The Sustainable agriculture program has continued to focus on increasing the adoption of sustainable farm management practices that enhance the resource base and improve long term productivity.
The program has seen more than 501 farmers improve their knowledge and skills, and 246 farming entities adopting sustainable land management practices on more than 2,460 hectares of land.
Partnership development in 2016/2017 has seen partnered projects develop with Coca Cola South Pacific, Landcare Australia, Department of Parks and Wildlife (Rivers and Estuaries Division), WA Horse Council, WA Citrus and more. These partnerships have ensured we are delivering on improved land management practices, increased public understanding and improved farm gate returns while increasing resilience to change.
Adoption of sustainable land management practices
The Perth region has a diverse peri-urban community who are driven to learn more on how to better manage their area of land. Perth NRM was able to deliver a number of industry specific workshops and events throughout the year, including;
• WA Horse Council Winter Bus Tour,
• WA Citrus Market Report,
• Climate Research in the Hills workshop,
• Managing Horse Properties Summer Bus Tour,
• Perth Hills Water Management Forum.
The continuation of the Healthy Soils Healthy Rivers Program also saw more on farm one-on-one sessions with an independent agronomist to discuss fertiliser and irrigation water management practices. This program was a key initiative to facilitating wide spread adoption of improved land management practices on commercial horticulture properties.
Our partnerships with key industry organisations are vital to running these workshops and events throughout each of their key growing regions across the state, for example; Wines of WA workshops in both the Swan Valley and Margaret River regions, and WA Citrus seminars in both the Gingin and Harvey areas.
Increased consumer understanding
The Rural Landcare facilitator and Sustainable Agriculture team continued their efforts to improve the community understanding of the region and the land management practices which occur. This was achieved by attending several regional agricultural events which enhanced community engagement with major displays at the Karragullen Expo, Gidgegannup Small Farm Field Day and Araluen Avocado and Chill Festival during the year.
These events allow us to target the ‘backyard farmer’ or ‘lifestyler’ who wish to have a better understanding of how their food is produced while potentially growing produce themselves. Often, we hear how difficult it is to get reliable information or specifics for an area and attending these events and providing reliable information helps bridge this gap for the community.
The program also published information in the Countryman publication focusing on Mediterranean Fruit Fly and how to manage the pest in both a suburban and agricultural environment. It was published to coincide with the Perth Royal Show and Karragullen Expo to gain the biggest exposure to new audiences, and the prefect time to start a management plan of baiting and trapping.
Improving long term returns through better management
The Perth NRM Sustainable Agriculture program aims to improve sustainability of the agricultural sector in the Perth region, this is often associated with improving farm gate returns. The Healthy Soils Health Rivers program, a joint initiative between Perth NRM, Wheatbelt NRM and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (Parks and Wildlife Service), targets the fertiliser and irrigation management plans to do this. The program assists landholders and community groups to implement on-ground activities that will improve soil health and contribute to improved water quality in the Swan-Avon river system.
The program’s activities have led to an estimated 15% reduction in fertilisers being lost to, or having a direct impact on the environment. Improved practices are attributed to reduction in fertiliser use, improved timing and frequency in applications and improved method of application. This one-on-one approach, followed by industry specific workshops has led to further improvements in sustainable land management via new initiatives such as the Western Citrus Alliance. This is a collaborative model which brings together a number of growers to combine resources and have greater returns while also improving their management techniques.
The program is funded by the Australian Government National Landcare Programme and Western Australian Government through the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (Parks and Wildlife Service).
Food Future WA
This is an initiative of Perth NRM which brings together all the work of the Sustainable Agriculture team and aims to bring together other stakeholders to ensure all resources in the industry are working in the same direction to secure the future of our food producing areas in Western Australia. The entire supply chain, from producer to retailer and consumer, are all involved and need to understand the role they play in the future of our food. Similar initiatives can be seen across Australia such as in Victoria with the Melbourne Food Plan, where residential and agricultural development planning go hand in hand.
This exciting initiative will include projects across the supply chain and feature many partnerships and collaborations. It goes beyond the Perth region as agriculture is a cross regional industry and needs to be looked at in its entirety.