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'Rangelands Living Skin'


The rangelands represent a large amount of Australia’s (80%) and NSW’s (40%) land mass, and with much of the rangelands dedicated to agriculture, they are incredibly important production area.

The Rangelands Living Skin is a four-year project linking farming families, scientists and other collaborators to evaluate cost-effective practices – chosen by producers – that focus on regenerating the NSW rangelands to support production now and into the future. The project will create an evidence-base for helping widespread adoption of practices that benefit soil, plants, animals and people – the living skin of the rangelands. Led by NSW Department of Primary Industries and funded by Meat & Livestock Australia, this project is a significant investment in the southern rangelands.

Project Outcomes

The project aims to see increased productivity on up to 1 million hectares.

It will validate rangeland management practices that producers can confidently adopt to improve ecosystem function and ultimately enhance their grazing businesses.

The Project Team seeks to answer such questions as:

  • What cost-effective practices improve pasture composition and production, ground cover, soil carbon and livestock carrying capacity in rangeland landscapes?
  • How can these practices diversify farm income, for example with carbon farming or groundcover incentives? And how has the overall business performance changed?
  • What are the major drivers of soil carbon sequestration in western NSW, and how are these linked to management?
  • How do we best measure soil carbon and natural capital across different land types and management systems?
Graham and Cathy Finlayson’s innovative claypan practices on Bokhara Plains, Brewarrina.

Practices being trialed

The Project Team is focused on monitoring response of soil (including carbon, biology and function) and the landscape (including ground cover, biodiversity, productivity and function) to a number of practices utilising animals, mechanical interventions, plants, and soil amendments. Specifically, the project is investigating:

  • The role of grazing management in improving soil and landscape function, including rotational grazing and high-intensity animal impact. Rotational grazing management (short periods of grazing, followed by long periods of pasture rest, with a flexible and adaptive approach) is hypothesised to improve pasture quality, ground cover and productivity. Achieving high-intensity animal impact by running a large herd in a short but intense period over hard-set soil surfaces like a clay pan will is hoped to break-up surface crusts, add nutrients and organic material to the soil and improve water infiltration.
  • The use of mechanical interventions, such as ponding, banking and ripping lines in hardened soils, to increase water infiltration and retention in the landscape.
  • Introducing new plant species, including perennial shrubs, annual legumes, multi-species crops and no-kill cropping. Perennial shrubs (old man saltbush) are sown to explore whether their deeper root systems improve soil function and pasture productivity. Multi-species plantings will be sown to explore if diverse plants (and the unique role each plant species offers to soil functionality) influences soil and landscape health. The potential of annual-hard seeded legumes to survive and increase soil health in rangeland environments will also be evaluated.
  • No-kill cropping, where forage species are sown into existing perennial grassland, is also being trialled. The hypothesis behind no-kill cropping is that the existing perennial plants maintain a functioning soil and landscape system, which allow the crops to benefit from the undisturbed soil, water, carbon and nutrient cycles and thus be more resilient challenging climatic seasons.
  • Finally, the impact of several practices related to soil amendments, including biological inputs (vermicast), biochar and gypsum, on plant growth, soil microbiology and carbon will be evaluated.

Meet the producers

This collaborative research is being undertaken on diverse rangeland production systems with four core producers. Hear from these producers about their involvement in the project.

Gus & Kelly Whyte, Wyndham Station/Willow Point (Wentworth, NSW)

Read the Wyndham Station case study

Glenn Humbert & Julie Conder, Gurrawarra (Bourke, NSW)

Read the Gurrawarra case study

Graham & Cathy Finlayson, Bokhara Plains (Brewarrina, NSW)

Read the Bokhara Plains case study

Andrew & Megan Mosely, Etiwanda (Cobar, NSW)

Read the Etiwanda case study

Producer Locations

An additional 20 ‘Observer’ producers are also involved, taking part in monitoring on their own properties and attending the Rangeland Living Skin field days and other events.

Importantly, observer producers offer the opportunity to expand the adoption of practices at scale as results from the research become known, and provide a network of support for the producers to continue learning and implementing changes beyond the life of the project.

The map below shows the diverse locations of the four key producers (large markers) and the spread of the 20 observers (small markers).

Project Videos

Trial Updates

Want to be involved?

To learn more, get involved in on-farm trials, training, field days, customised farm business support and the sharing of knowledge with other producers.

Being part of the observer group offers new information for your business and skills in grazing management, soil biology, pasture assessment, carbon farming and soil monitoring.

Register your interest via the Rangelands Living Skin Expression of Interest form, and join us for:

  • Monthly lunchtime learning sessions (one-hour video/phone conversations)
  • RCS Grazing, Soil Biology and Soil Sense Clinics
  • Ground cover mapping and soil carbon workshops
  • Field days

Project Partners

Meat and Livestock Australia: Funder and industry partner
NSW Department of Primary Industries: Project Lead, research and education specialists
NSW Local Land Services: Extension and support
Soils for Life: Case studies and communications
SelectCarbon: Carbon accounting and aggregation
CarbonLink: Carbon accounting and aggregation
RCS: Education and outreach
ANU: Research, monitoring and evaluation

Staff Contacts

To receive project updates, results, useful resources and information on field days, contact [email protected].

For more general information contact:
Sarah McDonald
NSW Department of Primary Industries
Trangie Agricultural Research Centre | 7878 Mitchell Highway | Trangie NSW 2823
E:   [email protected] 

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