13th Dec 2012
I would like to thank Dtr Jim Shields for inviting myself to present the opening address at such an important forum here in the Sth East. To speak before so many living scientists is a huge honor .
The title for my opening address is176 years of sustainable farming in the Sth East My gg grandfather John Green was granted a licence to depasture livestock in 1836 on a property called Doolondondoo located in the eastern Monaro. My nephews still farm the same property and with the Robertson Land act 1862 my family selected land in the Bega Valley near Bemboka which also continues in the family today The 176 years started as subsistance farming and has continued to develop to where scientific products and research is very much a part of every day farming .
I know that to be part of a forum that is recognizing the history of science being undertaken in this area will be very rewarding. John’s farming on the Monaro commenced in a very different population and landscape than the present History records that by 1836 European diseases had a major impact on the indigenous Australians but our oral records indicate co-operative contact between both parties . Our use of the Indigenous trading trails began under their guidence and while many trails remain in their original state some have become our roads and highways The condition of the landscape was such that it immediately provided resources to sustain an every increasing population of people and their domestic animals.
To this day many of the big spreading eucalypts [mostly brown barrels] have a name reflecting back to the 1830’s where in the open woodlands, these trees were much valued for their possums and greater gliders . A licence to graze the land was shared with others who had the possum skin rights to individual trees The science of refrigeration started Australian farmers on the road to becoming the international farmers we are today .
Thomas Mort started with meat exports and now here in our own Valley we have Bega Cheese exporting dairy products to the world Both farmers and scientists have benefitted from the shared involvement of this industry export operation Reflecting through my generational knowledge the most destructive and hardest challenge to survive as farmers was and potentially still is the European rabbit The obvious impact of the rabbit was the loss of income from domestic animals e.g wool beef & dairy products.
The rabbit is the top order consumer . They out compete domestic animals and native foragers to disrupt the food chain for its entire length Farms declined from loss of primary income and native animals from the loss of their primary food sources The destructive nature of excess populations of rabbits destroyed secondary assets of more edible trees leaving unpalatable species to become what is now referred to as invasive native species ,water quality, drainage line erosion are other examples of their secondary impact The Tertiary level of impact stems from the negative perception of farmers with regard to our care of the land. Much of the degredation caused by rabbits was attributed to farming techniques This resulted in science being used to enact destructive legislation such as SEPP 46 CSIRO science gave us biological control and engineering technology provided better machinery to destroy rabbit harbor Science is now needed to combat the many introduced weeds such as fire weed in the bega valley and African love grass on the monaro , certainly rabbits helped in weed control Rabbits are the top order consumer , weeds are invasive .
I hope our Australian flora and fauna will survive weeds better than they did competing with rabbits Together rabbits and weeds are a huge challenge to all environmental sustainability With the last 3 wetter years the proliferation of native grass and flower species is surpassing any previous sightings in living memory . Older farmers state that previously in wetter years e.g.1950’s this did not occur as the rabbits were multiplying and devouring all before them. I will leave rabbits for a while as I would like to quote a few other examples where science has worked in the paddock for my family.
The Bega valley was badly affected by bush fires in 1952 . My father was at bemboka when the fire travelled from Bemboka to Bega in 20 minutes , They were unable to stop the grass fire at bemboka mainly because of the burning cow pats . they were burning and blowing in the wind and with every bump they fragmented and started more fires. Science has given us the dung beetle and removed a fire hazard from our landscape . The recycling of the dung beetle has improved our soil fertility and thus sustainability . Community expectations have demanded we largely remove one of the basic elements from our environment i.e fire and I see a real need for science to research other methods of recycling into many areas of the sth east.
Yesterday I chaired a meeting for the Wadbilliga East Monaro Brogo wild dog/fox nil tenure plan that has been in place for the last 10 years . The area South from Canberra west to the Murray river, down to the Victorian border and up the coastline to Batemans Bay is covered by similar plans . the plans were developed in response to two conflicting pieces of legislation a/ LHPA Act to surpress and destroy wild dogs and b/ NPWS policy for the preservation of dingoes . DNA testing indicated no real identifiable difference ,certainly in the field The Plans have two main objectives a/ minimize predation of domestic livestock b/ premote and protect populations of dingoes . 10 years of monitored work indicates both objectives are being met .
As a sheep breeder on the eastern escarpment aerial baiting gave us good protection in the 1960 to 1980’s An emotive ,inadequately researched EIS stopped aerial baiting , In developing the plans there was much demand from the farming communities for the re introduction of aerial baiting using 1080 poison. A scientific research area was selected for a monitored trial south of Jindabyne to measure the impact of aerial baiting on non target species particularly Quolls . A few months ago on the ABC TV 7.30 pm report quolls were featured . Dtr Andrew Claridge whom I met and worked with in setting up the trial was featured to speak about quolls . His main message and closing words were to encourage more people to help quoll populations by controlling fox populations.
Once again my generational knowledge indicates the demise of our Koala population was with the arrival and explosion of rabbit numbers. An unidentified disease[s] was said to have killed the koala population . The tree we call manner gum is also known as monkey gum and is a preferred food source for koalas . The seedlings are among the most palatable to all forms of browsers especially rabbits. If you remove a major food source from a population rampant diseases will inevitably break out .I am confident we can return healthy populations of Koalas to our Sth east with the scientific and wider community continuing to develop strong working relationships .
The challenge to double sustainable food production by 2050 to provide for the human population expansion will be only possible with open door Science
I do thank you for your time