Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Growers sharing knowledge
GROUND COVER GROWERS SHARING KNOWLEDGE 4 Breaking down the barriers: alliances multiply IN 2002, COMMUNITY-BASED GROUPS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA FORMED THE GROWER GROUP ALLIANCE AND IN 2005 SOUTH AUSTRALIA FORMED THE AG EXCELLENCE ALLIANCE. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THESE ALLIANCES? THE ‘DECADE OF Landcare’ initiative, which began in 1990, was the catalyst for the formation of many community-based groups. These focused on sustainability issues at a farm and catchment level, applying local knowledge and working with government agencies to develop better farming practices. In the past 15 years, many of these groups have evolved and flourished: they now run their own activities based on members’ needs, employ staff, have considerable turnover and provide a hub for information generation and dissemination in their region. In Western Australia in 2002, these independent groups entered a new phase with the establishment of the Grower Group Alliance. In 2005, the Ag Excellence Alliance, a similar network of grower groups, was formed in South Australia. So what is the purpose and value of such alliances? Grower Group Alliance Tracey Gianatti is the project coordinator for the Grower Group Alliance, a project established with funding from GRDC. The alliance now consists of a network of 16 grower groups, six research institutions and more than 15 agribusiness companies. Information communicated by the network reaches more than 2400 growers across the WA wheatbelt. At the 2006 International APEN Conference, Ms Gianatti explained that after three years of operation, the single most important success factor was that the project began and remained driven by the grower groups. This gives it a clear purpose in all its daily and strategic operations. In addition to this, the Grower Group Alliance found that to develop successful partnerships between grower groups and industry, three key elements were required. These were: n a clear purpose for the relationship; n the creation of space for two-way interaction to expand personal networks and develop sustainable partnerships; and included specific natural resource management objectives. Despite this there were projects that reported clear environmental outcomes. For example, conservation tillage and zero-till trials in central Queensland have improved rainfall infiltration, reduced run-off and reduced movement of crop chemicals into waterways. Trials with butterfly pea in cereal rotations in this area increased ground cover, contributed to soil fertility and reduced run-off and erosion. The activities of grower groups, especially the WA and SA no-till farmers’ associations, have resulted in about 60 per cent of farmers in those regions reducing the number of cultivations and improving crop rotations. Such changes are likely to have improved and conserved soil and water resources. The survey found much anecdotal evidence about changes in practice that were considered to have positive environmental benefits. For example, 84 per cent of farmers surveyed believed changes in their farming practice had improved their soil structure. The future The report highlighted some shortcomings in the farming systems work surveyed. It noted that future projects need to address environmental sustainability in a more meaningful way. Livestock issues were often sidelined and should be incorporated in regions where mixed farming is significant. It also highlighted the need for a formalised method of monitoring and evaluating projects for their triple bottom line returns. These and other recommendations from the report have been considered by the GRDC and shared with grower groups. The projects reported in this supplement reflect some of the achievements of grower groups and changes adopted by them since the survey was completed. A full copy of the report Evaluation of GRDC Supported Farming Systems Projects is available from the GRDC website at www.grdc.com.au/growers/res_summ/has00002/contents.htm WHAT GROUPS ACHIEVE PHOTO: EMMA LEONARD All parties enjoy the opportunity for increased interaction between growers, researchers and agribusiness.
GC Supplement - No-till
GC Supplement - Pastures