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Legacy of work lives on at Flame Tinge

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Sustainable Industries

Follow the Mortlock River north into the resilient farmland of the central Wheatbelt and you will find Flame Tinge.

The Konnongorring farm is steeped in history, with its maiden crop harvested by owner Peter Whitfield’s grandfather way back in 1913.

A century on, there remained problems to solve for the third generation grower, especially unproductive soils in a sandy paddock where wind erosion proved a headache.

Peter received assistance from Wheatbelt NRM in 2012 to plant sub-tropical grasses – Rhodes grass, Gatton Panic and Signal Grass – over 40 hectares that had regularly underperformed under crop.

Almost 10 years down the track and the original grasses are still intact, providing occasional autumn feed for Flame Tinge’s lambs and turning unprofitable, marginal land into valuable pasture.

 “That country was not yielding at all, maybe 250-500kgs (per hectare),” he said. “We’d put all that herbicide and fertiliser in and then at harvest it would come out at a net loss.

“Now with the site I’m not getting that net cropping loss and I’m making a slight profit from the grazing, so year in, year out I think on that soil type we’re well and truly in front.

“While it may not be a huge return it’s a lot better than the loss we were making prior to that.”

The success of his trial encouraged Peter to make his own investment in sub-tropical grasses on a second plot, with further potential sites also identified.

The hardiness of the plantings was demonstrated when a lightning strike sparked a bushfire that tore through the paddock, only for the seemingly doomed grasses to re-emerge.

“I thought it would be terminal. It was a pretty hot fire and then a dry period after it, but it has recovered really well,” he said.

A decade on and Peter values the legacy left by his initial trial and the role natural resource management techniques can play in conventional farming systems.

“I find (the grass) really changes the landscape and stops the wind erosion,” he said.

“Now I don’t look for funding, I can see the value in it and will implement that project in my own right because long term it’s very valuable to us.”

Have you got a story to tell about work you completed with Wheatbelt NRM? Get in touch by emailing jchiat@wheatbeltnrm.org.au or call 9670 3136.

If you would like more information on some of the methods and plants discussed in this article, contact Felicity Gilbert at fgilbert@wheatbeltnrm.org.au or 9670 3102.

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