Dalrymple Landcare

Qld Landcare conference

2013 Queensland Landcare Conference

Warwick turned on the heat for the 250 attendees at the Queensland State Landcare Conference, hosted by the Condamine Headwaters Landcare group on 27, 28, 29 September. We drove out of Charters Towers at a balmy 35 degrees to arrive in Warwick for a couple of40 degree days. Feed supplies were certainly better as we moved south and east in spite of the large fires burning in areas of the central highlands.

The theme of the conference was “Healthy habitats- profitable production” and all speakers addressed aspects of this theme. Proceedings are here.

Key note speakers were;

Julian Cribb, author, journalist, science communicator started proceeding with a presentation that highlighted the challenges of feeding an increasing population that is living longer and has a higher expectation of dietary choice from a land resource base that is disappearing through desertification and soil nutrient loss with less water available for irrigation due to competition from cities, mining and declining aquifers at a time when we are approaching peak oil and artificial fertilizers, all with less dollars going to agricultural research.

Major General Michael Jeffery, chairman of Soils for Life, spoke of soils as strategic national assets and how they need to be managed in an integrated way across the continent; maintaining a landscape that is fit for purpose.

Dr Nancy Schellhorn, head of the Spatial Ecology team at CSIRO promoted of the concept and development of Pest Suppressive Landscapes; a way of designing and managing agricultural landscape mosaics for productivity and biodiversity and how these are mutually beneficial to each other. Some of this harks back to the old land management of 1/3 pasture, 1/3 crop, 1/3 woodland not only at a property level but at a regional level.

Terry McCosker, director of RCS and Carbon Link Limited brought us up to date methodology that can now very accurately measure and map soil carbon. The problem of variability in measurements has been overcome and while still requiring intensive soil mapping, technological improvement is moving at a fast rate and the ability to remote soil carbon mapping is not far away. These technological advances are also highlighting that there is more carbon in the top 1 metre of soil than all terrestrial life and the atmosphere combined and that with correct management the potential to store more carbon in many of our soils is huge. In some grazing situations the potential gross margins/ha from carbon storage will exceed those of the livestock. Some of the challenges will be changes to government policy on carbon pricing and duration of storage.

Shane Joyce, grazier and Carbon Cocky of the year described how he and his wife Shan  designed,  manage and monitor for robust productivity and excellent landscape and diversity outcomes.

Bill Gammage, adjunct professor in Humanities at Australian National University spoke of the aboriginal management of the Australian landscape pre 1788 and their use of fire to design and maintain it for their needs. He further argues this theory in his book “The Biggest estate on Earth”.

Georgie Somerset, President of the Qld Rural, Regional and Remote Womens Network addressed “what is profit?”. Profit in the bank balance, people and the landscape and maintaining the resilience in all is critical.

In addition to the key note speakers there were concurrent sessions that covered a multitude of topics;

  • land management in the desert uplands and coastal dunes all needing to   engage communities,
  • vegetation policy changes,
  • challenges of plant and animal pests arriving in all forms of transport in an increasingly globalized world and managing pests at the local level,
  • mining and coal seam gas impacts and working with miners,
  • healthy and resilient soils, landscapes and people,
  • catchment management and NRM groups,
  • integrated production systems, crops, grazing, environment
  • stream bed erosion as key threatening process
  • designing balanced productive landscapes
  • habitat protection and rehabilitation for the community and wee beasties.
  • cultivating  and respecting the diversity of people and views within communities and keeping the doors open for when people are ready to walk through.

Participants had a selection field trips and on site workshops on the Saturday afternoon. These included biodynamics, soil health, holistic management, conservation farming, rainforest regeneration, indigenous culture and a visit to Alora Mt.

The conference closed with a themed panel session, “Think globally, act locally”  where speakers and the audience discussed about how at a local level we can influence the bigger sphere and vice versa.

The conference highlighted for me what a broad church Landcare is, from tie dye, beads and cheese-cloth (with a hint damp sheep), through double pocket shirts and RM Williams skirts to pin striped suits and political views more diverse than the modes of attire. All were there with the common ideal that the land and how we care and use it, does matter and that we are all part of it and in spite of differences there is more to unite us than divide us.

DLC thanks NQ Dry Tropics for the sponsorship from the Regional Facilitators fund that assisted with the conference costs.