:

  • connected to the latest science on climate change adaptation in agricultural
  • supported to access and use locally relevant weather/climate information
  • exposed to tools/technology which support sustainable, adaptive farming
  • connected to key agriculture research, industry, marketing and extension organisations
  • supported to form groups and networks to enable sharing of knowledge and experiences, collaboration and forward planning
  • exposed to sustainability frameworks, market assurance programs or similar programs

As with Better Land Management, this project is taking a participatory approach. Landholders will be actively involved in the design and implementation of this project. Watch this space for news on the project and how to become involved.

Pest animals and weeds

The pest animals and weeds project was supported by the Australian Government to build the skills and capabilities of farmers, industry and the community to address established pest animals and weeds through training, trialling practices and improved coordination of activities.

The Australian Government contributed $95,000 over four years which was matched by ACT Government in-kind contributions and support from ACT NRM.

Activities supported to date include:

  • Rabbit Control Field Day - Autumn 2017
  • Feral Pig Control Field Day - Autumn 2018
  • spotlight monitoring of rabbits and other pest animals species on north Canberra Farms - Autumn 2017, Spring 2017, Autumn 2018, Spring 2018, Autumn 2019
  • AQF3 Chemical Use accreditation training for more than 45 landholders to enable them to control feral animals and weeds on their properties using agricultural chemicals
  • collaborative spread of the most recent variant of calicivirus, RHDV1K5, on rural properties in northern Canberra - Autumn 2018 (also supported by the ACT Rural Grants project)
  • Feral Pig Control Field Day - Autumn 2018 (also supported by RALF)
  • training in advanced thermal imaging and night scopes for use in deer control
Soil Moisture Probe

ACT NRM has installed a permanent soil moisture probe in the Tidbinbilla Valley, ACT. It joins a network of more than 20 farm-based probes across the Southern Tablelands, Monaro, South West slopes and the South Coast.

The network is administered by the South East Local Land ServicesTablelands Farming Systems and Monaro Farming Systems and ACT NRM.

Each probe provides information that is accessible to all farmers to assist them to make stock and pasture decisions in their district, even if rainfall or soils across a district are variable.

The Tidbinbilla Soil Moisture Probe records accurate rainfall to the nearest 0.2mm, soil temperature and soil moisture to a depth of 1 metre. The soil moisture data generated by the probe is a relative measure of soil moisture.

In addition to enabling landholders to look at this data across the region and over time, Local Land Services, with help from Phil Graham, former Yass DPI expert, takes the soil moisture and rainfall data and inputs it into the CSIRO Grassgro computer program. This program produces a range of different scenarios for pasture production, in particular in Spring and Autumn in the district in which each soil moisture probe is located. This information is available online and can be used by landholders to manage pastures, groundcover and stock and to plan for the future.

Raw soil moisture, rainfall and temperature data is also available on a separate website. If you would like access to that data please email anna.vandugteren@act.gov.au.