Rockwork, grasses to stop erosion


29 OCTOBER 2020

Rock work and grasses are replacing erosion on a cattle property near Innisfail as part of a $2.3 million project to improve the land and better protect the Great Barrier Reef.

More than 200 tonnes of rock has transformed two sites on the Loudon family’s East Palmerston farm, where changes to cattle and pasture practices are also making a difference.

Stuart Loudon said the property, on Berner and Fishers Creek, had been farmed by the family since the 1960s. “It’s hilly land and when it’s wet, it’s really wet,’’ he said. “We’ve been working on improving the soil, our pastures and the land so it can better handle our cattle and the wet seasons.”

The third-generation grazier has welcomed recent earth and rock work by Terrain NRM at a creek crossing and on an eroded hillside.

“The crossing area had eroded over time because of a natural spring bubbling up out of the ground above the creek in the wet season and the ongoing cattle and farm vehicle traffic,” Terrain’s Vanessa Drysdale said. “It’s the only way to access another section of the farm so we’ve laid a rock bed that’ll get cattle and traffic over soft ground without causing more erosion.”

Ms Drysdale said a gully head was forming beside a sloping pasture on another section of land where cattle once moved between paddocks. “Water was running down the cattle pads in the wet season and being funnelled into the rainforest at a gateway, causing more and more gully erosion,’’ she said. “We’ve created a bowl-shaped area and a bund so that the water spreads out over a much wider area on its way to natural waterways and doesn’t make its way to the gully head anymore.”

Mr Loudon is following up with more fencing, to keep cattle off creek banks and create another paddock for rotational grazing. He said a shift to more natural pasture enhancers was also helping to improve the land.

“We don’t use a lot of fertiliser here anymore – we’re applying a fair bit of fish emulsion and worm juice,’’ he said. “We’ve been doing that for about four years and we’re seeing healthier soil and thicker grass.”

After soil health and natural grazing workshops with Terrain NRM, he is also planning on planting legumes in the next few years as a way of increasing the soil’s nitrogen levels.

The Loudons are one of more than a dozen grazing families whose land is being worked on as part of the Upper Johnstone Integrated Project, which is funded by the Queensland Government’s Natural Resources Investment Program.

More than 50 other farming families have been involved in soil health, business management and grazing naturally workshops, that are also part of the project.

The Johnstone River catchment is a priority for water quality improvement and has been given the Far North’s highest sediment reduction target in the Australian and Queensland Government’s Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.

Ms Drysdale said the Upper Johnstone Integrated Project was “all about reducing sediment losses to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon while helping graziers to help themselves by addressing erosion problems and improving their pastures and livelihoods’’.

“There are hundreds of small-scale erosion sites in the catchment and the farms we are working on can now be demonstration sites for others,’’ she said.

For more information, visit our Upper Johnstone Integrated Project page.


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