Transcript of National Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative (NAMI) North

​This eight minute video was produced to communicate the outcomes of the Climate Change Research Program from the National Adaptation and Mitigation  Initiative (NAMI). It provides information to help land managers understand possible ways they can demonstrating practical ways that farmers can adapt to long-term climate change and seasonal variability through soil organic matter carbon, soil organic carbon and nitrous oxide emissions.  This research has been funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to help prepare Australia’s primary industries for climate change and build the resilience of Australia’s agricultural sector.

Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry
Transcript – NAMI North Video (Final) – On-farm research gets to the bottom of soil health

Download

National Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative: On-farm research gets to the bottom of soil health [7:50]

13 June 2012

Transcript

  1. Voice Over:
    Research conducted at farms across the country is helping equip farmers to adapt and adjust to a changing climate.

    On behalf of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Grains Research and Development Corporation manages the National Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative (NAMI), a $4.9 million project designed to take research out of the lab and into the paddock.

    Dr David Lawrence, principal extension officer with the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said the NAMI is demonstrating practical ways that farmers can adapt to long-term climate change and seasonal variability.

    Dr David Lawrence, Principal Extension Officer, QLD Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (QDAFF):
    The NAMI project is National. It's from Western Australia right through to Victoria and here. What each region is doing is picking a couple of issues that are really important, and for us that's soil organic matter carbon, soil organic carbon and nitrous oxide emissions.

  2. Voice Over:
    More than half of nitrous oxide emissions come from human activities with the majority of these resulting from agriculture. Nitrous oxide is also a potent greenhouse gas with over 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

    Pie Chart graphic:
    Total Nitrous Oxide (N2O) Emissions in Australia
    6% Industrial process
    2% Waste
    15% Transport
    49% Stationary energy
    6% Land use change and forestry
    18% Agriculture
    4% fugitive emissions

    Dr David Lawrence, Principal Extension Officer, QDAFF:
    We're really interested in nitrous oxide in the project and the reason is because nitrogen is such a big cost for farmers. Now if they're putting nitrogen on and losing it as nitrous oxide, farmers may not be too worried,but that could be an indicator of really large losses of other nitrogen and costing them big money.

  3. Voice Over:
    Dr Lawrence said part of their research is looking at the role that forage legumes and grasses have in the modern farming system.

    Dr David Lawrence, Principal Extension Officer, QDAFF:
    If people want to go to a lower risk system to manage a future climate if they believe it's going to be hotter and drier, perhaps the safest way of doing that is a less intense system. So start cropping only on their very best soils and put their more marginal soils back to pastures. The concern is that pastures traditionally are a bit less profitable, so there’s an economic penalty there unless we can get those pastures performing to their full potential. And that's where the other part of this project has really looked at making sure we have a legume component in the system, whether it's in a cropping system or in a pasture system, because the legumes can fix the nitrogen from the air, put that back in the soil for better crops, and better pastures.

  4. Voice Over:
    Dr Mike Bell is working with farmers around the Kingaroy district to develop management strategies to minimise nitrogen fertiliser losses from crops and pastures. He said the move from cropping to mixed cropping systems has created some challenges for farmers.
     
    Dr Mike Bell, Principal Research Scientist, QLD Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), University of Queensland:
    Farmers had their fertiliser programs fairly well fine-tuned, with a legume every second year so they didn't need to apply a lot of nitrogen fertiliser because the legume residues would provide it. When you're going into a pasture phase, which these guys are doing now in the mixed cropping systems, you have more organic matter in the soil, nitrogen releases slower, particularly if you’ve got grasses and grass/legume mixtures. And so farmers are less certain about how to manage their nitrogen fertiliser.  And that has big implications for both the profitability and productivity as well as for things like nitrous oxide emissions.
    That's the basis of this program, is trying to help farmers and provide them with tools to make better fertiliser decisions when they return to the cropping phase. We're trying to develop soil tests that will help farmers to know exactly how much nitrogen they need. We are also measuring the effectiveness of different fertiliser products in terms of their nitrous oxide emissions. So potentially we're looking for the win-win where we minimise the environmental impact, maximise the benefits to farmers.
  5. Voice Over:
    Back in 1996 cattle producer Donald Bell first planted a mixed sward of legumes and grasses.

    Mr Donald Bell, Cattle Producer, ‘Lallindi’ property, Chinchilla QLD:
    1991 and the early 90s were very dry, and we found that we were getting very few returns. We tried to grow crops but it didn't work out very well. So in about 1996 we, with the help of a grant, decided we'd establish a lot of pastures on the property. This was one of the first ones. In '96 we planted this 250 acre paddock to bambatsi, desmanthus and lucerne.

  6. Voice Over:
    Mr Bell said although they don't have any baseline data he is confident the mixed grass/legume pastures have had a positive effect on nitrogen levels.

    Mr Donald Bell, Cattle Producer, ‘Lallindi’ property, Chinchilla QLD:
    Well we didn't do any soil testing back in the 90s but we have started doing a bit more recently and this paddock now has got satisfactory nitrogen levels. But compared to what they probably would have been then, they would have been cropped for so long and the soil structure was very bad - it used to go to dust or erode very quickly - so I think that that's a big improvement, probably because of the pasture.

  7. Voice Over:
    Mr Bell said his cattle are performing well on the mixed grass/legume pastures.

    Mr Donald Bell, Cattle Producer, ‘Lallindi’ property, Chinchilla QLD:
    We regularly get weight gains of between 1 to 1.5 kg a day from  young cattle in here, and at the moment I've got cows and calves and the calves are doing really really well. We've probably made more money out of growing cattle in this paddock than we would have out of cropping in the last 15 years.

  8. Voice Over:
    Dr Mike Bell said that while they have done some early work on quantifying the total amount of nitrogen being lost from farming and grazing systems, more comprehensive sampling needs to be done.

    Dr Mike Bell, Principal Research Scientist, QAAFI, University of Queensland:
    We have only just scratched the surface in this NAMI work though because whilst we've made manual measurements, at periods of wet weather and we've got relative treatment measurements we haven't been able to make those sums across the season that are so important in getting an overall picture. Where we hope to be working in the future is trying to set up these automated chambers which give us a season-wide and a fallow-wide perspective on what happens with legume residues and much of that legume nitrogen we can actually capture or conversely how much we lose, compared to the alternate approach, which is using nitrogen fertiliser with or without inhibitors.

  9. Voice Over:
    The use of these inhibitors is showing some positive results.

    Dr David Lawrence, Principal Extension Officer, QDAFF:
    We are getting losses cut down to 10% of what they previously were with those fertilisers. They're expensive and I'm not sure how economic they’re going to be in the short term but long-term is a lot of promise.

  10. Voice Over:
    The NAMI project in Queensland is also helping farmers develop strategies and identify practice changes that may increase soil carbon stores.

    Dr David Lawrence, Principal Extension Officer, QDAFF:
    If you want to boost it, pastures, anything that grows a lot will help. If you want to reduce soil organic matter, burning will lower levels, making hay will lower soil organic matter levels because you are taking a lot of material off the farm. Cultivating more than you have to will break down organic matter and reduce it. These are all things that you might do from time to time, but to do it all the time will certainly reduce your organic matter levels fast.

  11. Voice Over:
    The NAMI project now has nearly 70 documented strategies of how farmers in Queensland plan to manage a changing climate. But however they plan to cope with variable climate the NAMI project is helping them gain the necessary skills to increase the sustainability of their farms in the long term.

    The Climate Change Research Program funds research projects and on-farm demonstrations to help prepare Australia's primary industries for climate change and build the resilience of Australia's agricultural sector into the future.

    The National Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative is supported by funding and in-kind support from the following partners:

    Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)
    Birchip Cropping Group (BCG)
    Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA)
    Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (QDAFF)
    Victorian Department of Primary Industries (VIC DPI)

    Thank you to the participants of this video:

    Dr David Lawrence – QDAFF
    Dr Mike Bell – QAAFI
    Mr Donal Bell – ‘Lallindi’ property, Chinchilla QLD – member of the Chinchilla District Landcare Group

    END