Farming in the Shire of Muckinbudin in the north east Wheatbelt, can be challenging at times particularly on the sandy ridges which are prone to wind erosion.
In 2016 in partnership with Wheatbelt NRM, John and Trish O'Neil planted 3500 seedlings were planted into a sandy ridge on a their property. This 20 hectare site was planted with a mix of sandalwood host seedlings including Acacia accuminata (jam wattle). On advice from peer mentor Bob Huxley, the site was also direct seeded with a sandalwood host mix. The host species have thrived, both seedlings planted and the direct seeding have had great success. In 2017 the sandalwood seedlings were able to be planted alongside their hosts. When we visited the site in 2018 the results were impressive with some host species over two metres in height and sandalwood seedlings had already reached half a metre in less than a year. What impressed the O'Neil's the most was how the soil was being held together better. The ridge was more stable and grasses had started to grow in what was previously bare sand. They have also seen more birds using the area and hope over time they may see Malleefowl return to the area.
John believes this type of work can be replicated elsewhere and knows in 20 years when he harvests the sandalwood it will be worth the effort.
“It’s whether people have the patience to wait.”