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How To

Regenerative Farming Technologies (Land Management Practices)

HSA promotes all soil technologies that have been proven to work over long periods of time. Our focus is on what innovative farmers and graziers are actually doing, independently of current scientific knowledge or theorising, and doing independently of the sometimes-stifling dogma that accompanies the instruction of individual soil remediation techniques. Listed below, in no particular order, are different techniques practiced by HSA members, which can be adapted to either broad acre or intensive farming.

Decision Making

Our decision-making has been the cause of land degradation in human civilisations for thousands of years. Great civilisations have come and gone, and their collapse has been the result of poor decision-making and we have not learnt from our mistakes over those thousands of years. We are repeating the same mistakes because we are using the same decision-making process every time and there is no balance in our decisions.

Holistic Management

Holistic management is a decision making process to help us make balance decisions in our lives, to managing land resources, build biodiversity, improve production, generate financial strength, and improves the quality of life for those who use it. 
Developed by Allan Savory, holistic management offers a new decision-making framework that managers in a variety of enterprises, cultures, and countries are using to help ensure that the decisions they take are economically, socially, and environmentally sound in both short and long-term.

Our economy and our society are totally dependent on a healthy balanced and functioning environment.
By making balance decisions or holistic decision-making we are taking into account the three areas of economic, social and environmental.

With holistic decision making we first need to describe what sort of quality of life we want, what is important to us (our values). Then we need to decide on how we would produce those values or have more of that value in our lives. Finally we describe what our resource base would need to look like for us to sustain this quality of life we have described.

Toolbox

Here are a list of methodologies that we have in our toolbox that have been used in Australia and worldwide to achieve the regenerative result that are needed to help restore natural function to our landscape. You can use one or many, it is up to you and how you feel comfortable in managing your land. The methods you decide on using must be weighed up according to how much money you have and want to spend, and what will give you the biggest bang for your dollar spent. As well as the social and environmental gains you would like to achieve. Some of the methods may cost more and others my cost very little to implement. We recommend that you take a look at all these methods and pick the one that will suit you and the enterprises that you decide to manage your land with.

Permaculture 

Permaculture is a set of systems designed to meet human needs while regenerating the land around us. These techniques were developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s to describe their integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man, which involved consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships formed in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.
Holmgren, David, 2002, Permaculture, Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, Holmgren Design Services, Hepburn, Victoria.

Pasture Cropping And No Kill Cropping 

Pasture cropping is the zero kill method of sowing crops into perennial pasture. The land is not ploughed and the native or introduced perennial pasture is kept indefinitely. Weeds are controlled by grazing regimes, which leave mulch and manure nutrients on the ground, as well as minimal herbicide use. The ground is never bare and the land is utilised all year round. Input costs are small. Crops are usually sown at depth with a seed drill, cutting the sod instead of turning it, and then covering it. No Kill cropping follows similar principles. The difference is that it does not eliminate weeds, preferring diversity. No herbicide, pesticide or fertiliser is used, allowing maximum biological activity and minimum input costs, whilst maintaining plant diversity. Weeds are inhibited with grazing management and by sowing crops dry, giving them a germination advantage.

Hydrolation And Natural Sequence Farming 

Soil moisture can best be managed through improved soil structure, and especially through building up soil organic matter, particularly humus. Water-holding capacity increase per hectare for varying humus increases

In addition to using soil structure to improve moisture, it can also be managed in two other ways: 
  • From the top down through irrigation and;
  • From the bottom up through hydrolation. 
Hydrolation relies on the capillary action of soils to deliver moisture from below. The term Hydrolation was coined by HSA to describe the process of water management developed by the Dutch who control soil moisture precisely by adjusting the water table through their elaborate drainage system. In Australia the key principles of hydrolation have been developed by Peter Andrews through his work on restoring the natural chain-of-ponds hydrology that was commonplace in some parts of Australia. In the nineteenth century, overstocking and the removal of vegetation increased run-off and incised deep erosion gullies, resulting in dehydration of the landscape.

Hydrolation techniques involve slowing (not stopping) runoff and increasing infiltration of water into the soil. Peter Andrews uses vegetation and physical structures (leaky weirs) strategically placed in eroded gullies to lift water tables and restore flood plain functioning. Instead of rainfall events producing high levels of runoff which further scour out existing water ways and increase desiccation of the surrounding landscape, a hydrolated landscape, in conjunction with better soil structure built by increased soil microbiological activity, delivers water to plants and river systems over a longer period through slow percolation. 

Yeoman’s key line ploughing systems and Whittington’s interceptor banks have also been successfully used to slow runoff and increase water infiltration. In addition to deep incised gullies, Australia’s larger rivers have also become deeply incised resulting in the loss of soil moisture from the surrounding countryside. In the past, riverbanks were higher than the surrounding countryside as a result of periodic flooding and the depositing of silt on the banks. As a result, flood plains held water for long periods. Restoring flood plains to hydrolate the landscape is increasingly being recognised.

Keyline Farming

Keyline is ordered set of principles, techniques and systems. When fully utilised, Keyline Designs produce strategies and tactics to develop the natural or existing landscape through regeneration and enhancement.

Australian P.A. Yeomans in 1954 pioneered topsoil regeneration, on farm irrigation dams, chisel ploughs, contour ripping and non-terraced flood irrigation. Topsoil regeneration in the Yoeman’s system is a consequence of farm contour and tree planting design which enhances water retention and heals erosion and salinity, cell rotational grazing and mechanical soil aeration.
One of the typical benefits of Keyline is the rapid development of living soil.

Time Control Grazing Or Planned Grazing

Time control grazing was developed by Allan Savory to mimic the natural grazing patterns of the large herds of grazing animals that roamed the major grasslands of the world. It operates on the premise that grass plants and soil need adequate rest after being grazed by animals. Holistic grazing management requires that there is a balance between animal production, grasslands and the economics of our enterprises. Animal grazing, digestion and trampling also play an important role in soil health. Time-controlled or cell grazing management for animal production improve animal and pasture production as well as increase soil carbon sequestration when compared with set stocked continuous grazing systems. With good grazing management it is possible to regenerate degraded landscapes back to healthy functioning ecosystems.

Biological Products

Unpatented and patented compost tea and nutrient mixes.
The art of making compost has found a broad scale application with the modification of existing spraying equipment to directly deliver microorganisms brewed by a number of different ways to the soil in the paddock. In compost tea, a compost starter pack is used from compost made from a diversity of sources, and known to contain microorganisms beneficial to the plants cropped. The tea is brewed with water, much like making beer. The microorganisms proliferate rapidly under the right conditions, to numbers where paddocks can be sprayed with the mix, significantly boosting the soil microorganism population. Nutrient mixes can also be added to the spray.

Sprays can also be made to spray on the plants themselves, reducing foliar diseases and discouraging pest attack.

Compost tea can be obtained commercially as well as being suitable to being made on-farm in large quantities.
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