Understanding Our Native Grasslands. agricultural, environmental and indigenous values and management for the future

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1 Understanding Our Native Grasslands agricultural, environmental and indigenous values and management for the future

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3 This document was commissioned by the Natural Resources Advisory Council (NRAC) for the community and land managers of NSW. NRAC was established by the NSW Government in 2004 as a single source of integrated stakeholder advice on high level natural resources management (NRM) and land use issues. NRAC is chaired by an independent Convenor, Phyllis Miller OAM, who reports on behalf of NRAC to the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment. Natural Resources Advisory Council Phyllis Miller OAM Convenor Russ Ainley OAM NSW Forest Products Association Jeff Angel OAM Total Environment Centre Averil Bones World Wide Fund for Nature Australia Pepe Clarke Nature Conservation Council of NSW Mark Dangerfield Scientific Representative Allan Ezzy Local Government Association of NSW Pam Green Catchment Management Authorities Harry Goring Unions NSW Janet Hayes Shires Association of NSW Hans Heilpern Fisheries Management Sector Peter Jensen Planning Institute of Australia Mark King Catchment Management Authorities Jock Laurie NSW Farmers Association Pam Moore OAM Country Women s Association of NSW Warren Mundine NTSCORP NSW Penny Olsen Birds Australia Marie Russell AM Livestock Health and Pest Authorities Stephen Ryan NSW Aboriginal Land Council Chris Scott NSW Landcare Committee Sue-Ern Tan NSW Minerals Council Col Thomson NSW Irrigators Council Stephen Turner Unions NSW James Christian Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Affairs NSW Lisa Corbyn Director General, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water Sam Haddad Director General, Department of Planning Richard Sheldrake Director General, Industry & Investment NSW Warwick Watkins Chief Executive Officer, Land and Property Management Authority Acknowledgements The original report Native Grasslands of NSW Environmental, Indigenous and Agricultural Values and Sustainable Management was prepared on behalf on NRAC by Eco Logical Australia Pty Ltd. Abridgement of the original document was undertaken by IRP Environmental Consultants Pty Ltd, with the assistance of Mary Goodacre, David Marsh, Penny Olsen, Robert Irvine and Karen Greenhill under the management of NRAC s Sustainable Resource and Conservation Standing Committee, chaired by Jeff Angel. Thanks also to the Botanic Gardens Trust, John Benson, Jaime Plaza, Royal Botanic Gardens (Sydney), Lachlan Copeland, Phil Gilmore, Mary Goodacre, Sue Hudson, Bruce Mullins, Ederic Slater, Tieneke Trotter and Rainer Rehwinkel for their great photographs. Cover image: Silky Browntop Eulalia aurea (Image: Mary Goodacre) Opposite page: Bluegrass stand Dicanthium sp. (Image: Mary Goodacre) Disclaimer While every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that this document is accurate at the time of printing, the State of New South Wales, its agents and employees do not assume any responsibility and shall have no liability, consequential or otherwise, of any kind, arising from the use of or reliance on any of the information contained in this document. State of NSW October 2010 ISBN

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5 Contents Acknowledgements...ii Minister s Foreword...2 Executive Summary Introduction...4 What is Native Grassland....4 How did Native Grasslands Develop Native Grasslands in NSW...6 Grassland Types...6 Natural Native Grasslands...8 Derived Native Grasslands...9 Change in Extent and Condition of Native Grasslands...10 Threats to Native Grasslands Protection of Native Grasslands in NSW...13 Grassland Reserves...13 Legislative Protection of Grassland Communities Legislative Protection of Threatened Grassland Flora Agricultural Values of Native Grasslands in NSW Drought Tolerance...15 Case Study:Native Pastures and Planned Grazing for Managing Drought Year Round Forage...17 Low input Production...17 Frost Tolerance...17 Finer Wool...17 Environmental Services Case Study: Competition between Serrated Tussock and Native Pastures Faunal Values of Native Grasslands in NSW Grassland Mammals Grassland Birds...22 Grassland Reptiles...23 Grassland Frogs Grassland Invertebrates Aboriginal Values of Native Grasslands in NSW...26 Grasslands as a Source of Food Value of Grassland Species Cultural Significance...27 Country Sustainable Management of Native Grasslands...29 Best Practice Grazing Management Grazing to Increase Diversity...30 Better Planning and Partnering: From Properties to Catchments Case Study: CMAs Partnering with Land Managers to Protect Native Grasslands Case Study: A Community Group Makes a Difference...32 Restoration of Native Grasslands and Native Grasses...33 Addressing Climate Change...33 Case Study: Research Improves Management of Grazed Grasslands for Threatened Species..34 Useful Sources of Information on Native Grasslands agricultural, environmental and indigenous values and management for the future 1

6 Minister s Foreword Native grasslands are a precious part of the natural heritage of NSW. These grasslands are integral to the ecological integrity of NSW and an important part of Aboriginal peoples cultural heritage. They can also provide the basis for sustainable agriculture. The majority of native grasslands in NSW are located on private land. The sustainable management of native grasslands can yield positive results for both conservation and production in our State. The range of benefits to the agricultural industry from changes in land management practices for native grasslands include a naturally drought tolerant source of fodder supply year round, fine higher quality fleece production and lower inputs by land managers. Sustainable management practices also provide environmental services by supporting increased biodiversity, sequestration of carbon in soil and improved water infiltration rates into the soil. This booklet aims to raise awareness of the nature, values and condition of the native grassland ecosystems of NSW, and by doing so encourage the sustainable management of this valued natural resource. The Natural Resources Advisory Council is to be commended for developing this booklet and I encourage land managers, conservationists, government agencies and the community to work together to better protect and utilise our native grasslands. The Hon Frank Sartor MP Minister for Climate Change and the Environment 2 UNDERSTANDING OUR NATIVE GRASSLANDS

7 Executive Summary This booklet is intended as an introduction to the grasslands of NSW, their agricultural, environmental and indigenous significance, the threats they face and the improvements in management that will help to maintain or improve their values. Grasslands may be either natural native grasslands, those likely to have occurred prior to European settlement, or derived native grasslands, created through clearing of woodlands and forests. There are over 60 distinct natural native grassland communities in NSW. These often occur on floodplains with fertile soils and, hence, they have been extensively cleared for cultivation and cropping. The largest remaining areas of natural native grasslands occur on the northern basalt plains around Moree and Walgett, the Liverpool Plains south-west of Tamworth, and the Monaro on the Southern Tablelands. Small, high quality, examples remain in the travelling stock route network, road and rail verges, cemeteries and churchyards. Derived native grasslands are about ten times more extensive than natural grasslands. Values Native grasslands are a valuable resource in NSW. They provide fodder for stock, a cultural resource for Aboriginal people, and habitat for plants and animals. Healthy grasslands are important providers of ecological services such as productive soils, water infiltration rates into the soil and carbon storage. Native grasslands underpin the NSW livestock industry. Many rural communities recognise the range of values of native grasslands, which include the provision of palatable native grasses year-round, drought tolerance, and the control of soil erosion, salinity and acidity. Adoption of more sustainable grazing management practices such as non-continuous grazing (e.g. rotational or tactical grazing) has often improved productivity and increased farm income. Native grasslands support a range of specialist flora and fauna species, of which nearly 100 are listed as either endangered or vulnerable under state and/or national legislation. Seven native grassland communities are themselves listed as threatened. Aboriginal people value native grasslands as part of country, the setting for nomadic journeys, ceremonial grounds and plants and animals used for food. Traditional Aboriginal land management over the past 40,000 to 150,000 years, particularly the frequent use of low-intensity fire, is likely to have affected the evolution of native grasslands in NSW. Extent, condition and sustainable management The extent of natural grasslands has diminished dramatically in the last 150 years, the condition of most of those remaining is poor and they are under-represented in the formal conservation reserve system. Derived native grasslands, on the other hand, are widespread in eastern NSW and have recently been recognised for their ecological value. Both types of grassland have considerable potential for restoration to a more productive and resilient state. Protection of grasslands relies on action by governments, industry and individual land managers. There is a need for targeted protection of the more endangered grassland communities. Elsewhere, much can be achieved by restoration of grasslands and extension of specific grassland management practices, such as appropriate alternative grazing regimes and strategic use of low intensity fire, already employed by some managers of private lands and reserves. agricultural, environmental and indigenous values and management for the future 3

8 1. Introduction Native grasses and grasslands have long been a cornerstone of the ecology and economy of NSW. They provide critical habitat for native flora and fauna and country for Aboriginal people. They underpin the pastoral industry and contribute to our state and national economies. The extent of pre-european grasslands has diminished greatly, and most grasslands have deteriorated in condition, with consequences for production and nature conservation. Yet, many grasslands are resilient systems with considerable capacity for recovery. Better knowledge and changing attitudes to their management offer great potential for their improvement over time. This booklet aims to promote awareness, understanding and improved management of the native grasslands of NSW. It presents basic information on the identification of grasslands, their values, protection and sustainable management. What is Native Grassland Grasslands are defined as plant communities where grass species are the dominant or tallest layer of vegetation and woody species (trees and shrubs) are sparse or absent. An area can be described as native grassland if more than 50% of the vegetative ground cover is native grass and herb species. Exotic species are often present. Where trees or large shrubs exist, they are separated on average by at least 20 crown widths (the average width of the canopy of the trees). Low ground cover may occur during drought, or after fire or heavy grazing. At these times, native species can persist in the soil seed bank. In good seasons grasslands can exhibit a dense cover of up to 100%. Native grasslands are dynamic ecosystems that are generally stimulated and maintained by disturbances such as fire and grazing. They usually comprise a mix of long-lived perennial grasses and herbs, and a variety of shortlived annual or biannual species. The mix can vary markedly with climate, season, weather conditions and grazing intensity. Native grassland can be either: Natural native grassland, which is likely to have existed at the time of European settlement; or Derived native grassland, which has been created by clearing of trees and drainage of wetlands. Native grasslands often integrate with other vegetation types, most notably grassy woodland, which has a grassy understorey but greater tree cover, and pasture and crops, which are dominated by exotic species. Areas where native grassland plants are present but more then 50% of species or 50% of grass cover is exotic, or both, are often referred to as native pastures and are not covered in this booklet. 4 UNDERSTANDING OUR NATIVE GRASSLANDS

9 How did Native Grasslands Develop Four main stages in grassland evolution in NSW have been identified. They provide important background for understanding the current state of NSW grasslands and their conservation and management requirements. 1. Pre-Aboriginal Expansion Grasses (species in the family Poaceae) first occur in the Australian fossil record about 70 million years ago. Their appearance can be attributed to the continent s slow migration north into drier latitudes. 2. Aboriginal Expansion Aboriginal people arrived as long ago as 150,000 years. Their activities, particularly the use of low-intensity fire for food gathering, have influenced grassland evolution and expansion. 3. Colonial Reduction Temperate grasslands and grassy woodlands, with their fertile soils, were the first vegetation types to experience agricultural transformation by European settlers. At the same time, large areas of derived grasslands were created mainly by the removal of woodland and forest. 4. Contemporary Modification and Conservation Since the 1970s, improved understanding of grassland values and services has resulted in active conservation of native grasslands. Local conservation initiatives are improving the condition of remnant grasslands, and assisting their return in parts of their former distribution. Various native grasslands on the Monaro Plains (Image: Rainer Rehwinkel) agricultural, environmental and indigenous values and management for the future 5

10 2. Native Grasslands in NSW Native grassland in NSW will generally belong to one of four major grassland types: the tussock, hummock, maritime and temperate grasslands. Nested within these broader categories are the 67 native grassland communities currently recognised in NSW. Grassland Types The four major types of grasslands in NSW are: Inland tussock grassland with Neverfail (Eragrostis setifolia) (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney) Hummock grassland with Porcupine Grass (Triodia scariosa) (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney) Inland tussock grasslands occur in central and western NSW. Mitchell grasses (Astrebla), lovegrasses (Eragrostis) and wiregrasses (Aristida) are the dominant grasses. Hummock grasslands occur mainly in western NSW and are characterised by spinifex grasses (various species of Triodia). 6 UNDERSTANDING OUR NATIVE GRASSLANDS

11 Maritime grassland with coastal Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis) (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney) Temperate grassland with Plains Grass (Austrostipa aristiglumis) (Image: John Benson, Botanic Gardens Trust) Maritime grasslands are largely confined to coastal headlands, particularly in northern NSW. Various species of couch (Sporobolus) are the dominant grasses. Temperate grasslands are the most extensive grasslands in NSW, being widespread across the tablelands, slopes and plains. They are tussock grasslands characterised by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda), wallaby grasses (Stipa), and tussock and snowgrasses (Poa). Another significant but less extensive group of grasslands occupy the margins of inland wetlands and watercourses. They are broadly described as swamp grasslands. Examples of swamp grassland are the Water Couch (Paspalum distichum) marsh grassland of flooded inland watercourses and the artesian mound springs community, the latter listed as Endangered in NSW. Water Couch (Paspalum distichum) grassland, an example of swamp grassland (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney) agricultural, environmental and indigenous values and management for the future 7

12 Data on this map is copyright and supplied by: Department of Environment Climate Change and Water. Eco Logical Australia Pty. Ltd. This map is not guaranteed to be free from error or omission. Eco Logical Australia Pty. Ltd. and its employees disclaim liability for any act done on the information in the map and any consequences of such acts or omissions. The estimated overall distribution of each of the main types of natural native grasslands in NSW. Examples of the various grassland types occur within the range indicated by the appropriate colour, but they do not occur continuously over all the coloured zone. Natural Native Grasslands Natural native grasslands are grasslands that had sparse or no trees or shrubs at the time of European settlement. Natural grasslands are primarily located on the major floodplains of NSW. Hence, over the last 150 years these relatively flat and fertile lands have been turned to agricultural production and their original extent is difficult to ascertain. Cultivation and cropping have had a major impact on these communities, which are now uncommon and fragmented. Natural grasslands can also occur on undulating basalt landscapes of the cooltemperate and alpine parts of the tablelands; these landscapes are particularly found in southern NSW. 8 UNDERSTANDING OUR NATIVE GRASSLANDS

13 Data on this map is copyright and supplied by: Department of Environment Climate Change and Water. Eco Logical Australia Pty. Ltd. This map is not guaranteed to be free from error or omission. Eco Logical Australia Pty. Ltd. and its employees disclaim liability for any act done on the information in the map and any consequences of such acts or omissions. The estimated overall distribution of derived native grasslands in NSW according to region. Examples of derived native grasslands occur within the range indicated by the appropriate colour, but they do not occur continuously over the coloured zone. Derived Native Grasslands Derived native grasslands have been created where forests, woodlands, or arid shrublands have been cleared or largely cleared of woody cover, or where wetlands have been drained. Derived native grassland communities are widespread and common in eastern NSW, dominating the undulating tablelands, slopes and plains of the sheep-wheat belt. The total area of derived grasslands is over 10 times that of the remaining area of natural native grasslands. Derived grasslands are increasingly being recognised for their ecological value and potential for restoration. For example, the White Box - Yellow Box - Blakely s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland community is listed nationally as Critically Endangered. Derived grassland (Bothricochola decipens) on basalt hills on the mid slopes of the western Liverpool Range (Image: Jaime Plaza, Botanic Gardens Trust) agricultural, environmental and indigenous values and management for the future 9

14 Change in Extent and Condition of Native Grasslands Grassy ecosystems were once a major feature in the landscape of NSW. In western NSW, natural native grassland once covered more than 3.7 million hectares, almost half of which has been removed or replaced since European settlement. Elsewhere in NSW, natural native grasslands are now uncommon, and historical changes in their extent are poorly documented. Few of the lowland native grasslands (i.e. non-alpine grasslands) of central and western NSW remain in original condition and they rank among Australia s most threatened ecosystems. Indeed, less than 1% of temperate native grasslands remaining in eastern Australia are considered to be in an unmodified condition. The less modified areas are in small parcels of public land such as road and railway easements, travelling stock routes and cemeteries. Derived native grasslands have increased in extent but they too have declined in condition. Loss of condition means that the relative productivity of native grasslands has declined, and the grasslands have reduced capacity to recover from drought and other stresses. Research indicates that the carrying capacity of grazing lands in southern Australia is estimated to have reduced by almost 50% between 1970 and 1984 alone. Over the past four decades more than one-third of farms in livestock production have become unprofitable. The return on pasture intensification has also diminished. At the same time, biodiversity is in decline, as evidenced by the growing number of threatened grassland species. Example of a monthly habitat assessment quadrat (see Case Study p. 34; Image: Bruce Mullins) NRAC grasslands field trip (Image: NRAC) 10 UNDERSTANDING OUR NATIVE GRASSLANDS

15 Threats to Native Grasslands Despite structural, climatic and geographical differences between native grassland types, there are several major threats that are common to all. Weeds The greatest cause of loss of grassland condition is replacement of native grassland species by exotic plant species, including weeds. Ploughing and associated fertiliser application, and overgrazing, can provide exotic species with a competitive advantage over native plants. Proliferation of invasive weeds, such as African Lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula), Chilean Needlegrass (Nassella neesiana) and Serrated Tussock (Nassella trichotoma) on the Southern Tablelands, and Coolatai Grass (Hyparrhenia hirta) on the northwest slopes, is reducing the native plant biodiversity and productivity of NSW grasslands, and presents a major challenge to native grassland conservation. Coolatai Grass, Hyparrhenia hirta, a highly invasive weed on the north-west slopes of NSW (Image: Phil Gilmour) Pasture intensification Large-scale soil disturbance and fertiliser application can lead to the replacement of native grasses by exotic species including weeds. Activities including tree clearing, cultivation, sowing exotic pastures, fertiliser application and irrigation can have detrimental effect on the structure and function of native grasslands. Despite an initial increase in pasture yields following pasture intensification in higher rainfall areas of south-eastern Australia, there has since been a decline in yields (according to recent stocking trends) in response to reduced pasture condition through over-use. Removal and fragmentation for cropping Many natural native grasslands occur on deep, rich alluvial soils associated with floodplains. These areas are highly prized for their agricultural productivity and have been intensively cultivated and cropped since the mid 1800s resulting in fragmenting grasslands. Isolation of remnant native grasslands affects seed dispersal and movements of species. In both plants and animals this can lead to inbreeding, loss of local genetic diversity, loss of population viability and poor recovery after major disturbances. agricultural, environmental and indigenous values and management for the future 11

16 Sheep in an overgrazed paddock in the southern tablelands (Image: Mary Goodacre) Overgrazed Mitchell Grass grassland on the Culgoa River floodplain north-west of Walgett (Image: John Benson, Botanic Gardens Trust) Grazing intensity Heavy grazing of grasslands can result in decreased species diversity and destruction of grasslands. Changed water use Changed patterns of water use can result in rising water tables, soil salinity and soil acidity which are detrimental to native grasslands. Up to 17 million hectares of Australia s more valuable cropland and grassland are predicted to be at risk from salinity by Lack of fire Frequent use of fire by Aboriginal people maintained a high diversity of species in native grasslands and controlled regeneration of some woody species. Fire frequency has decreased under European land management. Climate change The greatest effect of climate change on grassland is anticipated to be the increase in drought conditions across the state. Direct ecological impacts are likely to be most acute for natural grassland communities with a restricted range and for derived grasslands with a high proportion of shallow rooted annual species. Lack of recognition of natural native grasslands Accurate identification and mapping of native grasslands will assist future management and conservation planning decisions. Grazing by exotic and native fauna Feral herbivores (goats and rabbits) and native herbivores (kangaroos and wallabies) can add to stock grazing pressure on grasslands, particularly during drought. Hobby farming and residential development The expansion of intense land uses on rural land has resulted in loss of native grassland. Sorghum crop on previous Liverpool Plains grassland (Image: John Benson, Botanic Gardens Trust) 12 UNDERSTANDING OUR NATIVE GRASSLANDS

17 3. Protection of Native Grasslands in NSW Grassland Reserves Overall, the conservation status of most natural native grassland types in NSW is poor and few are protected in reserves. In western NSW, 11% (218,700 ha) of the remaining area of natural native grassland is protected in the formal reserve system (mainly National Parks and Nature Reserves). That represents only about 5% of the original area of grassland and most of it is one community, the Mitchell Grass-Saltbush community of far northwest NSW. Ten other western grassland communities have 1% or less of their current distribution in the reserve system. The conservation status of other natural native grassland communities, such as those situated on the Monaro Plains and Australian Alps, is also relatively poor. However, a number of coastal headlands supporting Themeda grassland are now protected within coastal reserves such as Hat Head National Park and Moonee Nature Reserve. Legislative Protection of Grassland Communities Grasslands have legislative protection against damage and degradation through the Native Vegetation Act 2003 (NVA), the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC) and the national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC). The NVA protects grasslands by requiring approval to clear remnant native vegetation and protected regrowth and encouraging the preparation of Property Vegetation Plans. Land managers are advised to seek guidance from their local Catchment Management Authority (CMA) prior to clearing native vegetation. The threatened status of seven grassland communities in NSW has been formally recognised through listings as Endangered Ecological Communities (EEC) under the NSW TSC Act, or Threatened Ecological Communities (TEC) under the national EPBC Act. These Acts have provisions intended to reduce threats to EECs and to actively assist their recovery and long-term survival. Threatened grassland communities in NSW and their conservation status under state and national legislation Community Status Legislation Artesian Springs Ecological Community Endangered TSC Bluegrass (Dichanthium spp.) dominant grasslands of the Brigalow Belt Bioregions (North and South) Endangered EPBC Box-Gum Woodland 1 Endangered TSC Native Vegetation on Cracking Clay Soils of the Liverpool Plains Endangered TSC Natural Temperate Grassland of the Southern Tablelands of NSW and the Australian Capital Territory Endangered EPBC Themeda Grassland on seacliffs and coastal headlands in the NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin and South East Corner bioregions Endangered TSC White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland 1 Critically Endangered EPBC 1 These two woodland communities are included in this table as they contain derived grasslands which contributed to their determination as threatened. agricultural, environmental and indigenous values and management for the future 13

18 Examples of grasslands that are recognised as Endangered Ecological Communities: Artesian Springs (left) and Liverpool Plains Grasslands (right) (Images: Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney) Legislative Protection of Threatened Grassland Flora A number of threatened flora species occur in native grasslands. Currently, 47 individual plant species are listed under the TSC Act as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable, according to the likelihood of extinction in the near future. They include various daisies, orchids, peas and grasses. For a full list of threatened grassland plants, their distribution and threatened status see A threatened grassland plant: Yass Daisy, Ammobium craspedioides, listed as Vulnerable (Image: Eco Logical) Annual Buttons, Leptorhynchos orientalis, an Endangered plant in NSW (Image: Bruce Mullins) 14 UNDERSTANDING OUR NATIVE GRASSLANDS

19 4. Agricultural Values of Native Grasslands in NSW Sheep grazing dry, deep-rooted native grasses, which provide year-round fodder even in drought (Image: Mary Goodacre) Well-managed native grasslands provide a range of benefits to the agricultural industries of NSW. These include the provision of high quality feed for livestock; a reduced need for supplementary feeding; low production costs; and production of finer, high tensile wool from sheep. Native grasslands also provide environmental services such as increased biodiversity, storage of carbon, nutrient cycling and regulation of water flow in the landscape. Drought Tolerance Native grasslands are naturally drought tolerant. They can be comprised of 30 or 40 native species, many of which are deep rooted. The combination of summer and winter perennial and annual grass and herb species affords a range of responses to changes in rainfall and seasonality, greatly increasing the likelihood of maintaining a fodder supply year round, even in dry times. agricultural, environmental and indigenous values and management for the future 15

20 Case Study: Native Pastures and Planned Grazing for Managing Drought Border Rivers-Gwydir Catchment Management Authority Pastures and grazing systems in Australia are regularly put under stress during drought. Pasture production is commonly low in dry times, which can result in stress to livestock and, if grazing pressure continues, a reduction in ground cover. A management system that considers before, during and after drought periods can ensure the survival and productivity of the pasture system. Native pasture composition is the key to maintaining a productive grazing system throughout drought times. The owners and managers of Magnet, a property south of Delungra on the slopes of the Gwydir Catchment, have developed a system to cope with drought and dry times. They have sown areas of old cultivated land to perennial tropical pastures, with some clover. In the existing native pastures, which consist of wallaby grasses (Austrodanthonia), red grasses (Bothriochloa) and Queensland Blue Grass (Dicanthium sericeum), they applied single superphosphate. The paddocks are divided into 20 to 40 hectare lots, which are strategically grazed using a flexible rotational grazing system. No more than one quarter of the property is used for grazing at any time, which allows the ungrazed pastures to regenerate before the next grazing. The native perennials that are retained are the most persistent during drought times and contribute to a higher proportion of ground cover, a reduction in erosion and improved pasture productivity. Resowing and fostering native pastures on Magnet has significantly improved the productivity and sustainability of the property despite a number of poor seasons. The property is supporting a 30% increase in stock numbers and the stock are in better condition than before the improvements to native pasture management. A fact sheet on ground cover maintenance and drought is available at: nsw.gov.au/uploads///fact%20sheet%20 7%20printer.pdf Cattle and sheep grazing native pasture (Image: Mary Goodacre) 16 UNDERSTANDING OUR NATIVE GRASSLANDS

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