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land management

The four pillars of primary production at Duck Creek QLD

Soils, Water, Carbon and Biodiversity

Land Management From Below Grass Roots

 

At our Duck Creek Rd property ‘Jingeri’ we are

passionate about maintaining healthy ecosystems to

ensure the highest quality product from the bottom up.

We understand that to produce high quality beef, our

cattle need to be eating the best quality pastures and

these are generated from healthy soils. All in all it is the 

natural capital of the farm (water, soil, vegetation, 

biodiversity, carbon and nitrogen cycling of ecosystem

stocks and flows) that create the platform from which

we can grow a product, whether that be carbon, beef

or honey.

To ensure our soil performs consistently at its peak, the natural capital at Jingeri is promoted and proactively managed by conserving soil biology, scientifically defensible grass cover:tree cover balance, a constant war on weeds - especially annual pasture weeds such as ambrosia and fire weed, and widespread and highly invasive lantana. Below are some of the great resources we have found that help us provide the best foundation for the most profitable land and cattle production, whilst constantly improving our biggest asset on farm - the natural capital.

 

What We Do

Our recent efforts include surveying and documenting some of the animals and plants on the property, so that we may more accurately focus our land management strategies at the ecosystem level.

Initial data has found we are home to several listed species, for example: the Long Nosed Potaroo which is currently listed as vulnerable under the QLD Nature Conservation Act 1994 and the Commonwealth Environmental Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. These animals are:

  • highly specialised

  • very vulnerable to predation by cats, dogs and foxes

  • not well studied.

  • are dependent on fire within the landscape to facilitate specialised food sources such as mycorrhizal fungi

Identifying assets such as the potaroo and other unique species are key to understanding how our land ‘works’, as well as creating opportunities for funding assistance to help us achieve our vision. The unique implication for us in having this knowledge is that we consider the potaroo as an indicator species for soil health. Because of its dependency on mycorrhizal fungi as a primary food source, this tells us that healthy populations of potaroo reflects healthy soil fungi populations, which reflects healthy stocks of nutrients, carbon and water cycling through the landscape.

LAND Stewardship

What is land stewardship?

“The single most important component of LAND STEWARDSHIP is to make the farm capable of withstanding the vagaries of nature” Joel Salatin, ‘Forgiveness Farming’ (2006)

Land stewardship requires a dynamic and adaptive management model that does not attempt to break, bend or restrain nature, rather it evolves in an organic way, basing itself on the type of natural capital that exists within a specific area. It recognises that one size does not fit all, or that just because something works in one local environment it will necessarily transcribe to another. To be a land steward one must be prepared to innovate, experiment and take calculated risks, whilst basing all decisions on sound observation of how the land works at the specific local level.

 

Land stewardship recognises that there are specific elements within the natural environment (economists call them natural capital, environmentalists call them ecosystems services and we like to call them Pillars), that are paramount in any successful farming or conservation system:

  1. Soil ecosystems

  2. Water cycling

  3. Carbon and Nutrient cycling

  4. Biodiversity

1. Soil Ecosystems

Soil: The foundation on which we stand and the foundation on which we build!

I cannot stress enough the importance of soils to the health and survival of humans as a species. Soils constitute the terrestrial surfaces (land) on which we live and operate our economic systems. They cycle and recycle waste we produce within our socio-economic systems and become storage vessels (sinks) for wastes that are toxic or cannot be assimilated easily back into natural systems. These wastes directly threaten the health and success of all species, humans included.

Most importantly though, when soils are functioning as unpolluted, biologically healthy, mineral and nutrient dense growing mediums, they become the primary source of every vitamin, antioxidant and trace mineral, humans require for optimal health and the prevention of disease. At the same time they are home to the largest and most biologically diverse ecosystems and are the least studied (therefore understood) organisms and ecosystems on our planet.

2. Water Cycling

Water is the most critical component of all life on Earth. It is certainly the most critical component of all farming regimes and must be preserved and protected given that water availability is severely limited in many geographical locations. This is especially the case in Australia where we have some of the most brittle environments[1] in the world. We are not the driest continent on Earth (Antarctica is), but we have the most sporadic and highly variable rainfall patterns.

The concept of water cycling is fairly simple.

  • Water accumulates in the atmosphere to the point of saturation,

  • It rains

  • The rain is taken up by plant life; and

  • The plants release water back into the atmosphere and into soils

  • At the same time the sun heats the earth’s surface and water is

evaporated back into the atmosphere.

  • When the point of saturation is reached it rains again.

Plants in this regime are quite simply rain factories. It is the slow uptake of water into the plant and the subsequent slow release of water into the atmosphere and soils that assists in keeping the cycle in balance.

 

Some interesting facts about water:
  • Adults need around 2-3 litres of water per day to be healthy:

  • The human brain is around 73% water, the lungs 83%, kidneys 79%, skin 64% and bones 31%

  • 50% of our total water usage across the globe is embedded in the food we eat

  • It takes 3 litres of water to produce 1 litre of bottled water

  • It takes 140 litres of water to produce 1 cup of coffee across the value chain

3. Carbon & Nutrient Cycling

“Man has always fought fiercely to preserve his ignorance”. Robert Quillen

Carbon in the atmosphere traps heat and warms our planet, making the atmosphere a massive greenhouse (hence the term Greenhouse Effect), however too much of this effect and the atmosphere  will warm past a point where humans and natural systems can cope and adapt. This is why climate change is a significant problem that we face both now and into the not so distant future.

Carbon is also a critical component of healthy soils. Like water, carbon cycles in and out of the atmosphere via plants, but its storage in soils through the decomposition of dead organic matter hat forms the basis for living soils and the ability of soils to retain moisture and nutrients.

Carbon is the basic building block of all organic matter living and dead. Carbon like water also persists within Earth’s atmosphere and while its volume is miniscule in percentage terms, the function of carbon in the atmosphere (as carbon dioxide and equivalent gases) is profound. I like to use this analogy: if we compare carbon to the radioactive compounds used in nuclear devices, it takes a miniscule amount to create unimaginable devastation. For instance it took only around 64kgs of highly enriched uranium-235 to cause the devastation of Hiroshima at the end of WWII.

4. Biodiversity

Exactly what is biodiversity? Directly translated the term literally means living (Bio) many things (Diversity). Often these days the term is used (somewhat incorrectly) to describe endangered species, plant and non-human animal species and plants and animals that are considered important and or desirable. The point here is that we do not often relate this word back to human cultures and communities, when in reality these too are part of our global systems of biodiversity and are not, as some may believe, separate, unconnected or different.

The important point to remember is that the more diversity we have, the more complex the system in which it exists becomes; the more complex the system, the more connections and interrelationships; the more connections

and interrelationships, the more niches are created; therefore these ecosystems become more resilient  to change and therefore more likely to survive a sudden and profound change or impact.

 

Economics and market systems are a good way of visualising this. Normal economic principles require a few essential components for the success of economic markets and can be correlated with concepts from Ecological theory:

  • Many sellers and many buyers (biodiversity in Population Ecology theory)

  • Efficient allocation of resources through a balance between supply and demand (Competition, Cooperation, Symbiosis and Mutualism in Community Ecology theory)

  • A level of equilibrium that is achieved by how the market operates as a whole, not as its individual parts (Systems Thinking theory/Ecosystems theory)

  • Comparative Advantage and Opportunity Cost (Niche specialisation, Predator/Prey Relationships in Community Ecology theory)

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[1] Brittle environments: Defined originally by Allan Savory this concept explains environments that sit somewhere on a continuum of how often rain events occur and how much rain falls, rather than a focus on total rainfall