Keep yourself covered when it comes to ground cover
31 May 2018
Dry seasonal conditions in East Gippsland are causing ground cover to be critically low, therefore making soil highly susceptible to erosion from run-off when heavy rain occurs.
Recent rain in the region, while very welcome, will not alleviate the soil health issues facing landholders heading into winter, with serious shortages of pasture and ground cover evident.
Soil erosion rates commonly exceeds the rate which soil forms, and one millimetre of soil lost across a hectare can easily amount to over 13 tonnes.
Landholders should take steps to minimise these risks by prioritising areas on their farm to protect assets, such as pastures and farm water supplies, from sediment and organic contamination.
Agriculture Victoria Land Management Extension Officer Mr John Commins said looking for signs of where water flows across the farm and therefore where erosion may occur, will provide valuable information that can save money in the longer term.
"Simple measures like sediment barriers placed in drainage lines, are quick and effective to install. There is also an opportunity to clean out dry farm dams, but it's important to protect the integrity of the original design. Coring material, flood bypasses, crest and inflow fore-bay areas are all critical to the success of the farm dam," Mr Commins said.
"Catchment and farm dam size should be considered before undertaking this work. Larger and deeper dams should be prioritised where possible, as increasing the size of smaller farm dams can increase the risk of catastrophic failure and risk not meeting regulatory requirements."
Landholders should check permit requirements with local shires and water authorities before commencing any work.
Existing sediment and nutrient loads can also add to the potential for algal blooms later in the season.
Mr Commins said soil temperatures in some areas have not dropped below the threshold to initiate germination of pastures, although this will obviously slow as winter approaches. Soil testing can provide greater insight into the health of your soil and how to address any issues.
"It is very important to allow sufficient time for pastures to recover by excluding stock and monitoring competition from pest animals and insects such as red legged earth mite.
"Landholders should be mindful to protect germinating pastures from grazing, where possible, by controlling stocking rates, using stock containment areas or other similar methods.
"Farmers wishing to reduce exposure of bare ground should be sowing quick germinating cereals or forage brassicas with nitrogenous fertiliser to gain some possible winter grazing and replenish fodder reserves in the spring and summer," Mr Commins said.
For more information, see our soil erosion page or contact your local Agriculture Victoria office or call our Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
Categorised under: Agriculture