Celebrating sustainable farmers on World Environment Day

04th Jun 2015

On World Environment Day, Friday the 5th of June, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services is highlighting the critical role of farmers in caring for a healthy, sustainable landscape.

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services is celebrating the work of farmers like Glenn Morris who are embracing sustainable agriculture and building profitability in partnership with a healthy, functioning natural environment.

According to the World Environment Day website (at www.unep.org/wed), “Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change”.

Glenn Morris’ goal as a farmer is to turn that situation around, at least on the country in his care on the property “Billabong” at Inverell.

Like more and more farmers on the Northern Tablelands, Glenn is working to reverse environmental degradation, rebuild humus and fertility in the soil, and repair the natural water cycle to make his property more resilient during extreme weather events.

“As farmers we are impacting on the condition of the water cycle, the atmosphere and the climate through our decisions, and in return that affects what is happening back on our farms,” said Glenn.

“Farmers are in a unique position to manage their land in a way that halts environmental degradation and creates a buffer to the worst effects of climate change.”

Glenn’s work on restoring degraded farm land began at the Grafton property, Wilton Park, in the late 1990s.

“When we started at Wilton Park, it had been severely over grazed, and we were seeing more extreme weather conditions compounding that damage. There were record hot, dry spells, then record breaking storms that eroded the soil.”

“By introducing strategic grazing management systems, we allowed the pasture to fully regenerate. We run large mobs of cattle that are moved into a paddock for a short period, then moved on before they can damage the underlying plant biomass.”

“Keeping thick pasture coverage on the soil builds humus, which builds fertility and increases the amount of water the soil can hold. A thick stand of pasture and vegetation will hold moisture and withstand a long, dry spell far better than country that’s over grazed.”

“It’ll also prevent erosion when you get a fierce storm, catching and storing much of the water in those heavy downpours that would otherwise have run off the paddock before it could soak in to the soil.”

“For every 1% of extra soil humus in a hectare, in the top 30 cm of soil, you’re storing an extra 160,000 litres of water, and the same approach significantly increases the amount of carbon that can be stored. Your soil can then suck up some of the excessive carbon emissions that are causing these climate change fuelled erratic weather events.”

Glenn also believes a wetter, more vegetated area will actually attract rainfall, and cites new research to back his assertions.

“There’s evidence emerging about the role of soil bacteria and fungal spores in essentially seeding rainfall, so if you overgraze your country you are virtually driving away the rain and making your problems worse.”

“If you over graze pastures and clear vegetation, it creates a vicious cycle, where you get less rain, the soil gets drier, and it’s harder to grow new pasture.”

Glenn is convinced that since grazing management changes were implemented at Wilton Park, and now on Billabong at Inverell, the country is attracting more moisture.

“With the increased pasture mass and vegetation, we’re getting more fogs, more heavy dews and more rainfall. We’ve been able to restore the natural water cycle and rebuild the water holding capacity of our soils, while at the same time tripling our stock numbers,” said Glenn.

“Farmers, as land owners and managers, are the custodians of huge areas of country in Australia, and it’s our responsibility to manage our land in a positive way, particularly now when the negative impacts of human civilisation are actually threatening our future survival.”

“Most people live in cities and can do very little as individuals to protect the natural world, but as farmers we have the incredible privilege of being able to shape and nurture our piece of the landscape.”

“We need to be protecting every square metre of healthy well vegetated land as if our lives depended on it, because indeed they do,” said Glenn.

Glenn believes taking care of the small picture on our farms and local communities, is the way to improve the big picture of environmental sustainability.

“A healthy well vegetated landscape, with soils that are enhanced with high humus levels, is the greatest ally we have for helping to restore a stable and safe environment for future generations,” said Glenn.

On World Environment Day and every day, the Local Land Services team is here to work with local farmers like Glenn Morris to improve agricultural productivity while we restore and protect our natural environment, because we understand that the best way to look after our land for future generations is to ensure the viability of our land managers.

For more information about natural resource management, strategic grazing systems, and profitable, sustainable farming contact your local Northern Tablelands Local Land Services office in Armidale, Glen Innes, Inverell or Tenterfield.