Regenerative farming in the Wimmera Mallee
Throughout 2020, BCG has had increased involvement in the conversations focusing on regenerative farming. Its principles, as well as the associated practices, have been researched and considered for some time with many of them being implemented on Wimmera and Mallee farms for years.
Earlier in the year, BCG was successful in obtaining funding to host a regenerative agriculture forum. Based on the outcomes of that forum, we were to initiate research into what regenerative agriculture looks like in the Victorian Wimmera and Mallee.
Whilst COVID-19 has meant the forum has been postponed to 2021, ABC’s Australian Story, aired this week, sparked further discussion on the subject.
The program highlighted that much of the theory is underpinned by improving soil health. I am excited and comforted, as I talk to many BCG members, that the Wimmera and Mallee farming community had regenerative thinking and practices in place well before such a label existed.
Perhaps we have found a way of describing what many farmers have been doing for years.
Thanks to the adoption no-till sowing systems, growers have successfully protected soils by retaining stubble and maintaining soil throughout the year. Those who are managing livestock have worked in this low and variable rainfall environment to ensure they can remove stock from paddocks and place them in containment areas before the soil structures are destroyed.
BCG has been researching soil amelioration options for many years to help increase the nutritive value of our soils; we have invested heavily in supporting farmers’ understanding of and ability to ensure nutrients are replaced into the system.
The diversity of our cropping program has expanded dramatically beyond a wheat/barley dominated rotation. Canola, faba beans, lentils, chickpeas, vetch, oats, safflower are no longer perceived as new and unusual.
This year, in conjunction with Agriculture Victoria, BCG is researching various approaches to inter-cropping or multi-specie crops (sowing multiple crop types).
Biodiversity has increased on farms via tree plantations along fence lines, as well as fencing off and enhancing remnant patches of existing vegetation. BCG’s studies in the 2000s, including Diversity in a Piped System, Frogs on Farms, Making Conservation Pay and Healthy Soils have been responsible for much of the heavy lifting in this space since that time.
One of the practices linked to Regenerative Agriculture thinking is the ability to maintain a year-round living root system. Our low rainfall environment makes this particularly relevant. BCG is planning such research in the near future.
If you have ideas or an interest in regenerative agriculture and would like to get involved, please contact our office to discuss with one of our staff members.
Spring (and COVID-19) gives rise to new ideas
Our annual Main Field Day is a much-anticipated event on the agricultural research and extension calendar. In many ways, it represents the benefits of being a BCG member: seeing locally conducted research, having face-to-face conversations with researchers, industry leaders and commercial providers and importantly, the opportunity to meet with other growers from across the region and Australia.
As with so many things, COVID-19 put paid to this year’s event.
A huge amount of planning and work goes into preparing the Main Field Day’s venue, the Main Site, so in its stead, the BCG team got creative and I’m pleased to present the Digital Research Site to you.
Featuring a range of new learnings to extend information online and showcasing the Main Site, at Trevor Grogan’s property at Curyo, like you’ve never seen it before, the team have worked hard to ensure that you don’t miss out on viewing some of the trials and hearing from the BCG researchers who are responsible for them.
I encourage all our members to participate in the Main Field Day by visiting our website at www.bcg.org.au
You’ll be pleasantly surprised.