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The Soil

In the context of farmland investment, resilience is defined as ‘the ability of an ecosystem to return to its original state after being disturbed’.  That is, the ability to resist and perform when stresses are applied.  The most obvious stresses in a farming environment are climatic, in the form of drought and flood and pest/disease.

The focus on the creation of robust and resilient agro-ecosystems underpins the Agvest management approach.  This manifests itself with superior water retention in soils as a result of higher levels of soil organic matter, thus creating superior performance under dry conditions, drainage of water post extreme wet events with more stable and healthy crops and animals.

Hidden Exposure

The unspoken secret of conventional agriculture is its overwhelming exposure to the cost of fossil fuel based inputs.  Fertiliser and biocides are all products of the fossil fuel industry and, as critical farm inputs, are amongst the most significant determinants of farm profitability.

Ecologically scientific approach to sustainable farm management actively works to minimise this exposure to rising input costs.  This is achieved through the elimination of nitrogenous fertiliser and self-defeating biocides; PLUS a concentration on self-sufficiency within the farm system.

Trials at Rothamsted Experimental Station in England over 100 years shows manure is better than superphosphate at raising phosphate levels; a 25 year trial shows a greater increase in nitrogen. Such results strengthen the case for integrated animal/crop systems based on lower inputs of synthetic chemicals.

Global Climate Change

In the face of increasing negative climate change impacts at the farm level this outperformance is a material advantage. Research from the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia says there is evidence that extensive clearing has caused a reduction in rainfall. By implication it means that if more trees are planted, then there is a likelihood that rainfall could return, though this is over a 20 – 30 year timeframe.

Growing trees increases the:

  • Ecological diversity,
  • Creates micro climates between the tree lines, reducing evaporation, increasing shade and shelter for animals, greater bird life that live from eating bugs,
  • Additional source of income, allowing the option of firewood, tree poles for construction, fine wood for furniture, bush flowers for retail sale,
  • Maintaining the water table to regular levels,
  • Reducing salt destruction to the soils,
  • Carbon credits,

The above factors are some of the key drivers of outperformance in the Agvest strategy and are core themes underlying the superior value proposition of organic/ecological farm management.

It is through investment in the ecological management of farmland that we equip ourselves to generate performance to the investor’s desires.

Farm

The farm will commence operating as a conventional farm, starting off were the previous owner had left it.  The farm manager will over to organic farming in the most practical way that minimises any loss of production and time taken to change to organic production.

The introduction of tree lots, grown in rows:

  • Allows conventional farming and/or grazing between each row of trees,
  • Fodder for drought feeding at times of low rainfall,
  • Shelter for animals
    • shade in summer
    • shelter from wind and rain in winter,
  • Regular pruning each autumn keeps the trees healthy and the wood chips add to humus in the soil, carbon sequent ion,

Shelter belts are effective in moderating wind speeds and providing direct shelter for livestock.  Tall growing open plantings will reduce wind speeds downwind for distances of 25 to 30 times the height of the trees.  A two or three row shelter belt with eucalypts as the taller component, and acacias and casuarinas providing the lower cover combines well to provide an all-purpose shelter belt.

The water cycle, mineral cycle, community dynamics, and sunlight energy flow should all improved to the extent where the whole property aspect is more physically balanced.  For example, there should be far greater diversity of native species.  This should lead to more green grasses despite seasonal aspects.  The increase in tree regrowth and overall health in the trees can only result in increased birds and other wildlife.  Any occurrence of erosion should decrease due largely to the improved water cycle via decomposed litter.

A good talk by Allan Savory supports the benefits of controlled grazing and its positive correlation with soil & plant growth. It can be seen at:

http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html

About

Contact

John Shepherd
0414 661 445
PO Box 2104 Dubbo NSW 2830
Australia