Every year Western Australia’s Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitators (also known as RALF’s) come together from across WA to share knowledge and learn from experts in the agricultural and NRM sectors about ways they can further support farmers across the state. This year WA’s RALF’s met in the Perth and Peel-Harvey regions for a two-day tour, making connections with academics, learning from one of WA’s biggest composters and getting out into the field to look at community restoration efforts and hear how soil testing is helping farmers make decisions about their enterprise.

Day one began with the group visiting Kings Park and Botanic Gardens to hear about research by Bianca Berto to increase the germination of native perennial grasses, much to everybody’s interest. Different methods of making seeds easier to handle in seeding machines are being trialled, as are techniques for breaking dormancy and enhancing germination rates. From there the RALF’s met the UWA Faculty of Science Prof. Lyn Abbott and her team about opportunities for farmers across WA to get involved in soil health research projects. Making links with academics to ensure new practices are able to be rolled-out across all of WA’s regions is critical and this session highlighted the need to increase the awareness of opportunities in WA’s rural regions for researchers looking for sites to undertake their trials.

Day two began with a tour of the C-wise facility in Nambeelup, where the RALFs got a tour of the industrial scale composting facility, including an understanding of the intricacies of preparing large quantities of different organic composts and details on how farmers can access special compost blends for their individual farming needs. With carbon and soil health currently on everyone’s mind, this was a very timely opportunity for the RALF’s.

The next stop was a restoration project being managed by Landcare Serpentine-Jarrahdale’s Francis Smit, which has been in operation since 2012 and seen the removal of huge amounts of Arum Lilly and Watsonia from the Serpentine River. This visit highlighted to the RALF’s how important local landcare organisations are to supporting community projects, as they encourage community engagement and provide long-term momentum on community environmental projects.

The last stop on the tour was with a farmer in Hopeland who has been involved in Healthy Estuaries WA’s uPtake soil testing program and a Greening Farm fencing project in 2021, both supported by PHCC. They are using soil testing to monitor the uptake of phosphorous (P) from their cattle pastures, looking to increase their cattle’s productivity and reduce the amount of P going into the Serpentine River through clever pasture management. By fencing their wetlands to exclude cattle, they seek a reduction in nutrients directly entering the system and more efficient cattle management. During the visit the RALF’s also noted a lot of dung beetle activity, which is leading to higher soil-carbon levels, healthier soils and further reductions in P leeching from the sandy soils.

This year’s tour was a great way for PHCC’s RALF Mick Davis to reconnect with other RALF’s after a year of disruptions (due to Covid-19 restrictions), a timely opportunity to receive new research findings that benefit Western Australian farmers and a great chance to promote what’s been going on in the Sustainable Agriculture space around the Peel-Harvey Catchment.

If any of the above topics interest you, please contact PHCC’s RALF Mick Davis at mick.davis@peel-harvey.org.au or phone 6369 8800 for more information.

This project is supported by PHCC through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program

We acknowledge the Noongar people as Traditional Custodians of this land and pay our respects to all Elders past and present