Case Study Report: Australia

SAVING MALLEE SOILS - ORGANIC BROADACRE FARMING

Improvements to the environment and productivity

 

Core Activity: Environmental rehabilitation; Organic farming; Sustainable agriculture

Summary

The case is situated in the Mallee, a semi-arid zone in Victoria, Australia. This is marginal land made up of large dryland holdings of cereals and sheep, it is dry and prone to wind erosion, and only two miles from the Big Desert National Park. Anthony Sheldon's believes that, if sensitively restored and worked responsibly, the Mallee is good, reliable farming country. His property is 1,000 hectares, and

carries 1,600 sheep. He has used his own deep understanding of the land with advice from Kym Kingdon, a permaculturalist, to change away from traditional methods of dryland farming. Anthony Sheldon's farm contributes to sustainability by: practicing "chemical free" organic farming; the use of gypsum is making the soil more fertile and workable; the introduction of alley farming and the planting of "living haystacks" provides shelter and fodder for stock, helps prevent soil erosion and reduces water evaporation; modification of farming practices have reduced weeds; his new farming methods have increased biodiversity and encouraged natural predators to return; and he is actively involved in educating and inspiring others about this new approach.

Objectives and purpose

The objectives were to:

Duration: This case has been developed since 1985.

The process was initiated by: Anthony Sheldon and Kym Kingdon.

Needs addressed

Most outstanding results

Within a remarkably short period this case has:

Most significant contributions to sustainable agriculture and land use management

Anthony Sheldon's farm contributes to sustainability by:

Extent of impact

Anthony Sheldon runs a 1,000 hectare sheep and cereal farm in the Mallee in north west Victoria. The Sheldon family have farmed this area since it was opened up for selection in the 1910's. This Mallee area was heavily cleared in the 1920s, exposing the sand dunes to massive wind erosion. The Big Desert scrub lies only two miles away. However Anthony believes that, if sensitively estored and worked responsibly, the Mallee is good, reliable farming country. His farm has been nominated for two state Landcare awards for his improvements to the environment and productivity.

Productivity

Stock

Soil and water

Farming practices

Environment

Education

Methods used to monitor and evaluate multi-functional impacts

The most import elements (key ingredients) which contributed to success

Factors that might affect replicability

Factors that influence sustainability

Factors that make this case sustainable:

The most important lessons learned

How this case enhanced the multiple use of agricultural land and water

The application of gypsum stopped water logging and run-off. The use of shelter belts of trees and shrubs reduce wind and assist in reducing the loss of water from evaporation. This means that rainfall becomes more effectively used, a greater proportion of water is able to infiltrate the soil and become available to plants for growth. The use of shelterbelts assist in increasing crop and pasture growth.

Contact details

Liza Dale

Senior Curator, Technology Program

Museum Victoria

Box 666E,

Melbourne

AUSTRALIA 3001

Phone 61 3 9291 2124

Fax: 61 3 9291 2139

E-mail: ldale@mov.vic.gov.au

Documents referring to the case

a. Australian Broadcasting Commission, "Landline" television program, 1995.

b. Museum Victoria's "Future Harvest" exhibition, education kit, website, 1998.

c. "Broadacre organics works wonders on cereal crops", South Australian Stock Journal, 18 September 1997, p. 25; "Permaculture to keep farmers on the land", South Australian Stock Journal, November 1998, p. 4.

Replication of the case by others

Many people have expressed interest and have planted salt bush, but no one has acted on the whole farming practice yet.

Similar cases

Some South Australian farms are using chemical free methods for dryland farming but are not planting fodder shrubs.