CQ farmers: get ahead of regulation by Gary Alcorn

Central Queensland district farmers Neal and Amanda Johansen, 'Alma Park', Dululu, find environmental management systems such as controlled traffic and zero-tillage are delivering more reliable crops in marginal conditions. Right: Neal Johansen (left) and EMS consultant Stewart Cannon check chemical storage safety criteria in the new purpose-built shed on Alma Park.

AN EFFECTIVE EMS should embrace such hot topics as salinity, sodicity, sediment monitoring and tree clearing, say Dululu district farmers and graziers Neal and Amanda Johansen, 'Alma Park', Central Qld.

While sustainability of both resources and agribusiness is their main aim, they believe EMS early adopters may avoid pending tree clearing and salinity legislation by having a total property plan with eventual ISO14001 accreditation as the long-term goal.

Although the Johansens began their formal EMS program two years ago, they have practised broadacre controlled traffic and zero-tillage on dryland cultivation since 1997.

"In my opinion the best way EMS can work for us is if we can combine best sustainable management practices, Graincare and Pulse Australia guidelines etc with EMS in one property plan. I think this should safeguard us against some of the legislation that may be coming regarding future land use," Mr Johansen said.

While primary producers in Queensland have some 15 different pieces oflegislation affecting property development and management, Mr Johansen is convinced more integration is needed to blend various requirements into one document called an EMS program.

"I only want to do one major lot of bookwork; I don't want to have to do an EMS, then a Graincare plan and a Cattlecare plan. I want one plan that covers everything," he said.

Alma Park currently produces cereal and legumes using a 3 m wide tramline layout which matches the 12 m wide planter and 24 m wide boomspray. As well, a cell grazing system turns off prime cattle.

So what will change under EMS?

"The EMS identified farm safety as a high priority, so we protect our family, staff, crops and the environment. The action plan rates safe chemical storage, record keeping and spray drift as top priorities but, since we wrote that, some conditions have changed.

"We have included sediment watch where we monitor run-off after high intensity rainfall events, because this can impact on other people in the catchment.

"I guess all of this is working towards the one objective and that's to become as sustainable as you possibly can, whether that applies to waste management, water management, energy efficiency or farm safety and productivity," Mr Johansen said.

Examples of major impacts of farming on the environment
Major issueOn-farm impactOff-farm impact
leakage of water and nutrients (most farming systems leak unless perennials are included)
  • Waterlogging
  • Affects on-farm salinity only if recharge and discharge are contained within farm boundary
  • Increased acidity in paddocks where N leakage losses occur
  • Waterlogging, drainage
  • Salinisation of land (distance from farm depends upon type of groundwater system)
  • Increased stream salinity - can affect water supplies, infrastructure, habitat
  • Reduced options for recharge control over the region
  • Decreased water quality, especially nitrate pollution of streams and/or groundwater
  • Erosion (water and wind)
  • Loss of organic matter and structure, leading to reduced plant growth
  • Loss of soil fertility
  • Visual impact of erosion
  • Silting up dams
  • Increased stream turbidity/sediment
  • Decreased quality of streams, e.g. algal blooms
  • Soil movement - fences covered etc.
  • Toxicity from acidity
  • Increased acidity on paddocks where lime is not used
  • Reduced ability to grow acid-sensitive species, e.g.Lucerne, canola, barley
  • Changes in soil biota, e.g. reduced nodulation capacity
  • Reduced potential for stopping water and nutrient leakage as deep rooted plants such as lucerne and perennial grasses cannot be grown
  • Toxicity problems from agrochemicals or heavy metals
  • Reduced ability to grow plants until chemical breaks down, e.g. soil sterilants, long-life chemicals
  • Effects on soil biology
  • Contaminated sites, e.g. arsenic from sheep dips, treated power poles being licked by cattle
  • Cadmium from superphosphate (unlikely in broadacre enterprises)
  • Mobile pesticides (e.g. Atrazine can end up in groundwater)
  • Control of pests, weeds and disease
  • Herbicide resistance
  • Reduced ability to grow desirable species
  • Quality of habitats on-farm reduced
  • Visual impact, decreased land value
  • Quarantine issues
  • Grumpy neighbours/ socially unacceptable
  • Reduced options for recharge control
  • All of the on-farm issues if the pest, weed or disease species is mobile
  • Native vegitation and biodiversity issues
  • Land clearing has resulted in only small isolated areas being left which are too small for many species to live in
  • Changed wind, water, and nutrient status or remenants, reducing their resilience, ultimately leading to species loss
  • Non-strategic grazing reduces biodiveristy and resilience of remenants
  • Wood harvesting and 'tidying up' reduce habitat
  • Gradual loss of paddock trees - visual impact and reduced habitat
  • Increased leakage by replacing native vegitation with agriculture, with potential for salinity and waterlogging
  • Table collated by Dr Anna Ridley, DNRE, Rutherglen, VIC.

    The EMS identified farm safety as a high priority.

    Region North