Healthy ecology has a healthy financial return

By Matthew Barton, "Baragonumbel", Wellington, NSW

Pasture cropping has allowed me to totally reappraise my agricultural business and natural resource management strategies. The simple technique of sowing winter cereal and oilseed crops into a live, summer-dominant native grass swath has challenged the need for fallowing (chemical or mechanical).

That shift from working with bare ground and monocultures to working with living, healthy, diverse ecosystems above and below ground level, has allowed a total fresh appraisal of major challenges facing current cropping technologies.

I believe animal impact is integral to the long-term health of any ecosystem. Utilising a cell grazing management technique has allowed me to use animals to impact positively on soil health and, importantly, has provided an income source over the non-crop period.

Significantly, pasture cropping has allowed me to redesign the profitability of my agricultural business. By halving my costs of crop production, I can move away from the agricultural industry"s fixation of maximising production.

The low cost of production allows me to budget for at least 100 percent return on crop production investment in a less than average year.

When discussing individual enterprises and the whole business, I prefer to use "return on investment" (ROI) terms.

Some general rules I follow:

To achieve these results I cannot be production focused and enterprise gross margins are virtually ignored. Interestingly, as the native grass swathes improve, so do the crops sown into them. By concentrating on improving ecological health and diversity, naturally, I am anticipating an upward spiral of improving soil and pastures and increasing profitability, at little or no cost.

For more information:
Matthew Barton, baragonumbel@bigpond.com