Graze, don't crop, wetlands

Cropping dry wetlands could come at a cost, warns land manager


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Avoid the temptation to sow into dry wetlands, says south-western CMA.

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WET OR DRY: South-west Victorian farmers have been urged to resist the temptation to  crop wetlands, left dry by the latest seasonal conditions.

WET OR DRY: South-west Victorian farmers have been urged to resist the temptation to crop wetlands, left dry by the latest seasonal conditions.

A south-western catchment management authority has reminded landholders, preparing to implement winter cropping programs, sowing into wetlands could cost more than they anticipate.

Glenelg Hopkins CMA senior field services officer Tania Parker said many wetland areas, or boggy paddocks, were now dry.

There was a temptation to sow crops into those areas, which could alternate between wet and dry, depending on seasonal conditions.

"These areas are particularly important to the region as naturally occurring wetlands," Ms Parker said.

"The temptation to plough and sow crop or pasture in them in dry years, like this one, can not only end up irreparably damaging these wetlands, but there can be significant financial fines imposed for damaging these protected areas".

Wetlands were protected under State, and Federal Government laws and farmers could potentially face significant fines if the areas were drained or destroyed.

"The last thing we want is farmers getting into trouble as a result of these activities," Ms Parker said.

"With appropriately managed grazing, these areas can recover into their natural state as wetlands that have immense diversity and provide homes to a range of native birds, including the iconic Brolga, which can be beneficial to the entire farming operation."

The costs to crop and get a financial return at harvest from these areas was also questionable

"The cost of machinery, seed, fertiliser and labour, as well as the soil being ill-suited for cropping due to its high clay content, are all good reasons to crop around these areas on your farm," she said.

The Glenelg Hopkins region has more than 5,400 wetlands covering 73,000hectares or three per cent of the region's area.

This equated to 14pc of Victoria's total wetland area and 44pc of Victoria's total number of wetlands.

"Grazing is feasible within a fenced wetland area - we are just urging farmers not to crop them," Ms Parker said.

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