Grass-roots community organisation that aims to improve the natural condition of the Derwent catchment

Derwent Pasture Network

The Derwent Catchment Project team, with funding from NRM South through the Australian Government’s Regional Land Partnerships program, is embarking on a new three-year program of work with dryland grazers across the Derwent Catchment. The focus of the program is to support farmers managing that difficult north-facing country, which is very prone to soil erosion, and to manage dryland pastures as effectively as possible.

On hot windy days in dry country, soil can be sometimes be seen blowing across the landscape, a scene locally known rather euphemistically as ‘asset transfer’. This is generally not a desirable transfer process for the original asset owner. Research has shown that a significant amount of soil is lost across the southern region of Tasmania, predominantly in the Derwent. Apart from the loss of the soil itself, erosion means that soil particles will find their way to the lowest point in the landscape, ending up in our waterways, which in turn reduces water quality.

The Pasture Network will use a range of approaches to provide locally relevant information to farmers including a farmer-to-farmer mentoring program, discussion groups and demonstration sites, with all of the learnings available through a purpose-built website www.pasturehub.com. The Pasture Hub website will provide easy-to-understand information on everything ‘dryland’ for Tasmanian graziers to access and share in traditional and modern formats.

The Derwent Catchment Project team is working with six commercial farmers on demonstration sites looking at pasture persistence, grazing management and the establishment of deep-rooted forage shrubs on north-facing slopes as three-year case studies. There have been previous efforts at establishing saltbush shrubs on marginal country, as shown in the picture of Charles Downie on Glenelg with a planting undertaken 15 years ago. To date, none of the shrub projects has undertaken a study looking at the cost of establishment versus the productivity benefits gained. The Derwent Catchment Project team with support from the farmers involved will establish saltbush shrubs on 5 hectares of north-facing slope next to a ‘control’ paddock of the same size which will be grazing as normal. Over the course of the program we will assess the grazing value of the forage shrubs compared with the control paddock. The results will tell us whether fodder shrubs are a viable way to improve marginal land on north-facing country and reduce soil erosion.

Other dryland activities are also under development. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that group activities held on-farm as part of the Pasture Network program such as field days, workshops and seminars will take a different tack. We will utilise the best of modern technology to deliver sessions through YouTube videos, podcasts, webinar, Zoom and social media platforms to engage with farmers in line with the advice we have been given to avoid social contact unless necessary.

If you have north-facing country in the Derwent Catchment and would like to be involved with the Pasture Network program please contact Eve Lazarus from the Derwent Catchment Project at projects@derwentcatchment.org or on 0429 170 048.

>> Introducing Peter Ball

Farmer standing in a paddock

Derwent Catchment Project

PO Box 22 Hamilton TAS 7140  |  Phone (03) 6286 3211  |  facilitator@derwentcatchment.org