Farmers must adapt to the changing landscape

SOMEONE famous once said change is the only constant in life. Surely they were talking about life on the land.

When it comes to farming, no two months are the same, let alone years or decades.

Weather, soil condition, land management and climate are just some of the variables which keep the land's productivity and suitability in a constant state of flux.


In an ever-changing landscape, good land managers have discovered how to continually match their land's capability with how it is used.


This knowledge comes in handy, especially when faced with an area of land that is degraded and no longer productive or damaged by severe weather events.

It may have been considered reasonable cropping or grazing land in the past but is no longer suitable for such intensive use. Or, it might be unsuitable for some agricultural purposes full stop.

Areas not suited to intensive cropping or grazing can quickly become fragile and easily damaged.

Sooner or later the soil will lose its condition and be unable to support healthy plant life.

When this happens, land can be rehabilitated using native grasses or introduced pastures to increase groundcover, reduce soil erosion and improve overall soil health.

Once established, the new pastures can provide feed for livestock as well as increase biodiversity in the system.


It is challenging to continually adjust land use to match its current capability in any particular year or climate cycle. It's doubly hard when "normal" seasons appear to be few and far between.

Now is a good time for those areas that have had decent rain to let pastures fully recover and set seed. For those areas that have missed out, reducing stock numbers may be necessary to protect remaining pasture.

Continuing to graze or crop land beyond its capacity will ultimately cause damage, requiring an expensive and lengthy restoration process.

Fortunately there is an increasing awareness of good land management and significant resources are being invested into restoring land for long-term productivity and profitability.

It's true that change is the only constant in (farm) life so why not make it change for the better.

For more ways to improve and protect your land visit condamine

Andrew McCartney is manager of the Condamine Alliance Sustainable Agriculture program.



Farmer profile

OUT TO PASTURE: Tony Pascoe has had success with a mix of grasses.
OUT TO PASTURE: Tony Pascoe has had success with a mix of grasses. Contributed


Farmer: Tony Pascoe

Location: Chinchilla

Farm type:

Dairy, beef cattle and cropping

Size: 1620 hectares

Years on farm: 48

TONY is a third generation farmer on his family's mixed enterprise property at Chinchilla. For 48 years, he has lived and breathed farm life.

These days he looks after most of the farm's management, although his father and uncle continue to be involved in the day-to-day operations.

Ten years ago Tony decided to return some of the old cultivation paddocks back to pasture and native grasses. It was the best option during one of the worst droughts on record.

It wasn't viable to continue cropping at the time so at least pastures would help produce feed for the property's cattle. With trial and error, the pastures which performed best were leucaena, digit grass, creeping bluegrass and Rhodes grass.

The mix of grasses means his cattle have feed almost all year round, with some pastures producing feed early in the year and others in the later half.

After investing so much to establish them, it made sense to look after them. To do this, he reduced the number of cattle, which in turn reduced the grazing pressure on the pastures.

He now has full pasture cover on about 200ha and has noticed a big difference in the soil moisture profile as a result.

There is little soil erosion and minimal water run-off.

The only downside to this is less water runs into the dam but this is not a problem when there is decent rainfall.

To further improve the pastures, he has tried legumes but has only had good results with leucaena to date. However desmanthus has been performing well in neighbouring areas.

The long-term plan is to put down more pastures to increase the property's viability and reduce the workload for himself, his father and uncle.

This means the best of his country will be cropped and the rest will be turned over to pastures.

Topics:  10 ways condamine alliance environment soil health

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