Drought Resilient Soils and Landscapes in the Riverina
A Future Drought Fund Project
The Riverina Drought Resilient Soils and Landscapes project aims to support producers in adopting drought resilient practices and enhance their landscape and soil monitoringcapabilities.
The Riverina Drought Resilient Soils and Landscapes project (the Riverina Project) is led by Riverina Local Land Services. It is supporting 15 producers to adopt one of three well-established management practices that enhance agricultural productivity and profitability during or after droughts while safeguarding natural resources.
The producers are guided in their practice implementation with support from Riverina LLS, and will have opportunities to learn through field days and webinars provided by the project partners, and an online discussion group.
By combining observations, simple field assessments, soil lab tests, and peer learning, the producers will enhance their ability to monitor changes resulting from their chosen management practice.
This project is led by Riverina Local Land Services, in conjunction with Sustainable Farms ANU, and Soils for Life. This project has received funding from the Future Drought Fund.
The Riverina project aims to build farm and landscape resilience to drought, and to equip farmers with the knowledge and skills to monitor change over time. The producers will be supported to:
Implement practices to improve landscape-level drought resilience including enhanced farm dams, native shelterbelts, and stock management areas.
Establish a long-term soil health monitoring site, and undertake regular in-field observations to monitor change.
Strengthen knowledge-sharing networks for producers, to build confidence for ongoing practice change.
Support “scaling out” of effective practices shared through stories of change.
Fifteen producers across the Riverina area are participating in the project. They are predominantly grazing enterprises, however the diversity of landscapes across the Riverina area means that these producers approach their enterprises differently.
More about the Riverina Region
The Riverina region sits mostly on Wiradjuri Country in south-western New South Wales. It is one of Australia’s most productive and diverse agricultural regions. Covering approximately 115,000 sq kms, the climate and landscapes vary greatly; from the steep alpine slopes of the Snowy Mountains to the dry, inland plains of the rangelands around Hay and Carrathool.
The region occupies a large section of the Murray Darling Basin, and is defined by the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers. Water management is crucial for the landscape, and irrigated farmland makes up 5% of the region’s area (NSW Government).
The Riverina region supports predominantly dry land grazing and cereal based cropping – which together account for 80% of land use – and also supports other diverse enterprise types such as fruit and nut orchards, vineyards, and cotton (NSW Government).
There are six unique landscapes in the Riverina LLS region including: Rangelands; Irrigation Areas; Riverina Plains; Murrumbidgee; South West Slopes; South West Highlands. In addition to being an agriculturally productive area, the region also supports many national parks and reserves, as well as the Ramsar-listed site Fivebough and Tuckerbil wetlands (NSW Government).
Drought resilient practices
The project is supporting participating producers to implement one or more of the following practices:
Stock Management Areas
Stock Management Areas (SMA) are designed to manage grazing pressure and groundcover. To help rest pastures, a SMA can be used to contain and feed stock to maintain bodyweight and the health of the herd. In addition, SMAs can help stock management during dry conditions by reducing grazing pressure to preserve groundcover, topsoil and nutrients to maintain the water holding capacity of the soil. Whilst a stock management approach may often be a preferable approach, in some circumstances the use of ‘sacrificial paddocks’ can help a producer to better retain the health of the landscape. For more information, visit project partner Riverina LLS free training.
Enhanced Farm Dams
Farm dams are integral to water management, particularly for livestock and irrigation. Enhanced dams can include additional vegetation for shade, appropriately managed grazing and fencing, have superior water quality and support a more diverse range of wildlife. These findings substantiate the value of investment in enhancing dam infrastructure. To find out more, visit project partner Sustainable Farms’ website.
Woody vegetation strips carefully integrated between paddocks offer a range of benefits that contribute to both farm productivity and the conservation of natural assets. Shelterbelts serve as vital tools for livestock protection, erosion mitigation, and wind-speed reduction across pastures and crops. Their significance extends beyond these functional aspects, as native shelterbelts play a crucial role in supporting diverse wildlife populations and aiding natural pest control on the farm. To find out more, visit project partner Sustainable Farms’ website.
Stories of change
As part of this project, Soils for Life will prepare case studies that follow five producers as they implement their chosen practice/s, and their experiences with soil lab-testing and in-field observations. In addition, we will facilitate a discussion group as part of the project, and we will report back on the usefulness of the group in supporting soil-health learning and practice change.
Updates & events
We’re often out in the field engaging with farmers and gathering information. Follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter to stay tuned for project updates, including case study developments and field day opportunities.