Recovery and rehabilitation for your land after bushfire
This summer’s bushfires have had a significant impact on soil, pastures, crops, weeds and water supplies across the country. As we begin to rebuild and regenerate operations, there are several uncertainties regarding what growers, managers and employees should be doing to expedite land recovery.
Elders agronomist in Kingscote on Kangaroo Island, Maree Gifford, shares her insights into how farmers can begin to rebuild and return to productivity.
Soil and pastures
Soil should be the first port of call for growers’ recovery operations as most fires will have removed a significant amount of organic matter from the soil. Fires cause significant loss of essential nutrients and microbes as well as introduce potential nitrification issues.
Soil tests can and should be undertaken to understand the level of damage that has occurred and what fertiliser treatment plan is best for regenerating crop growth. Agronomists can help growers run soil tests to ensure that informative samples are collected, and accurate detailed assessments are made. These results can then reliably inform fertilisation plans for the 12 months ahead.
As most weeds will have been destroyed in the fires, growers are in a good position to recondition their pastures. However, those who have received rain may face weeds that have germinated. In this case, it is important that weed control measures are implemented before re-sowing the pasture.
For producers whose livestock has been significantly affected, it may be beneficial to undertake a cropping regime before reintroducing livestock into the paddock. This course of action can expedite the recovery of affected pastures and even extract some productivity from the land in the form of grain or hay production.
In the aftermath of fires, water contamination can be a significant issue for affected farms. Often, a water supply may appear fine until there is heavy rain and ash in the run-off. Any rain after the fires should prompt a thorough inspection of all water supplies for contamination.
Protecting water from surface run-off and stock movement can be achieved by ensuring protective fencing and trough watering points are functional. As the fire season endures, continue to monitor these sources. If there has been serious damage to water supplies, review the location of watering points for ease of access, as well as fire vulnerability in the future.
Fires have helped to wipe out a large number of pests from many farms. However, like everything else, they will come back and this should be factored into each growers recovery plan.
Every farm will have different needs for its rehabilitation and recovery. Farmers must ensure their short and long-term plans for the regeneration of their land are aligned so that one does not inhibit the progress of the other.
For more information or to learn how Elders can assist you with recovery for your cropping or pasture operation, speak to an Agronomist by contacting your local branch.