Skip to main content

"The Youngs at Young Seeds"


Russell Young’s farming story illustrates how farmers can integrate new practices into well-established farming routines. Russell’s story also offers insights into flood prone landscapes like the Condamine River region, highlighting some of the challenges for farmers who have been affected by unpredictable and extreme weather conditions in recent years.

Russell Young was born and raised on the family farm, which his grandfather established in the 1950s. After leaving school, Russell got involved with the property, but for many years divided his time between truck-driving and farming. He has recently come back to farming almost full-time. 

In 2017, Russell began exploring practice change on the Youngs’ property. Russell wanted to address compaction issues, moisture storage and waterlogging, and to explore holistic approaches to weed management. He also became concerned about the impact of chemical use to his farming land, and more generally within the food system. 

Russell wanted to explore what his family could do to ‘take more control back over their business, the farm’s health, and family’s health.’ Listening to leaders in regenerative agriculture and participating in a soil biology course inspired Russell to trial different approaches to well-established practices on the property, including routine fertiliser and herbicide applications on the farm.

Russell is taking a staged approach, testing new methods and integrating practices. Over the past five years, Russell has reduced and modified herbicide use, adding biological products that help efficacy and support weed control through building up soil health. Russell began a series of trials on a 17 ha intensive regenerative zone in 2021, experimenting with multispecies crops, soil health applications and companion cropping. From winter 2021 onwards, Russell planted a 12-way mix of multispecies, with a summer mix in 2021-2022 including a cash crop component. 

While still in the early days of practice change, Russell has observed promising changes in how the soil is behaving, especially in his multispecies paddocks. These results have given Russell a lot of confidence. Looking ahead, Russell wants to see dollar value for nutritional content of regeneratively grown products. He hopes to be value-adding to all of his seed and selling in smaller ratios when the dollar value for that offering exceeds the standard dollar value of his current product.

Check back soon.

We’ll soon release the full case study which will include practice changes, soil health and building outcomes. Follow us on social media or subscribe to our newsletter to hear the latest.

Farm Facts

Barunggam Country | Western Downs region, QLD

Annual rainfall

Agro-climatic region
Humid subtropical climate. All dryland farming. The majority of rain falls as thunderstorms in the summer months. The Condamine River is to the East of the property, and when flooding can cover theirs and neighbouring properties.

Property size
872 Ha over three properties: Barellan (330 Ha), Avoca (259 Ha), Wysall Park (283 Ha)


Social structure
Family owned and operated

Enterprise type
Grain and pulses (sorghum, sugar drip, cowpea, chickpea, butterfly pea, pearl and siberian millet, wheat, barley) sold into commodity markets, plus value-add seed production.

Barellan & Wysall Park: self-mulching clay, Avoca: Waco black vertisol, self-mulching clay

*Learn more about soil classifications at Soil Science Australia

Russell Young’s story

A multi-generational cropping family


Young Seeds is a cropping enterprise with a long history. For three generations, the Youngs have farmed in the area, passing down farming routines and sharing local knowledge based on their in-depth observations and experience in the Western Downs region of Queensland. Russell’s father David took over the property from his grandfather in 1976 and Russell started share farming with his dad in 1988.

Family legacies and influences

Three people influenced Russell to explore ways to support soil and landscape health: his grandfather, father and sister. Both of Russell’s grandfathers were farmers and each of them made Russell aware of different paths that farmers can take. Russell doesn’t criticise either man, however, from his own observations over time, he came to realise that certain practices were detrimental to soils and landscapes in the region. Describing differences between his grandfathers’ approach to farming, Russell reflects: 

One was manageable, sustainable, continuing things on for multi-generations. The other one, gradually, things were declining, so that was a pretty clear thing for me as a kid growing up.

One of his grandfathers used more conventional farming methods common in the region, including widespread chemical and fertiliser use, and burning and removing stubble. The other, a dairy farmer based in Gympie (QLD), Russell says, ‘was a long way in front of his time.’ In the 1950s and 60s, his grandfather was doing things that are popular now in regenerative agriculture. Russell remembers:

I saw he was into ploughing in green manure crops – the one on the coast – pulled out the pig effluent from his piggery and would spread it on his own country. So, I was aware of more things than just, go to town and get the fertiliser and stick it in the ground.

Russell’s grandfather in Gympie died when Russell was a young boy and his farming legacy was passed down to his father, David. David took over management of what is now known as Young Seeds in 1976, on Russell’s maternal grandfather’s property. As soon as David started farming, he began to alter certain practices.

Russell recalls, ‘in the first couple of years when dad got involved, he started to plough the stubble in, rather than burn it.’ While David was proactive in changing the approach to stubble, Russell says ‘it took quite a few years for there to be enough microbes in the soil to chew up the stubble in a reasonable time-frame.’ David also reduced the amount of fertiliser used on the farm where he was planting legumes, given legumes introduce nitrogen back into soil. When Russell began share farming, he grew legumes for the same reason. 

Russell’s parents, David and Leonie continue to live at Barellan and his father is still active on the farm, contributing where he can to the Young Seeds enterprise. Since taking on management, David and Leonie have supported Russell ‘to come in and start to make a few changes’ of his own. Russell and his wife, Leanne, live in nearby Dalby. Leanne is a school teacher and they have two daughters both at school locally. Russell is now responsible for Young Seeds and he has returned to farming almost full-time on the family properties – Avoca and Barellan – covering 589 hectares. In 2022, Russell took over a lease of approximately 283 additional hectares (Wysall Park), which increased management to 872 ha of farming land. 

Figure 1. Satellite image marking Young Seeds farming properties: Avoca, Barellan & Wysall Park. Source: Soils for Life.

Changing rainfall patterns

The two properties, Barellan and Wysall Park have always been impacted by flooding from the Condamine River. Avoca is located in an area of two tributaries of the Condamine River – Jimbour Creek and Cattle Creek – which are also prone to flooding. When Russell took over management and began comparing his father’s and grandfather’s farming records with his own observations, he became more aware of the increasing intensity of rainfall in the region, noticing ‘rain is tending to come in shorter, more intense bursts with larger amounts of water.’ Russell has observed certain changes in the intensity of rainfall:

We tend to be getting probably reasonably similar rainfall totals at the end of the year, but we’re getting them in bigger lots […] in a month period we’re copping three months worth of rain, then we’re getting nothing. So, we’re getting bigger totals in smaller time frames. 

The change in rainfall patterns and predictability has brought a set of new challenges, including more intense flooding. Flooding and water-logging damages topsoil, and this impacts the management of moisture in both the ‘really dry and really wet periods’ of farming at Young Seeds, making it difficult to crop, particularly things like legumes. They have also experienced extensive moisture loss after heavy rainfalls, with the soil becoming more susceptible to severe drying out and cracking after heavy rains. Russell notes that when ‘our soil type gets excessively wet for a period of time, it tends to dry out really badly on top.’ The Youngs’ approach to cropping has always involved full tillage, but after a major flood event in 2011, Russell became more mindful of the impacts of tillage and he began questioning how it could be reduced. He wanted to better understand how to move and store water more effectively in the flood prone region, and to use all available moisture when they had it. 

The impacts of chemicals in seed production

In addition, Russell began to look for alternatives to chemicals. For many years the overall approach to cropping at Young Seeds had involved the application of conventional types of fertilisers and herbicide. Russell didn’t class Young Seeds’ operations as high-level chemical input (in comparison to other farms in the region), but it had been higher than he was comfortable with. After decades of chemical use, Russell felt a growing sense of responsibility as a seed producer to reduce chemical use on the farm. He was uncomfortable using chemicals and felt there must be a better way, saying:

I hate using chemicals. I hate actually physically using them, mixing them, dealing with them, handling that product, and I don’t think it’s particularly good for our environment as well. 

His ongoing concerns about the impact of harsh chemicals on human and environmental health, and his concern ‘about what that does to the food chain’ motivated him to learn more about low-chemical and organic farming methods. 


Learning about soil health

2017 – 2019

2017 – 2019 were extremely dry years on the farm. Russell wanted to address compaction, waterlogging, reduce chemical inputs, develop effective methods for moisture storage, and experiment with ways to support thriving soil biology. He invested in his own learning and considered how changes to farming practices would benefit the land and his business. 

Getting inspired and learning from others

In 2017, Russell began exploring the potential risks and benefits of practice change, motivated to ‘get more control over the business and the overall health of the farm.’ He looked into ways to reduce synthetic chemicals and sought new information to help him address challenges they were facing. Russell’s sister Jenny played a part in opening Russell’s mind to pathways for supporting soil and landscape health on the property. After being introduced to Dr Elaine Ingham’s work by his sister, Russell enrolled in a Soil Food Web course, which he completed in 2018 in Lismore, NSW. The course was essential in developing his knowledge and confidence: 

You spend three days learning about biology and what it does in the soil. I stayed on and did another three-day course looking through a microscope, you know, to actually be able to identify the little things that are in your compost and that sort of thing. I came away from there realising that as farmers, many of us don’t know too much about what we’re doing in the soil. We can jam stuff in there and we can get it to grow, but what are we doing down there? So that was a catalyst for me to start to look at some changes.

Russell listened to other leaders in regenerative agriculture including Gabe Brown, Joel Williams, Ray Archuleta and Dave Brandt. Learning about soil biology helped him to see that, ‘biology is king and if we don’t have fungi and bacteria in our soil, we are heading down the wrong path.’ 

Russell knew he wanted to reduce chemical use and reduce tillage. He gained new knowledge about how to improve and stabilise nitrogen in the soil and different ways to lessen the impact of chemicals on the soil biology at Young Seeds, while not decreasing the efficacy of chemical inputs in their weed management. Russell decided that he would experiment by exploring ways to incorporate old and new practices, without ‘jumping ship’ completely. He was reluctant to transition too quickly from his conventional farming practices because he didn’t believe it was possible while running a viable operation. The changes he undertook during this period were done through a staged, strategic process, fitting into the complex logistics of maintaining his existing enterprise. 

Feeding the soil with bio-amendments

After completing the Soil Food Web course, Russell experimented with bio-amendments, including compost (down the slot with the seed) and compost teas (applied as liquid injections), to build up and feed soil biology. Russell made his own compost, mixing materials on the property with things he brought in, including feedlot manure, hay and mushroom compost. 

Table 1. The range of bio-amendments and methods of application used on the Young’s farm during the 2017-2019 period.

Bio-amendments on farm between 2017-2019
Type of application (either liquid injection and/or seed dressing)
  • Applications of homemade compost tea extract
  • Applications of commercially sourced composted manures 
  • Applications of seaweed and fish hydrolysate
  • Applications of seaweed, fish hydrolysate and molasses (2-5 L molasses / ha) in 200 L water / ha 
  • Applications of molasses (2-5 L molasses / ha) in 200 L water / ha 
  • Combinations of fulvics and a commercially available biostimulant product that can be batched up in large volumes
  • Combinations of fish hydrolysate and kelp products with compost tea extract

Russell used his own microscope observations and interpretation to assess the quality of the extracts he made from his compost piles. According to Russell, based on his in-paddock observations, the 2018-19 trials of seaweed, fish and molasses produced the best root development, with ‘roots that were clearly bigger than anywhere else on the farm.’ In terms of making compost, according to Russell, they got some of the ‘early mixes very right and got some of them very wrong.’ Determining the source of error was a real challenge, but eventually Russell could see the issues came down to heating and maintaining the right temperature for each mix (the carbon to nitrogen ratio). He decided to stop making compost at the end of 2019 because getting the right mix was time consuming. He decided he would come back to composting later down the track and in 2019, Russell moved into using pre-made additives, which he believed would save him time and wasted effort.

Exploring changes to weed management

A major challenge for chemical reduction is the speed and extent of weed growth in the region. There is a ‘typical weed spectrum’ at Young Seeds and the general approach was to ‘control them absolutely’, which involves spraying weeds with chemicals ‘when they are smaller.’ Learning about alternative approaches to weed management during this phase helped Russell to see that the longer he leaves weeds, the greater potential there is for these plants to pull up nutrients and feed the soil. However he remained cautious in terms of making major changes because of what he ‘stood to lose should things not work out.’


Multispecies experiments

2020 - 2022

The 2020 – 2022 period was extremely wet on the property and Russell faced significant challenges brought about by weather conditions. He trialled practice changes, including multispecies and companion cropping, alongside more traditional approaches. He saw what he believes to be the flow-on benefits of these practice changes through widespread improvements across his system.

Setting up an intensive trial site on the houseblock

In 2021, Russell began a series of trials at Barellan (the “houseblock”). This area became an intensive regenerative zone where Russell experimented with companion cropping, multispecies crops, and soil health applications. Taking this approach suited his overall operations, ‘both climate-wise and market-wise.’ Across the 17 ha site there were ‘three different patches,’ with varying production histories and soil health. Russell chose this general area because it was close to the house, making it easy to observe and access. There were three different historical management areas: 1) one patch representing current farm management, 2) one patch under grass for 30 years, and back under normal farm management for three years, and 3) one patch known as the “cow paddock” – an area that had no fertiliser or pesticide use historically. 

Multispecies cropping trials

The multispecies experiments began with a 12-way mix in April/May 2021 (winter), and a summer mix in 2021-2022, which included a cash crop component of sugar drip. The 12 species mix came from 6 different families: Fabaceae, Brassicaceae, Poaceae, Polygonaceae,

Asteraceae and Plantaginaceae. Overall, Russell observed that the winter mix grew incredibly well and was ‘a bulky mix and thick to walk through.’ It grew better than the summer mix, which could have been due to the excessive rain in the spring & summer months. In regard to the performance, Russell notes ‘everything did pretty well in the 12-way mix,’ including brassicas, oats, triticale and the buckwheat (until the frost came). The two crops that didn’t do very well in the winter, but came on well in the summer were plantain and chicory. Russell notes that it was ‘a learning curve’:

We didn’t have a clue what we were trying when we put that mix together. I knew nothing so we were just like, get everything, throw it in the bag and let’s see what works, you know? 

They used a roller crimper on the multispecies crop in September 2021 to aid the planting transition between the two seasons. Over this time, Russell tweaked rotations to ensure living plants (roots) in the system for as many months of the year as possible to improve management and utilisation of moisture whilst also maximising soil organism diversity and health. 

After the first winter crop, Russell observed two significant changes from his monoculture crops. Firstly, there was a clear difference in the structure of the soil: ‘it was really well-aggregated’ compared to the structure of the monocrop soil, which Russell describes as ‘very difficult to dig into, coming out in big chunks or slabs.’ Secondly, he saw clear differences in moisture use efficiency of the multispecies compared to monoculture crops. Russell recalls that seeing sudden changes in the structure of the soil ‘surprised me that we would see that change that quickly’ and gave him a lot of confidence to continue. 

He also became curious about the influence of his multispecies crop on weed behaviour, and observed differences to their ‘normal’ growth profile. Weeds like milk thistle were ‘significantly stunted’ in the multispecies paddocks. This led Russell to question whether the multispecies crop ‘changed the behaviour of the milk thistle in that particular area, compared to what it would normally have been.’ 

Building resilience through landscape rehydration

The drought was very difficult for the business and their earnings suffered, but ultimately their responses to the drought helped the Morrises’ business survive. And, looking ahead, they also wanted to ensure their landscape was more resilient in the face of the next drought.

During the drought, their local Condamine Headwaters Landcare group secured funding to run a Tarwyn Park Training Natural Sequence Farming workshop, followed by on ground financial assistance to local farmers who attended the workshop training. The Morrises hosted the training workshop which was presented by Peter and Stuart Andrews and their team and later applied for funding to do several Natural Sequence Farming projects.

One of the rehydration improvements for the Gleneden Farm was to block the drainage of the roughly 15 pre-existing contours constructed in the 1970s. During the workshop, Peter Andrews explained how the ‘old fashioned contour drains’ on slopes had been designed to trap sediment and water washing down the slope from ploughing. However, these ‘contour drains’ ended up concentrating water from the landscape and created large erosion washouts where the water flowed into the gullies. Peter demonstrated a low cost, easy method of repurposing these old contour drains into water retaining dams so water could infiltrate into the landscape and reduce further erosion.

During the workshop, they also learned about the Natural Sequence Farming strategy of installing swales along the contour to distribute, not concentrate, flows over the landscape.  Ideally these swales are constructed at the highest level of the property that is practical. While initially hesitant about adding more manmade changes to the environment, Fiona was ‘impressed that you don’t need to create much disturbance to make a difference.’ The contour bank is, only one foot high in some places which is ‘just enough to slow and distribute the flow.’

To create a swale, the Andrews and Morrises chose a location near the highest accessible point of their property. This happened to be on the same level as a small existing dam. The 10m wide dam had been constructed in a gully, and never actually held water very well.  As part of the Natural Sequence Farming measures, swales were built that extended from the dam on either side, creating a level bank as wide as practical. Now, as water flows downs the gully ‘the water is gently spread and dispersed across a much greater distance along this swale, rather than being forced into a small catching area, where the energy pressure of water during a rain event could blow it out’.

Another Natural Sequence Farming technique used by the Morrises is to build ‘leaky weirs’ along their creek. Before clearing and overgrazing on the creek, a storm would cause trees and shrubs to fall into the creek and ‘catch sediment and debris’. However, since settlement, ‘we’ve changed the riverbanks by taking away the vegetation, so this natural process doesn’t happen; nothing now stops the flow, and the energy just keeps scouring the riverbank.’ The Morrises built their leaky weirs, using rocks and water plants, in strategic locations along the creek as they were shown during the workshop. Again, this did not require much intervention. In some cases, the rocks are only a foot high and water can still flow though and over them. It has made a difference though, slowing the flow, encouraging more water plants to grow and holding the water longer. Rohan and Fiona have fenced off the creek from the cattle (sheep and pigs) and only graze when the weed load is high. This has allowed the creekbanks to regenerate, naturally holding the banks, and the water.

Companion cropping trials

They began trials with companion cropping in the 2021 winter crops (planted in June) starting with lucerne and wheat; and in 2022 with a mix of medics and clover with a wheat crop. Russell was happy with the outcome of the companion crops, although he did apply ‘some chemical to control weeds in the wheat stubble that season.’ He could see the potential for weed suppression, and that the legumes were contributing nitrogen production to the system, and seed set so they could return in future rotations naturally. The major challenge in 2022 was the large amount of rainfall, which prevented the winter crop and medics from getting established without the competition of weeds and subsequent chemical application. Russell felt it was necessary to control weeds this way, and while they did set back the medics, it was not as significant as he expected. Russell is sure he will try companion planting again to ‘build that diversity into the soil.’

Deep ripping

There was excessive rainfall and moisture over the period and the Youngs also faced serious problems with soil compaction. To deal with the compaction that had been building over the years caused by severe drying out after heavy rains, they controlled traffic movement and did some deep ripping. This allowed the moisture to soak in and the tap root of plants to further break through the compaction. This was based on Russell’s understanding that if ‘you’ve got healthy biology in your soil, compaction becomes less of an issue.’ Russell is mindful of the pros and cons of deep ripping – soil left bare can be exposed to elements (e.g. water) and the process disturbs fungal communities. Deep ripping is not a regular practice for the Youngs and Russell is careful to put plants back into the system as soon as possible, reducing the risk of soil exposure.

Bio-amendments for soil biology

Russell trialled another range of soil health products to improve soil biology and increase nitrogen, building on previous trials and his learning from the Soil Food Web course. He experimented with modifying equipment, using disc planters to plant into more plant material and extend liquid injection capabilities.

Table 2. The range of bio-amendments and methods of application used on the Young’s farm during the 2020-2022 period.

Bio-amendments on farm between 2020-2022
Type of application and reasoning Method of application – liquid, solid, foliar with chemicals or management
Fish hydrolysate, liquid seaweed and kelp products to feed soil biology Liquid Applied as seed dressing and/or liquid injection 
Sugar and carbon source (molasses) to contribute to soil biology and better rhizosheath structure Liquid Applied as foliar (2-5 L + 200 L of water / ha) or added to the combination as seed dressing and/or liquid injection (as above)
Pelletised worm castings or composted custom blend to contribute to soil biology and nutrient pools Solid Down the slot with the seed 
Urea applied with other amendments to stabilise nitrogen molecules by attaching to carbon molecules and to encourage mycorrhizal fungi. 

Solid/liquid combinations

1) with molasses solution (2-5 L + 200 L of water / ha) 

2) humates mixed with urea to stabilise nitrogen, used in two ways: 

    a) liquid inject 

    b) combined humates with urea in a cement mixer or blended onsite by supplier of fertiliser 

*Note: humates are more fungal, which Russell needs for his soils

Adding fulvic acid and a commercially available acidic biostimulant product with glyphosate and other chemicals to lower the solution to a more ideal pH. This buffers and reduces negative impact on the biology, whilst aiding in more effective plant  absorption of chemical, thereby lowering overall chemical input rates required

Foliars Applied as foliar

*Note: this can also be used with other herbicides after doing a jar test to ensure compatibility

Rotation of legumes (not on a set plan) to increase nitrogen in soil Management (companion or during seasonal phases).


Evaluating the benefits and looking ahead

2023 - ongoing

Russell sees potential in regenerative methods and he is enjoying the journey. Being a pragmatic farmer, he relies on evidence to support his decision making. With concerns about ‘crashing and burning’ if he shifts too quickly from conventional methods, Russell plans to ‘keep a foot in both camps’ until he is confident about long-term viability for Young Seeds.

The time and labour involved in practice change

Time-related pressures have increased at Young Seeds since they began making practice changes. Russell notes that this has been problematic, particularly in years when they are racing the clock and dealing with extreme weather because ‘the windows for action’ are reduced. Another related challenge is labour. They need more ‘hands-on support in the busy periods, but are ‘a bit short on manpower.’ As Russell describes: 

The challenges of putting liquids on when we’re planting – particularly the last two summer plants – has been really difficult because we’ve been trying to spray, harvest, plant this year and fertilise as well – all within a 10 or 12 day period. We had to get all those operations happening with three people. That’s quite difficult.

Russell plans to address labour shortages by buying new equipment and becoming more efficient with mixing additives and patching up certain operations to improve efficiency. This reflects a commitment to ‘improve those things so that we can make it happen a lot easier with a lot less manpower too.’

Weed management in 100% pure seed cropping

Russell perceives two mindsets in Australian farming relating to weed management and he understands them both. Established farming practices in the region generally malign weeds, controlling them with chemicals. In contrast, Russell sees regenerative farmers taking a more holistic approach, attempting to work with weeds as part of building soil biology and through minimisation practices rather than total elimination. With the current business model of 100% pure seed, Russell can’t see a way to fully transform his current practices in relation to weeds. Buyers have an expectation for completely clean seed without a trace of contamination, so Russell still feels that weeds at Young Seeds need to be managed vigilantly in order to satisfy his customer base. He explains:

It’s very difficult for me to let certain weeds go that are going to end up in a seed crop. There’s a risk of us not getting 100% of them out through the grading process to clean that grain and sell it for seed. I’ve got issues with that because I know 99% of our customers aren’t regen farmers. If I sell them a line of seed that has something in it that they don’t want, I’ll probably never sell them another bag of seed again.

If a new market for regenerative products opens up that allows for 99% pure seed, there may be scope for adjusting the approach to weed control. Currently Russell feels he ‘can live with some types of weeds, but I can’t live with them all – that’s where I’m at right now.’

Looking ahead, Russell plans to learn more about the specific purpose of weed species and what they indicate about deficiencies in his soil. Using camera sensor equipment mounted on a high clearance sprayer will enable reductions in chemicals entering the landscape. High clearance sprays will also provide opportunities for more foliar nutrition in crops, which will reduce weed pressure through increased soil health.

Observable changes and future plans

Given Russell began experimenting with multispecies cropping over a set of extremely wet seasons, it has been difficult to confidently compare the outcome of the trials. However, he has used the opportunity to consider variables and to learn from failures and setbacks, as well as to look for signs of positive change. After witnessing the significant change in worm activity in the multispecies crops, Russell is clear that ‘plants work better together, rather than a monoculture’. Russell has yet to see major changes in seed root systems with the liquid inject, but he notes encouraging results with improving rhizosheaths (the material adhering to root systems), also known as “soil dreadlocks” forming on plant roots. There has been a 10% reduction in the application of herbicide, and Russell is experimenting with further reductions. The addition of biologicals is helping with chemical efficacy in terms of aiding the efficiency of entry into plant cells (plants welcome the C source at a more ideal PH and “suck” them in eagerly), whilst supporting (via feeding) more rapid biological breakdown of chemicals, thus reducing their impact on soil organisms. 

Russell plans to continue improving soil health at Young Seeds, and to become more precise in his farming operations. He wants to experiment with foliar applications to supply essential micro nutrients, and to build up nitrogen in 2023, and to further limit how and when tillage is used. In 2023, there will be a new high clearance camera sprayer on the farm. This will allow targeted application of chemicals – rather than blanket spraying weeds – which should result in a reduction in overall chemical use. More targeted application of other inputs for plant growth (i.e biostimulants) with the high clearance sprayer are planned for 2023.

Working in flood prone landscapes: farming resilience

As long as the season allows, cover cropping and crimping is something that Russell is looking to incorporate as part of a broader weed management and soil health strategy, however the issue he currently faces is around predicting levels of rainfall, available water and moisture. Cover crops and cash crops are both dependent on available water and decision making is critical for both, and with unpredictable weather patterns the decision-making process is more fraught than it has ever been.

The most recent cropping season has been particularly challenging due to large amounts of rain and multiple flooding events from the Condamine River, which runs very close to the farm. Russell feels that 2022 has been:

The most difficult year of farming I’ve ever been involved with, and I think there’s a lot of guys that are in their 80s and 90s that are saying the same thing

The benefit of recent flooding is seeing the whole environment re-hydrating after the very dry years between 2017-2019. However, excessive moisture contributes to waterlogging and a loss of functionality in the soil within the topsoil zone, which leads to it drying out quickly. The management practices that Russell has been adopting should lead to improvements in this regard. With changes in rainfall patterns, Russell is keen to use all available moisture while they have it and to continue to experiment with ways to move and store water effectively.

Finding new markets and weighing up benefits

As long as the season allows, cover cropping and crimping is something that Russell is looking to incorporate as part of a broader weed management and soil health strategy, however the issue he currently faces is around predicting levels of rainfall, available water and moisture. Cover crops and cash crops are both dependent on available water and decision making is critical for both, and with unpredictable weather patterns the decision-making process is more fraught than it has ever been.

The most recent cropping season has been particularly challenging due to large amounts of rain and multiple flooding events from the Condamine River, which runs very close to the farm. Russell feels that 2022 has been:

The most difficult year of farming I’ve ever been involved with, and I think there’s a lot of guys that are in their 80s and 90s that are saying the same thing

Russell is certain that multispecies cropping is a ‘no brainer’ for any farmer with animals in their rotation because of the benefits to animal health and soil biology. If they were grazing cattle, Russell would definitely be planting a multispecies mix of ‘whatever variety of things’ they could in order to reap the benefits. At this stage however, Russell has some concerns about the viability of multispecies cropping over the long-term given that Youngs Seeds are 100% grain production (with certain lines of seed going to the seed market as value-add, namely wheat, barley, butterfly pea, cowpea and sugar drip). The Youngs need a cash crop component each harvest to remain economical. Russell feels that if a ‘sensible market’ opens up for multispecies mixes in the region, he would happily grow and market this seed. Russell notes there is growing capacity to promote lines that can go into multispecies markets, as either 1) single species, or 2) combined species. To develop this area of business, he needs to be able to sort and grade multispecies seeds, and is keen to see supportive markets opening up.

Russell would also like to test the nutritional density of his own regeneratively grown product, including benchmarking to establish what he can improve year-on-year. Until he sees market changes, it will be hard for him to sell a differentiated product that people recognise, but as Russell says, ‘hopefully there are some markets out there.’

Gas developments

The Western Downs region already has dozens of gas wells and many more are proposed. Russell is trying to resist new gas developments on his property, however he acknowledges it is likely that there will be new deviated wells under the property at some point in the future. Russell is working with a local community group trying to ensure that there is support in place for farmers whose land is impacted by gas development in the region. Gas developments can negatively impact farming land through subsidence, hydrological dysfunction (unwanted changes in movement of water in the landscape), potential chemical impacts on the water table, volatility and flammability from mismanaged gas wells, and OHS considerations for farming staff working in the region.

Local community attitudes to change

Russell avoids judging other farmers. He understands that ‘you have to adapt to what you’ve got in your area.’ He knows how complex farming decisions and farming conditions can be, and that each farming family is unique:

There’s always a lot more to the story beyond just the simple way farmers do things. It’s because of the situations they’re put in, and the financial … all those things too.

Russell is not too concerned about what the local community thinks of his on-farm changes, although he recognises that some people can’t ‘get their head around why he would bother.’ Others in the community are curious and have asked Russell about what he is doing and are watching ‘from a distance.’ He believes that there is a growing local interest in multispecies cropping, particularly for farmers grazing cattle given the nutritional value of multispecies paddocks. Russell feels ‘there’s a bit of a change happening’ in the area, and he is interested to see how many people come on board.


This project is supported by the Australian Government’s Smart Farms Program.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
If you found this helpful, why not share it?: