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Beyond the Bale : December 2015
Basalt to Bay Landcare Network has produced a 15-page rep The Basalt to Bay Landcare Network has produced a 15-page report: ‘Economic Benefits of Native Shelterbelts’. The Basalt to Bay Landcare Network in South West Victoria is spreading the word to farmers across the country about the potential productivity and biodiversity benefits of native shelterbelts. T he Basalt to Bay Landcare Network’s ‘Economic Benefits of Native Shelterbelts’ report brings together more than 30 years of local, national and international research applicable to a range of agricultural sectors including the wool industry. The research review indicates that the protection of existing native vegetation and the planting of shelterbelts can provide farmers with productivity and biodiversity benefits while conserving and enhancing critical resources such as soil health and water quality. “Well-designed, established and maintained shelterbelts support ecologically sustainable agriculture, with farmers benefiting from increased productivity, sustainability, biodiversity, and property and landscape values,” Lisette Mill from the Basalt to Bay Landcare Network explains. “Shelterbelts are not a short term panacea but a mid to long-term proposition that requires a flexible approach and site-specific solutions. More than this, they contribute to equity for future generations, position farmers for a ‘low-carbon’ future, and adaptation to a variable climate.” In terms of productivity, shelterbelts can provide benefits by reducing the extremes of heat and cold experienced by livestock. In sunny weather, shelterbelts provide stock with the opportunity of shade and protection from hot winds – a relief that can be especially beneficial during lengthy periods of heat during summer. In the colder months, shelterbelts provide protection from chilling winds. The Basalt to Bay review of research indicates that heat stress is detrimental to ram fertility, ovulation rate and conception in ewes, and foetal development. Hot ewes don’t eat as much and this translates to the performance of their unborn and born young. When the heat load in ewes is reduced at joining and lambing, their lambs grow faster and produce more wool, with more lambs present at marking. Cold stress reduces live-weight gain in sheep and depresses wool growth; it can also increase lamb mortality. Shelter can protect sheep from extremes of cold and therefore reduce the animal’s body heat maintenance needs, especially for lambs and sheep off-shears, providing more energy for production. The research indicates that shelter can also improve pasture production by reducing moisture loss from soils and transpiration from the pasture. Also of benefit to woolgrowers, shelterbelts increase the practical boundaries for biosecurity measures, such as helping stop the spread of weeds like serrated tussock and reducing livestock contact with lice and ticks. As we move into fire season, it is worth noting that shelter belts increase a property’s ability to buffer stock from the direct flames of fast moving grass fires and hot winds pushing radiant heat. They also slow wind speed down to protect farm infrastructure including houses, wool sheds, roads, pasture and machinery. Interestingly, the review notes that property values on well sheltered farms are on average 15 per cent higher than those without good shelter, due to better farm productivity and also added aesthetic value. Mrs Mill says the location of a new shelterbelt should be influenced by considering all site features. “These include property infrastructure, prevailing and seasonally problem winds, soil types, problem areas of erosion and salinity, remnant vegetation, use of non-arable areas, and other on-site specific features. It is important to specifically design the shelterbelt to suit the required purposes and benefits.” While shelterbelts have many benefits and can contribute to greater livestock productivity gains – through increased live-weight gain, wool production and lamb markings – woolgrowers considering shelterbelts should also weigh up other consequences on the business such as establishment costs and the loss of productive land to trees. MORE INFORMATION Download the 15-page report at www.basalttobay.org.au POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF NATIVE SHELTERBELTS • Provide shade to protect stock from the effects of heat in summer • Protect livestock from cold or hot winds • Protect pastures and crops from drying winds • Help prevent salinity, soil erosion and nutrient loss • Conserve soil water, extending the pasture growing season • Reduce bio-security hazards (eg parasites and weeds) from neighbouring land • Provide habitat for wildlife and natural biological control agents • Act as a firebreak • Protect and enhance living and working areas • Increase medium to long-term land values • Provide fodder, timber, bush foods and other products.
In the Shops - March 2016