Cropping wetlands… it’s not worth the cost
With farmers preparing to implement their winter cropping program, Glenelg Hopkins CMA is reminding landholders that it could cost more than they anticipate if they sow into wetland areas. The extended dry seasonal conditions this year mean many wetland areas or boggy paddocks are now dry, and there is a temptation to sow crops into these areas. However the cost to farmers could be far greater than the yield lost once they turn wet again.
Traditionally ‘boggy areas’ of paddocks are often wetlands that are naturally wet or dry as seasonal conditions change. With the extended dry conditions this year, those areas are currently dry, but they will return to their waterlogged and inundated wetland state in winter and spring. These areas are particularly important to the region as naturally occurring wetlands. 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 are protected under State and Federal Government laws and farmers could potentially face significant fines if wetland areas are drained or destroyed.
With appropriately managed grazing, these areas have capacity to 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 is 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.
The Glenelg Hopkins region has more than 5,400 wetlands covering 73,000 ha or three percent of the region’s area. This equates to 14 percent of Victoria’s total wetland area and 44 percent of the State’s total number of wetlands. Grazing is feasible within a fenced wetland area – farmers are just asked not to crop them.
Glenelg Hopkins CMA can assist landholders with decision making and funding options to crop around wet areas and manage them as part of the farm business, including applying for funds to undertake fencing for grazing management. The Hopkins Wetlands project is part of the Victorian Government’s $222 million investment to improve the health of waterways and catchments and will be completed in December 2020. There is also the opportunity for farmers to investigate funding options through other nationally funded programs, and in the future, carbon credits. For additional information, contact Glenelg Hopkins CMA on (03) 5571 2526.