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Farmers learn from international soil and grazing specialists

A GROUNDSWELL of support for soil health and natural grazing practices recently brought almost 200 Far Northern farmers to workshops on the Tablelands.

Graziers, cane, banana, beef cattle, avocado and maize farmers hit the paddock and ‘classroom’ for sessions focused on maximising soil health through natural processes, grazing cattle more effectively and diversifying ground cover.

Tarzali grazier Rob Pagano said stock rotation and pasture management methods were changing.

“We’re already rotating stock but we’re learning here how to do it more strategically to take full advantage of your grasses,’’ he said.

“It’s easy to go too hard or to be too cautious and keep too much back – that can also work against you when it comes to pasture and soil health.”

Landholders heard from internationally recognised soil ecologist Dr Christine Jones and ecological grazing expert Dick Richardson.

Terrain NRM’s Jen Mackenzie said the pair was brought to the Far North as part of Australian and Queensland Government-funded projects, delivered by Terrain, that were helping landholders to improve soil health, reduce erosion and prevent sediment from flowing to the Great Barrier Reef.

Terrain NRM’s Herbert River Gully and Grazing program includes earthworks to re-shape gullies, revegetation work, fencing, and a fresh look at grazing practices. The Digging Deeper Plus project is helping farmers to improve soil health. The Upper Johnstone Integrated Project is focused on erosion hotspots.

All three programs also aim to improve the quality of water flowing to the Great Barrier Reef. Ms Mackenzie said landholders had responded well to the workshops.

“We’ve had a full house for all four, with people from Cape York to Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands, Cassowary Coast, Upper Herbert and Burdekin,’’ she said.

“There is a real hunger in our region for practical information on soil health and grazing practices.”

Babinda landholder Alison Van Ballegooyen and her sister Louise Ravenscroft, who has a property at Mena Creek, said it was refreshing to see everyone sharing their knowledge.

“Farmers from all around the region are talking through ideas and solutions together,’’ Mrs Ravenscroft said.

“And learning about the different ways to regenerate farming land and move away from some more traditional practices to get the land back to a better state of health has been invaluable.”

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