Major pushes sustainable farming into mainstream

Read the original in The Land

“We gather together very capable people to work pro-bono to look at certain issues, and to use their intellect and resources to find solutions to particular questions,” Maj-Gen Jeffery said.

 

The General plans to establish Outcomes Australia teams to address a range of issues, from the tangle of State and Federal environmental legislation to use of soil microbiology and the impacts of chemical-based farming.

He believes the core of the solution to many of Australia’s environmental issues lies with the Natural Sequence Farming methods developed by Peter Andrews.

“We’re not saying we have the total answer to all the problems in regenerating the landscape, but we have a pretty good indication of what needs to be done,” Maj-Gen Jeffery said.

“I’ve spent the past six months visiting properties in many parts of the country and, for example, have seen what biological fertilisers can do for soil fertility and carbon sequestration.”

“My main conclusion has been that Peter Andrews’ ideas are applicable in a holistic sense across much of the country, supported by bio fertilisers and other measures.”

Mr Andrew’s ideas hinge on the understanding that 200 years of misinformed land management have dehydrated the landscape, with implications for stream flows, soil fertility and fire risk.

Adjunct Professor David Mitchell of Charles Sturt University’s Institute for Land, Water and Society disagrees with Mr Andrews on certain details, but not on the general principle.

“Water is critical,” Prof Mitchell said.

“Without knowing it, we have been drying out this countryside. A lot of our water resources were not in pools, but in soil and vegetation. When it rains those reservoirs start filling again, and there’s less water for us. The current dryness is not just lack of rain.”

Prof Mitchell applauds the General’s initiative. “We have to bring together everyone who has a good idea on this issue,” he said.

While few will quarrel with the ideal of restoring landscape health, not everyone is likely to be in favour of the approaches endorsed by the General.

He hopes that within a decade a third of Australia’s farmers – and eventually all of them – will have stopped using artificial fertilisers, dramatically boosted vegetation species, substantially reduced or ceased irrigation and adopted a more holistic approach to farm management.

He also wants water to be recognised as the nation’s most valuable asset, owned by the people and managed by the Federal Government.

“Our water has to be controlled at the national level with a value attached to it that equates to its importance,” General Jeffery told the Batemans Bay gathering.

“Unless we can address the threat to world-wide water and food security, we stand to see conflict on a scale unknown since WWII.”

Similar discussions have been held around the fringes of mainstream agriculture for many years, but this is the first time that such a radical overhaul of agriculture and landscape management has had the backing of a leading public figure.

And in a clear sign that this is more than just a talk-fest, the Batemans Bay meeting was sponsored by Federal Departments of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, CSIRO and NSW Industry and Investment.

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