Huge gains for farm productivity and environment

By Michelle Young, Sustainable Farms Project

On-farm field days provide real examples of actions to improve productivity. Photo: Sustainable Farms project, ANU.

In a win-win for everyone involved, a project run by the Australian National University (ANU) is helping farmers to improve the productivity, profitability and biodiversity on their farms while also improving farmers’ wellbeing.

The Sustainable Farms project is founded on 20 years of research and monitoring on more than 270 farms across Australia’s south east wheat and sheep belt. Sharing this unique knowledge provides important and practical insights into how productivity, conservation and farmer wellbeing can be jointly achieved on farmland.

We know that science based information is critical for farmers to sustain production, maintain healthy landscapes and keep rural communities strong. Sustainable Farms is not a remote university project – we have key ANU people working in the field with farmers on a daily basis.

With farmers and Landcare as key partners, the project team recently delivered a series of field days on farms to provide other farmers with demonstrations of improved farm dams, native shelterbelts, protected paddock trees and rocky outcrops, restored rivers and creeks and enhanced biodiversity. NSW Local Land Services and Victorian catchment management authorities are also essential partners in the project.

The Sustainable Farms project has involved 22 on-farm field days.

There’s nothing like seeing real-life examples of farmers’ actions to improve productivity, to get people motivated. One field day was hosted by farmers who have had great success in improving the productivity and natural assets on their farm by planting shelterbelts and growing saltbush to increase livestock performance and biodiversity, with substantial benefits for integrated pest management.

In all, 527 people attended 22 field days, sharing the knowledge and experiences of the land holder, research from the ANU and information from veterinarians, ecologists and agronomists. The field days include plenty of opportunities for discussion and an enjoyable barbeque at the end.

This year we are calling for new partners to be part of the journey. Please contact us if you are a farmer or group in the south east wheat and sheep belt with examples of sustainable farming practices and would like to be involved in the Sustainable Farms project: phone 0427 770 594 or email sustainablefarms@anu.edu.au

There are many different ways to improve farm resilience in the face of climate variability – it doesn’t have to be onerous or expensive – it can start with protecting one paddock tree. The project is developing a set of helpful resources during 2019. To find out more, visit sustainablefarms.org.au.

The Sustainable Farms initiative is co-funded by the ANU and philanthropy. The multi-disciplinary research team from the ANU includes Professor Lindenmayer, world-leading ecologist and wildlife biologist from the Fenner School, Professor Bruce Chapman from the Research School of Economics, who is known for being the architect of the HECS scheme, and Associate Professor Phil Batterham from the Centre for Mental Health Research.

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