Environmental monitoring tools
How can farmers assess their environmental performance?
How can environmental improvement be demonstrated to the community/consumers?
Production performance and quality of food/fibre are aspects of a farming enterprise that are regularly assessed through selling and the supply chain. Traditional 'monitoring tools' have been used in the past have been;
- Production oriented - e.g. crop yield, water use efficiency (WUE), soil testing, pasture dry matter
- Farm level - decision making for production purposes
Limitations and opportunities to these existing monitoring tools;
- Well tested
- Do not consider environmental consequences
- Allow opportunities for add-on/value adding
Environmental performance on a farm is often overlooked as it has been difficult to assess and 'measure' such aspects of farming. Monitoring of natural resources is an important way producers can assess their own environmental performance. Regular monitoring of natural resource condition in primary production provides a clear demonstration of any environmental improvements that might be occurring.
What is monitoring?
Monitoring is the regular gathering and analysis of information needed for your day-to-day management, to inform your decision-making and to evaluate your progress in achieving your planned outcomes over a given period (NRMMC 2002, DAFF 2005).
Why is monitoring of environmental conditions and farming practices important?
Without good record keeping and monitoring, it is difficult for a producer to have proof that they are making an improvement in production or environmental management. With regular monitoring, an enterprise is able to verify any trace back chemical issues with livestock, crops or pasture hay. Accurate records, such as spray records, procedures, crop yields and rotations are crucial to making sure there are a consistent and traceable approach.
Regular monitoring of environmental conditions also allows an enterprise to see where it sits in the local catchment landscape. Awareness of local catchment issues enables an individual enterprise to understand that how they manage 'on-farm' has a significant impact on the catchment region.
What different types of monitoring exist?
A range of monitoring tools have been developed to assist land-holders to monitor various aspects of their enterprise. A feature of these monitoring tools are that they are practical and simple and provide farmers with real ways to measure improvement in production and the environment. They are also based on rigorous science, presented in a simple way.
Monitoring tools available
For a hardcopy of any of the monitoring tools, please contact Anna Ridley, Rutherglen, (02) 6030 4500
Remnant vegetation tools
- Environmental Management in Agriculture - Native Biodiversity Resource Kit.
- Vegetation Quality Assessment Manual
Land condition tools
- Groundcover/soil erosion
- Soil Health
- Sustainable Livestock Carrying Capacity
- Nitrogen monitoring
Farm management tools
- Livestock integrated pest management (IPM) monitoring Tools
- Water Balance (Perenniality and Leakage)
- Herbicide resistance monitoring
Water quality tools
Selection of relevant monitoring tools
When selecting which tool to utilise for natural resource monitoring, a producer might look at;
- What indicator type (land, water, veg, and air)?
- Which local catchment does the enterprise exist in?
- What are environmental concerns of that catchment?
- What element of sustainability (eg. soil loss, soil toxicity, water quality, biodiversity, air quality, profitability)?
Land Manager's Monitoring Guide QLD DNRM
Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines - (07) 3896 9539
This is another guide to environmental monitoring and is available through the QLD DNRM website. It includes a decision support tool that links enterprises or production systems, land practices and management activities to potential environmental impact/s to assist land managers identify indicator/s that are most relevant to their particular situation.
The Land Manager's Monitoring Guide may assist managers that want to monitor the impact of their land management activities for purposes such as:
- Improved management, property level planning and long term sustainability
- Environmental Management Systems and Farm Management Systems
- Monitoring progress of agreed actions under a Land Management Agreements under the Queensland State Rural Leasehold Land Strategy
- Supporting local monitoring activities by landcare groups, catchment groups or regional NRM bodies
Paddock record keeping
The recording sheet can be used with some of the Environmental Monitoring Tools above. The paddock recording sheets have been designed to capture information recorded in the environmental monitoring tools developed for the Riverine Plains in Northern Victoria and southern NSW.
For more information on these tools please contact Anna Ridley, Kyra-Jane Huhn or Eloise Seymour at Rutherglen, (02) 6030 4500.