Above: Chris Alenson discussing the scarcity of topsoil typical of the Macclesfield area.
More than 100 people attended a one-day conference held in Lilydale in May on property management in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges.
Owning and managing land in the peri-urban and semi-rural fringe of Melbourne presents a number of challenges. The area is made up of 69 per cent Crown and local government managed land that is rich in biodiversity. Alongside this are many small and productive properties including vineyards, orchards, beef and equestrian pursuits, and bush lovers.
The conference was a collaborative effort between Yarra Ranges Council, Cardinia Shire, Melbourne Water, Yarra Ranges Landcare Network, the Box Hill Institute and the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA. It was funded through the National Landcare Program.
Don Watson, author and former speechwriter for Prime Minister Paul Keating, was the keynote speaker. Don provided reflections on the history of farming and land clearing in Australia and discussed his book The Bush (2014).
A series of speakers and workshops addressed pasture management, soil health, weed management and grazing densities.
"Chris’s session covered the four components of soil – minerals, water, air and organic matter. He discussed each component and the role it played in soil fertility."
Local soil expert Chris Alenson ran two popular sessions on what your soil is telling you.
According to Chris one of the guiding principles of sustainable agriculture is the encouragement and maintenance of healthy, fertile, soil.
“It is important to understand that a fertile soil can do more than just produce healthy pasture,” Chris said.
“It can also assist in controlling plant disease, benefit the association between roots and soil nutrients, recycle nutrients, improve soil structure, and store more nutrients, air and water.”
Chris’s session covered the four components of soil – minerals, water, air and organic matter. He discussed each component and the role it played in soil fertility.
He provided a great mix of practical and scientific information, broke down some of the mysteries of soil, and took us on a journey below the horizon.
Other speakers included Patrick Francis who spoke on comfortable livestock farming by managing pasture species selection and grazing rates, and David Stewart on property management planning.
Sessions on biodiversity stewardship, water, and weed and pest animal management were also well attended.
We have received a lot of positive comments from people attending the conference and we are hoping it will become a biennial event in the Yarra Ranges.
Anne Fitzpatrick is the Landcare Facilitator for the Yarra Ranges Landcare Network. Her position is funded through the Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program.
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