The Grassy Groundcover Restoration Project (GGRP) requires the co-operation and integration of personnel, experience and skills from a wide variety of fields. The grassland tour to western Victoria brought together 20 South Australian professionals and community members contributing to the project and a variety of Victorian practitioners that have been, and are still involved in similar grassland restoration projects. The Tour was to encourage team building and to gain an understanding of relevant projects undertaken in the Wimmera region of Western Victoria.

Friday September 14, 2012
We travelled by bus up the South Eastern Freeway towards our first stop at Serviceton, just over the Victorian border. On arrival we met our host for the tour, Iestyn Hosking and a member of the Kaniva Landcare group who had previously undertaken revegetation at the Serviceton site. The Serviceton location consisted of a railway corridor with a history of poor management resulting in a struggling native grassland within an exotic agricultural environment. An adjacent paddock has been identified as a modified Buloke Grassy Woodland where the Kaniva Landcare group had previously undertaken revegetation with no follow up management. Native species are still present throughout the designated area with the germination and growth of native species that were not included in the revegetation project. Back on the bus to head towards our accommodation for the duration of the tour, located at the Little Desert Nature Lodge, 16km South of Nhill just off the Western Highway.

Saturday September 15, 2012
We travelled to Boolite, where third generation farmer Daryl Barber has instinctively undertaken new generation farming practices that have developed since his childhood. Daryl fenced off a large portion of his property and applied a very low stocking rate of dorper sheep to the previously cropped and heavily grazed land. There are abundant native grasses that established without any human intervention and there is very little exotic competition throughout the fenced area. Adjacent to the native grassland is a Buloke woodland with a predominant Acacia lowerstory where rabbits are proving to be a constant management issue.

A short walk to an adjoining property separated by a dirt road is one of Greening Australia’s (GA) Grassy Groundcover Restoration trial sites. In early to mid 2000 they established two metre by two metre trial quadrats consisting of a variety of treatments and two larger scale trials that covered one hectare each. Both large trials utilised the Aera-Vator and seed box to distribute the seed however, one of the plots was scalped 60mm deep and used burning as a management tool. The results of both large scale trials were impressive, however the scalped plot that had a regime of burning as a management tool contained less exotic competition than the plot that was not scalped and did not have a burning regime.

The next stop was the Yarralinks revegetation that was planted in 2007, it consisted of an upper- and lowerstory however the revegetation did not include an understory. This revegetation was undertaken on a farmer’s property between canola crops. It was approximately 30 metres wide and two kilometres long. Revegetation projects of this nature can supply the farmer with a supplementary income from seed production.

Sunday September 16, 2012
Boyeo Reserve and cricket oval is approximately 15 km NW of Nhill. The cricket oval has not been used for an extended period of time and native species have naturally inundated the once exotic dominant oval. The surrounding land is a Buloke woodland with an Acacia dominant lowerstory and a diverse understory consisting of many species including Compositae and Poaceae.

Our next location was Nhill Trailer Exchange, a semi-trailer exchange and rest point for truck drivers that can hold hundreds of trucks at one time. Surrounding the bitumen parking lot is what appears to be a barren ground ready for planting, however direct seeding has been conducted by Greening Australia, twice with little results. There are a range of factors that could be contributing to the lack of success including, unseasonal weather, soil disturbance, soil composition, a change in practitioners and a change in management of the direct seeding project. Another challenge for the site is water runoff from the site into settling ponds before the water flows through a pipe to a nearby river. The design and construction was undertaken without adequate consideration regarding the quantity of water that flows off the bitumen during heavy rain events. Two settling ponds were built; one small pond overflows into the other and then exits the system via a 600mm pipe. In heavy rain events the entire area is inundated with water and erosion becomes a significant problem for the success of revegetation attempts surrounding the water system.

On return to the Little Desert Nature Lodge we convened for a Grassy Groundcover Restoration Project (GGRP) Technical Steering Committee meeting, open to all tour participants.

Monday September 17, 2012
On the final day we departed our accommodation and headed towards a property in the Minimay area, 35 km south of Kaniva. The property is one of 5 owned by BankMECU, totalling 1000ha. It was grazing and cropping country before being purchased as a carbon offset project for the company. Trees were planted in long rows following the contours of the land approximately five metres apart. Around the outskirts of the property and between paddocks were extensive areas of grassy woodland. Doug Phillips from GA was able to give us an insight into the experimental Biochar project they are conducting in conjunction with the tree planting.

Our final official stop for the Grassland tour was a roadside property in the same region. This location was an example of roadside grassland management that has a primary objective of fuel reduction. Two forms of management had been implemented for many years and a distinct line between fire management and slashing was evident. The length of roadside that had an annual fire regime had a significantly lower fuel load and appeared to contain less exotic competition for the native grass species.

The tour was a fantastic team building experience where we were able to gain an insight into the procedures, trials, successes and failures of projects undertaken in Victoria that were of a similar nature to our own GGRP.