NSA Submission to Garnaut Report

As elections are one of the only times governments and oppositions take notice of public issues, do you think the potential of Natural Sequence Farming should become an issue.

Over the last years billions of dollars have gone into so called 'fixes' for our problems and now more billions are being poured down possibly another deep hole.

Do you think NSF should be given adequate funds to either prove or disprove it's theories?

Let us know your thoughts here.

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duane
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NSA Submission to Garnaut Report

Postby duane » Sat Jun 28, 2008 10:59 am

Garnaut Review Secretariat, by email
Level 2, 1 Treasury Place,
East Melbourne,
Victoria. 3002.
Australia 18/01/08

Re: Issues Paper 1 – Climate Change: Land Use Agriculture & Forestry

Dear Sir,

Below is the Natural Sequence Association’s submission in response to Issues Paper 1.

The NSA proposes the widespread education of Australian farmers in Peter Andrews Natural Sequence Farming methods and its adoption on a national scale, would be a very cost effective solution to a significant component of global warming.

To quote Peter Andrews:
“Australia’s evolutionary history provides the solutions, in its rivers and floodplains, to the effect that human populations have had on the environment throughout this planet. The carbon content in our floodplains was more than 7% and over 40,000 years old. Today, the carbons are only 2 or 3 years old and comprise between 3% and 0.2% in the 92% of floodplains that have been exploited. There is ample scientific evidence that proves over 80% of the greenhouse effect is the result of plant destruction and soil dehydration in the landscape.”

We believe that unlike most other solutions, which depend on the payment of carbon credits as the main reward for changing agricultural industry behaviour, the other economic benefits from using NSF methods are sufficient reason to adopt it, with any carbon credits being the “icing on the cake” rather than the main justification.

Introduction

While it is relevant that emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture be considered in the formulation of an Emissions Trading Scheme, we consider that the sector has the potential to be the single largest carbon sink that mankind can devise.

Destruction of our landscape’s capacity to store water, combined with agricultural methods which destroy far more vegetation than they create, ensures that farmers are currently significant contributors to climate change.

For instance, more than 70% of the rainfall that falls on land derives from the “daily water cycle”, where moisture evaporated from the soil and transpired by plants condenses in the atmosphere.

Removal of vegetation of any form, including “useless” scrub and weeds, increases the surface temperature of the landscape, requiring more rainfall just to maintain normal temperatures.

Such removal also prevents the recycling of water by these plants, adding to the shortage of moisture in the daily water cycle and an increasing reliance on random rain events which bring moisture from the oceans.

The resulting dessication of the landscape ensures that less vegetation grows and a greater proportion of what does grow must be removed for human consumption, therefore providing a greater burden on what remains to perform the essential environmental service which can only be done by plants.

Similarly, the supposed prohibition of land clearing in states like Queensland has allegedly been a major contributor to Australia reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

However the widespread use of so called “grass pellets” makes a mockery of such treatment.

All that has happened is that the method of land clearing has been changed so as to make it more obscure. The “grass pellets” which are actually tree herbicides, are spread over the land to be cleared by crop dusting aircraft.

They are then absorbed by the tree’s roots and the tree is killed. The dead trees are then burned. No bulldozers are used but the land is cleared just as effectively as if they were.

There is little understanding of the environmental consequences of such wholesale destruction of vast areas of vegetation by such methods.

However the effect it has is to increase ground surface temperatures, reduce the moisture available to the daily water cycle, increase run off and erosion when it does rain and render more marginal not only the cleared land but also that already being farmed.

The widespread adoption of Natural Sequence Farming techniques has the potential to reverse many of these effects.

What Is Natural Sequence Farming?

Australian farmer Peter Andrews is the originator of Natural Sequence Farming. The Natural Sequence Association has been formed to promote the widespread use of Natural Sequence Farming (NSF) methods by Australian farmers and landholders.

The main benefits obtained by using such methods are rehydration of the landscape, manifesting itself in improved growth of vegetation, with consequent improvements in soil fertility.

A more detailed overview of the benefits of using NSF methods and its effect on soils is attached in Appendix 4 & 5.

Implicit in the use of NSF is an increase in ground cover, resulting in carbon sequestration in the plants and the soil. This has implications for abating greenhouse gas emissions and reducing ground surface temperatures due to the cooling effect of plant cover.

Of concern to the NSA is the fact that existing Emissions Trading Systems (ETS) do not recognise the enormous role that non-forest carbon sequestration has to play in overall climate change abatement efforts.

Soil carbon (which is nothing more than decayed vegetable matter for the most part) has most potential to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. It is given minimal consideration in existing ETS.

Yet soil with a high carbon (compost) component is invariably among the most fertile for growing vegetation of all kinds, especially if it is well hydrated.

Equally, while much emphasis is given by ETS to growing trees as a carbon sequestration imperative, a 50 year time span is the minimum that can be relied upon to produce a significant effect on climate change.

No attention is given by ETS to the biosphere between the soil surface and the tree canopy which has the capacity to grow vastly higher volumes of vegetation than there are in all the forests on earth.

The vast majority of Australian farmers have the capacity to sequester carbon on and in their landscape by using NSF. This can be achieved at minimal cost in many cases and will have a permanent economic benefit both in terms of increased productivity, reduced input costs and increased land values.

Implementing Natural Sequence Methods

One of the most appealing aspects of NSF is the fact that an individual landholder can perform simple projects with a tractor and a bit of knowledge. Thus farmers can do their bit for global warming and climate change on their own land with little supervision or expense.

However to make a meaningful difference, larger projects ranging across large areas of contiguous private and public land will need to be undertaken.

This necessarily involves the landholder, local government, catchment management authorities, state and federal government and research institutions to monitor the results.

The NSA has already been involved in such schemes on a small scale and the results are sufficiently encouraging to suggest that larger projects are justified.

A training course has also been developed which is capable of being run by a variety of educational establishments.

As NSF is counter intuitive to what most farmers have learned (eg weeds have an essential and beneficial role) a great deal of re-education is needed.

We believe that an internet based training and community support facility is the most cost effective approach to the required education.

Conclusion

This submission necessarily summarises the NSA’s views on the issues raised by the Garnaut Review.

You may have more questions about issues raised in our submission.

We welcome the opportunity to provide more input if required.

Yours Sincerely,



Bill Saunders,
CEO,
Natural Sequence Association

Appendix 1 – Specific Responses to the Issues Paper
Appendix 2 – NSA Objectives
Appendix 3 – NSF Principles & Applications
Appendix 4 – NSF and Soils
Appendix 5 – NSA Structure

Appendix 1
Specific Responses To The Issues Paper

1. Adaptation in the agriculture and forestry sectors

Under the proposed farm audit, the government may suggest that certain regions are, or will be unsuitable for agriculture as a result of climate change. The predication that water will be unavailable due to more regular drought and the pressures of water supply to towns and cities is guiding the push for abandonment of certain “marginal” country. Linked with this attitude is the belief that spray, flood or trickle irrigation are the only methods by which water can be delivered to crops and stock. In particular, we assume that the Darling and its upper tributaries are the most unreliable farming districts in NSW. Looking at QLD, the lower and central regions west of the divide, but south of the tropics probably fit the same category. In SA the areas north of Goyder’s line (10” isohyet), in Victoria the area south of the Murray and west of Shepparton and in WA from the Goldfields north to the tropics must all be under the microscope.

The problem in the emphasis on rainfall is that it takes no account of fertility. Australia has areas of high rainfall that are totally unproductive due to highly acid soils, rocky or steep hills or the declaration of national parks. Significant parts of the semi-arid zone are arable and fertile. Forestry might be an option for the high rainfall, difficult country on the eastern falls of the Great Divide and the south west of WA. However, grazing, orchards and cropping have been traditional practices in the marginal areas referred to above. In the face of climate change are there other options or solutions for these areas? Can Natural Sequence Farming (“NSF”) address these issues (including salinity) by trapping water when it does rain in the landscape? Some of these regions do not have rivers or even creeks within a hundred kilometers or more. Is the rule to be 5 profitable years in 10? Are sheep and cattle the answer?

Is opportunism the best solution? When it rains, plant cash crops and graze intensively and then fallow until the next rain episode. Can fodder conservation be more effective by using ensilation of all available forage? Should there be more co-operation between farmers? Those with large tracts of less productive land could deal with farmers in more reliable areas (owning more expensive land) to achieve a better year-round outcome. This would involve the transportation of livestock from low rainfall, breeding districts to high rainfall, fattening regions.

In all of the above ideas the conservation of water, maintenance of diversified ground cover and preparation for drought are essential elements. NSF can help in all areas. Heat, fire and evaporation are the major enemies produced by global warming. If the water can be stored underground and released through the soil when required, many of these areas would be sustainable. Greater use of native grasses with some introduced species capable of quick recovery following rain would also be appropriate. In any event, it has been scientifically proven that biodiversity in pastures has the effect of reducing the need for artificial fertilization while increasing productivity during harsh climatic conditions.

Forward planning will be essential as will accurate predictions of weather patterns. At present, forecasts are unreliable more than 4 days ahead. Look at recent El Nino, La Nina and SOI reports. The SOI was strongly positive in early 2006 and yet it didn’t rain at all. The SOI was strongly negative through mid 2007 and yet it started to rain before the index returned to positive levels.

The success of any plan (including some of the concepts outlined above) will depend upon farmers and their families. The installation of water and fodder infrastructure will be expensive and farmers are getting older. Young people see no future in battling the elements when their peer group is making a fortune in the city working shorter hours and having more fun. The rewards of farming must be greater to balance the risks and social hardships.

It will be necessary to investigate alternatives to sheep, cattle and grain. Could we grow dates, lentils, cactus, capers, olives, bush tucker, game meats (including pigs), native fish and crustaceans all of which like it hot and/or dry? These land uses may be applicable to the more arid regions of Australia in the same way as they have been applied in Israel and North Africa.

2. Mitigation options for agriculture and forestry

Professor Garnaut is also interested in the reduction of greenhouse gases produced by agriculture. The cow is accused of farting and belching methane (with other ruminants sharing some of the blame). Additionally, the use of fuels for tractors, headers, pumps, etc (whether petroleum based or bio) contribute significantly to CO2. Lastly tilling the land is said to release large amounts of carbon dioxide presumably through the combination of carbon from the soil with oxygen from the air. All decomposition releases some carbon, yet the whole idea of mulching relies upon decomposition and building the organic matter in the top soil. No-till or minimal-till farming is undoubtedly cheaper than traditional cultivation but not all crops and pastures respond to minimal tillage. Further, no till farming relies heavily on herbicides to remove the competition from weeds. I wonder whether the manufacturers of glyphosate have not had too much influence on the argument.

Other methods of weed suppression while making a suitable seed bed might be more valuable since they do not kill the microbes and fungi to the extent that spraying out does. Again, Peter Andrews would say that getting a nice diverse pasture mix including some weed is the best objective. However, there is plainly a need for grain and the answer may be undercropping with legumes to ensure that there is groundcover following harvest. Maybe this will reduce yield but increase profitability through carbon credits. Is this an option – think of synergistic plants that will grow under wheat, oats, barley and canola. (“The Land” newspaper of December 27, 2007 contains an article entitled “Three-Crop Land Trial Yielding Big Results” in which Bill Fulkerson is reported to have run trials at Camden (under the FutureDairy Programme) using brassica and Persian clover simultaneously followed immediately by maize. No spray out has been used and undercropping has been employed to reduce weed infestations while enhancing dry matter production.)

Most climate models predict that, in our traditional farming/grazing regions of the temperate slopes, tablelands and what coastal areas remain following urban subdivision, winter rainfall will decline and summer rainfall will increase relative to the present. Storm rains and the possibility of cyclones will be the main source of this increased summer precipitation. This may indicate that millet, sorghum, various peas, beans and pulses, along with oil seed crops may provide fodder and fuel resources. Fermentation of any product, including wood (for spirit) will produce ethanol while other oils can be distilled for bio-diesel.

Professor Garnaut also makes mention of manure management. The dung beetle used to be active in NSW but in recent times I have seen less evidence of their existence. Widespread use of the dung beetle together with more pasture harrowing in lieu of using artificial fertilizers could be advantageous. These methods would make the nutrients in the manure more readily available to the plants and assist quick return to the soil of carboniferous compounds.

Through these methods there can be a reduction in greenhouse gas production (it is considered that some of these crops reduce emissions from ruminants) as well as a reduction in spraying. Keeping groundcover at 80% plus will inhibit release of carbon dioxide. Note the input of the NSF International Scientific Reference Panel comprising Emeritus Professor Willie Ripl (Berlin), Professor Jan Pokorny (Czech Republic), John Williams (Dept. Agriculture), Emeritus Professor David Mitchell and Emeritus David Goldney to remote sensing of landscape temperature and its correlation with ground cover.

3. Practical considerations for including agriculture and forestry in an emissions trading scheme

Forestry already seems to have struck a deal with government in respect of carbon sequestration. For the purposes of this argument (and mindful of NSF methods) agriculture is the focus of my attention.

We at NSA have been pushing the soil carbon issues strongly and the US carbon exchange is recognizing 0.4 metric tonnes carbon for each 0.4 hectares of eligible no-till cropping. This represents a pittance given the current price of carbon on the Chicago exchange. Furthermore, it greatly advantages those with large holdings dedicated to cropping.

However, the answer to greenhouse reduction may well come from quick growing pastures and mixed crops. Grain plants are actively taking in CO2 from August to December whereupon they are harvested and the plant dies. It is one thing to consider soil carbon and another to consider the effect of transpiration and cellular growth. If farmers dedicate part of their farms to permanent pasture (or undercrops) they have the advantage of an actively growing plant cover in all but the hottest or coldest months. Deep rooted plants such as lucerne and lupins lock up carbon in their foliage, their roots and they grow for around 8 months of the year. They also lock up nitrogen (another greenhouse gas) in their nodules and only make it available to companion plants through the soil.

Credits must be arranged for all types of vegetation – vines, shrubs, grasses and trees. The measurement of carbon in the entire vegetative profile must be an aim for NSA. Peter Andrews’ plant progression theories – weeds to legumes to grasses – and biodiversity (so that something in the pasture is active year round) will ensure that more carbon is being retained in the soils and plants. An analysis of organic matter per square metre of pasture would compare very favourably against organic matter per square metre of forest. Additionally, trees are inefficient users of CO2 once they are over 25 years in age. By this time their transpiration equals their respiration. They also pose a major fire risk and bushfires are probably the greatest emitters of greenhouse gases in Mediterranean-type climates viz. Greece, California and Australia within the past 12 months.

4. Recognition of carbon sinks and offsets

One of the issues concerned with the use of NSF is the ability of the landholder to evaluate progress both on his own property and in comparison with others using simple systems to measure changes in vegetation levels.

We see vegetation levels as being indicative of the improvements in landscape quality achieved by the use of NSF. As vegetation cannot grow without water, such growth is also an indicator of rehydration.

Similarly sequestration of carbon in soil will mostly come from vegetation grown in it so again ground cover is an indicator of the potential for sequestration, if not the fact of it having occurred.

Farmers require an inexpensive, rapidly deployable system to provide for measurement of vegetation levels prior to the application of NSF improvements as well as periodic evaluations on an ongoing basis.

Such a system already exists in the form of satellite surveillance systems which are programmed to measure the level of vegetation on a regular basis. It has the benefit of low cost and an existing database of photos which can be analysed to create a baseline for future measurement.

Most work will need to be done to correlate the vegetation measured with the actual amount of carbon sequestered. The CSIRO’s Pastures From Space program has already made considerable progress in such measurement.

We see the ability for NSF users to quickly and inexpensively monitor progress of their projects over several years as being an important tool in promoting the benefits of using such methods.

With corporate, government and statutory bodies increasingly becoming involved in NSF projects, the capacity to measure outcomes in this way will be an important component of our reporting systems in the future.



Appendix 2

NSA OBJECTIVES

VISION STATEMENT
Fertile and productive landscapes sustaining healthy and prosperous communities

MISSION STATEMENT
A non-profit, apolitical organisation supporting Peter Andrews’s vision of further research, enhancement and implementation of his life’s work*

OBJECTIVES
· To support the vision of Peter Andrews’ and Natural Sequence Farming.
· Develop and plan outcomes for education and training, landscape planning and implementation and policy liaison.
· Set short term and long term goals
· Present information of Natural Sequence Farming outputs showing environmental, social and economic benefits
· Maintain the momentum of the movement
· Marketing and communication of the corporate image
· Be responsible for licensing applicants for local chapters and licensing other interested parties.
· Insurance should be under the governing body and cover all local chapters.
· Establish and maintain positive communications with all stakeholders.

ACTIVITIES· Organise support for the mission and objectives of the association
· Share information within and between chapters through field days, newsletters, seminars, forums and the world wide web.
· Promote and support informed onground action.
· Support development of protocols for education and training, onground planning and implementation, monitoring and evaluation and communication.
· Liaise with government, business and the broader community.
· Issue licences to local chapters, other interests wishing to benefit from the association. Manage contracts for provision of services to the association

Definitions
· Fertile and productive refers to ecological as well as agricultural and otherwise anthropocentric notions of fertility and productivity. Fertility refers to the ecological functioning of the system; its biodiversity, its carbon, water and nutrient cycling efficiency and its capacity to sustain communities in the long term. Productivity refers to the outputs relative to the inputs of the system, both in economic and ecological terms.
· Landscape, in this case, refers to the biophysical environment e.g. a catchment, bioregion, continent.
· Communities refers to both ecological and human communities and the interaction between the two.

Appendix 3
NSF - Principles & Applications
Introduction
Peter Andrews, is a third generation farmer who has been involved in farming and horse breeding for 60 years. He believes that heavy grazing of streambed banks following European settlement has, mainly by reducing vegetation, significantly increased stream velocities. This has resulted in gouging of streambeds and the lowering of water tables in floodplains.
Peter Andrews sees the effect of these changes in the landscape resulting in dry spells turning into drought conditions faster than they should, biodiversity being reduced, and in many instances fresh water that once sat on top of saline water being drained off, resulting in salt being released into the streambed.
Mr Andrews has developed, and is constantly refining, a system of farming based on his observations and interactions with a variety of natural landscapes. The insights he has gained are contained in the principles of Natural Sequence Farming (NSF).
While employing a holistic view of all the interactions in the landscape, Peter Andrews believes that the health of floodplains and their streambeds can be significantly restored by slowing the rate of water flow, especially after rain events, by a series of physical interventions in the landscape.
Implementing Natural Sequence Farming over a range of climatic regimes does not mean trying to take the landscape back to what it was pre-European settlement. Rather, NSF focuses on establishing how the natural system worked in a particular area and how it is working now.
Peter Andrews, uses some of the same natural techniques, and mimics others, to address soil and water degradation and loss of biodiversity. He does so by re-connecting natural sequences of activities within the NSF management approach.
Interest in the approach has grown recently . Record drought has highlighted the ability of NSF to contain salinity and generate water savings and minimise dependence on conventional irrigation extractions from streams.
A growing number of experts believe that this holistic approach to natural resource management can be applied on a day-to-day basis to property, catchment and landscape management across diverse regions, in harmony with the Australian environment.

Natural Sequences
Natural sequences that can be harnessed by informed management include the movement of grazing animals, birds and insects from valley floors by day to higher levels on the valley sides at night and the transfer of fertility with them. There is a gradual movement of nutrients and seeds back down the valley sides via the water cycle, vegetation and soil processes, constantly refurbishing the fertility of the landscape.
In the process, various plants collect specific substances and the plant communities change in predictable sequences. As part of the biodiversity of a property and catchment, these plants are also a part of multiple food chains and a key to enhancing fertility.
Nutrients contained in soil or water are mobile and can be quickly lost off-site. Nutrients contained in biodiverse living bodies are stable. NSF management keeps natural functions connected which allows for quick exchange and conversion of nutrients within ecosystems on properties.
Peter Andrews has found that even plants labeled as weeds can serve as pioneering species in inhibiting nutrient and soil erosion. They collect and supply essential substances for environmental health. Once slashed, fertility is built up and the weeds are replaced naturally by palatable grasses. To maximize production and conservation results requires a good understanding of interaction of the roles of clays and sands in the process.
This process is complemented by NSF property management when the initial erosion and fertility stabilising need has been met. The once degraded soils are then able to contribute to increased water use efficiency and optimal production levels through their increased organic content.
Areas such as floodplains, that collect large amounts of nutrients, can be harvested to redistribute some of the fertility. Like the daily migration of birds and animals, downpours flushing streams to a floodplain are a sequence in the periodic fertilisation and harvest cycle.
In this process, surface running water dissolves natural substances and collects sediments, algae, microbes and plant residues from all parts of the catchment. Re-connecting running water to the stepped land formation of the chain of ponds that used to dominate traditional Australian landscapes, slows water flow. This enhances the ability of growing plants, coupled with decreasing inclines, soils and sands, to filter the water feeding into streams running along the valley floor. This process, in turn, feeds plant roots from the sub-surface and caps saline groundwater from surrounding slopes by perching a freshwater lens above saline layers.
All substances are functional in this naturally managed environment. Salts managed as saline groundwater, where evaporation is excluded from concentrating and crystallizing the substances, allow plant, animal and water ecosystems to balance salinity in the landscape as a natural function. In this way a hillslope pasture or floodplain water meadow is re-created.
On the floodplain, hydrostatic pressure is maintained on the heavier lower saline layers though maintaining high freshwater tables in the perched chain of ponds. At the same time, the stream replenishes the floodplain and its meadows, through lateral transfer to the freshwater table just below the surface.
The floodplain is convex. The perched stream runs along the higher elevation or apex and the billabongs and backswamps are at the lower positions on the perimeter of the floodplain where it meets the valley sides. This shape is created by the natural flow of the stream and reinforced by heavier sediment being deposited on and near the stream-bed in flood.

A farming system founded on working with nature
In many regions of Australia, floodplains are disconnected from creeks and rivers and natural flow regimes. This leaves them unable to store water to support productive farming and the growth of riparian vegetation.
Many of today’s floodplains are incised with deeply scoured gullies and gorges. These are channels that expedite the swift flowing removal of much of the land’s fertility and the carriage of increasing amounts of salt. The soil and its nutrients are highly susceptible to leaching and erosion owing to the application of inappropriate agricultural and pastoral practices creating depleted soils and vegetation cover.
NSF takes a holistic approach to natural resource management by re-establishing the stream’s connection to the surrounding landscape and restoring floodplains as ‘sponges’. Although most landscapes have unique qualities, the principles of landform and management are the same. The physics remains constant.
Peter Andrews’ interpretation of the landscape accepts that, pre-European settlement, the soil’s natural salt content was kept in check by slow sub-soil movements of fresh water.
Under natural systems that are replicated by NSF, movement of fresh water is by surface and sub-surface flows. The surface flow is by the stream which is perched at the highest level of the floodplain on an accumulation of sediment. Surface water is buffered at each narrowed step position in the chain of ponds. Under NSF, this is achieved by a naturalised ‘leaky weir’ of rocks, sediment, trees, branches, reeds and grass roots mimicking the original natural slowing impediments to flows.
In floodplains in their pristine form, water is stepped slowly down the stream valley floor from one end of a catchment to the other. The stream valley floor is segmented with steps. These steps are where a new floodplain starts and the up-stream one finishes, and below which, large reed beds form on recharge areas.
The floodplains are soil, vegetation and water-filled ponds, forming links in a chain as they progress through each step down the valley. They are joined at each step where the valley sides narrow. Stream water travels through each linked floodplain as a sequence in the stream valley. The stream meanders over each sequence. It covers the floodplain with sediments as it steadily descends the valley. Each floodplain has stream meanders, pools and riffles as well as wetland and water meadow filters.
Where an incised stream bed exists, during low to medium stream flows, the sides of the stream are contained by levee banks built up by flood deposits. The banks are protected from severe erosion by wetland plants such as phragmites, other natural grasses, and streamside trees and shrubs, which have colonised the area.
At the same time, hydrostatic pressure from the perched water table in the stream prevents the lateral intrusion of salinity from the floodplain even in low flow periods.
To recreate the chain of ponds effect, NSF uses small secondary diversion channels to reconnect streams to their floodplains. These channels braid out through the lush meadows to the edges of the floodplain and water then returns to the main stream through surface and sub-surface flows. They pick up peak flows that are diverted by the leaky weirs which maintain normal base flow to downstream properties.
During high flows, as water spreads across the floodplain in the braided diversion channels, some water is absorbed through sandy intake beds, recharging the groundwater lens above saline layers and just below the plant root systems.
Another portion of the surface water is carried in the channels towards historic floodplain terraces on the edge of the floodplain to refresh hollows and billabongs, facilitating fish passage in the process.
During flood events, the reed buffers along the stream sides and at the narrow ends, where each pond is joined in the chain, lay down to laminate the ground surface with their protective mat but are ready to grow upright again when the flows have subsided.
The hydrostatic pressure of water in the topped-up meadow and billabong storages on the floodplain prevents the plants on the floodplain from ‘drowning’ in the short interval when the water is at a high level. This process can mitigate the impacts of salt ‘slugs’ that may have been scoured from saline deposits in uplands.
The stream water that is impounded in the recharged groundwater lens within the floodplain soils also provides a buffer against drought. There can be a period of several years of thriving plant growth before the water is fully transpired and the soil, which is heavily shaded by extensive vegetation cover, dries out. In normal years recharge from flooding would arrive earlier to restore the groundwater.
As part of NSF management, the farmer can divert flows between channels to dry out a meadow area for harvest while starting to produce increased growth in a new zone of the floodplain.

Maximum natural outcomes with minimum financial and manufactured inputs
Peter Andrews’ NSF concepts are being applied at project sites as diverse as those featuring upland fast-flowing water courses, to broadacre cropping areas, dry gullies, and salt encrusted degraded lands as well as broad stream valleys and wetlands. Where human-induced impediments to natural growth and production are gradually replaced by the system built around the natural sequences of plants, animals, water and soils, properties have a solid foundation for increased profitability and long term sustainability. Industry analysts have been particularly attracted by the lush growth produced during drought conditions under Peter Andrews’ system.
Under NSF, natural water flows are reintroduced to alluvial soil plains. In many ways natural alluvial soil floodplains form the whole waterway down the valley whether through surface or sub-surface flow. In contrast, irrigation is the artificial application of water to the land. Invariably, the source of the irrigation water is from artificial storages and highly moderated streams with incised and eroded channels. These have generally been created by past poor environmental practices such as the removal of ground cover.
Owing to its base of natural processes, NSF achieves more sustainable outcomes than traditional pipe and pump irrigation systems as it does not incur large financial costs or create long-term environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and increasing salinity, as often occurs catchments with highly regulated stream regimes. NSF employs few imported or manufactured inputs such as pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilisers. In terms of financial capital and operating inputs, it is not an expensive system to introduce and it brings Greenhouse gas benefits through increasing carbon levels in the landscape.
The investment required is in training for the landholder to interpret the natural processes of the landscape and time spent by the farmer in ‘reading the country’ and applying the NSF principles to the particular property and landscape features of their region. It is no surprise to find that Peter Andrews grew up on a property near Broken Hill area and spent much time with his stockman father and members of the Aboriginal community learning to read country.
In most cases, Peter Andrews finds that resources available on-site only require intelligent redistribution for natural processes to work in favour of productivity and a reversal of human-induced environmental imbalance and degradation, as most of the naturally developed ‘infrastructure’ is still there.
In working with nature, NSF requires very low maintenance inputs. Where outside inputs are employed on a farm they can be targeted. Small amounts can be applied to specific areas or species where the system is temporarily out of balance owing, in most cases, to factors outside the property boundaries. NSF harmonises modern technology with natural plant progressions to achieve a resilient model of farming.
Where neighbouring landholders in a sub-catchment adopt NSF, even more rapid progress to increased profitability and environmental sustainability can be achieved, as NSF adopts a whole-of-catchment approach to farming.

NSF applied to Grazing
Under NSF, many forms of grazing are appropriate if a vigorous perennial plant community can be maintained. If c ell-grazing methods are used, especially across valley segments from ridge to ridge, protection of the riparian zone needs to be considered. Over the medium to long term, weed control, nutrient balances and pest management can be managed by using Natural Sequence Farming methods.
The improved groundcover and reduced cultivation under NSF not only minimises farm costs but also reduces erosion, avoids soil compaction and maintains a soil structure with increased water holding capacity.
The use of water balances within NSF, brings the most increases in productivity and sustainability. Costs are also minimised, as water storage is in the groundwater lens rather than expensive above-ground dams, prone to siltation and with high evaporation rates when the water is needed most. Pasture is fed naturally from the roots rather than requiring extensive capital investments in pumps, pipes, irrigation gantries or feeder networks.
Traditional livestock husbandry methods can be complementary to Natural Sequence Farming. Under NSF, livestock are considered as a major tool in land management, including for transferring fertility and controlling weeds. However, feedlot methods of production and other methods of confining herds or flocks need to be well-sited in the catchment to utilise self-removal and self-collection of residues for fertility management.
Once the initial phase of re-establishment to natural sequences is well on the way, which in most cases only takes one or two years with low cost inputs, monitoring and the application of NSF principles in harmony with Nature achieves continuing sustainable production.

NSF applied to Agriculture
Under NSF, cropping is best suited to methods complementary to retaining significant areas of season-specific perennial pastures. If needed, cultivation may be confined to soils on valley slopes rather than floodplains but it can be worth exploring direct-drill minimum-till broadcast methods first.
Horticulture can be sited off flood plain areas, with careful transfer of valley floor fertility and water within the NSF system.
NSF harmonises well with organic approaches to producing premium farm produce for a growing domestic and export market. Increasing numbers of consumers and vendors are demanding products produced with environmentally sustainable systems coupled with farm accreditation and certified produce before acceptance.
The use of outside inputs or recycling farm produce on the property can be part of managed fertility transfer, both on the farm and in the sub-catchment. For instance, hay making of legume-rich pasture can be rotated around various areas of a property to work in with weed reduction needs and fertility management.
Irrigation is best-sited on valley floors although most areas managed with NSF require minimum supplementation of water transfers already naturally occurring on and beneath the floodplain.

Sustainable Landscape Outcomes under Natural Sequence Farming
Under Natural Sequence Farming, a sustainable farm landscape evolves where:
· Stream water is carried on the highest formed land on a flood plain, which includes not only the stream channel and wetlands but also water meadows fed by subsurface flow and braided channels.
· The wetlands and meadows evolve a form of periodic harvest through NSF practice to maintain ecological balance and promote biodiversity
· Farm managers factor in flood inundation as a beneficial part of the natural sequence.
· Floodplains are maintained by fresh water-filled subsurface flows through porous soil intake beds.
· Erosion is balanced by sedimentation.
· Polluted stream water is filtered as it moves through the chain of ponds, its wetlands, lush floodplain meadows, sandy groundwater intake beds and reedbeds along the length of the stream valley floor.
· Whole-of-farm ground cover is at a high ratio, with season specific perennial and annual plants maintained in a balance of natural sequences in turn confining weeds to a small percentage of the plant community.
· The farming system and livestock movement is harmonised with the periodic harvest sequence of crops, grasslands and water meadows to maintain habitat and nutrient balance in the landscape.
· Biodiversity is maintained at a high level with the diversity of habitats created by the natural vegetation and aquatic sequences.
Overview
Preliminary research suggests that Natural Sequence Farming offers a cost-effective approach for dealing with a national challenge – the management of landscapes that are prone to leach salts into water courses and to lose fertility owing to unsustainable cropping and grazing practices.
NSF has the potential to offer significant environmental, economic and social returns to landholders and communities.
Early adopters and entrepreneurs, such as Gerry Harvey, see Natural Sequence Farming based on re-creating the core of the past to manage the present, as the future foundation for Australian farming.

Appendix 4
How have the Australian landscape and its soils changed?
Natural Sequence Farming (NSF) recognises that many European-style landuse practices compact soils and reduce natural vegetation. This greatly increases the amount and velocity of surface water flows.
Streams that once meandered with pools and riffles have become straight channels that are dry for much of the year because they drain water quickly from the land. This causes severe loss of nutrients through erosion of surface soil and organic matter.
Prior to these practices, water rapidly infiltrated into the soil and was readily available to plants with percolated water having longer persistence and lower turbidity than surface runoff.
The slower flow of water in meandering streams coupled with increased percolation also provided opportunities for groundwater recharge - important for deep-rooted plants.

How can Natural Sequence Farming rehabilitate and create soils?
While many soils have lost their pre-European settlement profile, their functionality can be restored. NSF approaches can improve the soil structure and availability of organic matter resulting in increased plant production without increased water usage.
The important elements of NSF in improving soils are:
1. Maintaining good vegetation cover
2. Mulching organic matter to improve soil structure
3. Maintaining a diversity of plants including deep-rooted species
4. Diverting water into floodplains to increase its residence time in soils
5. Structuring streams to reduce flow velocities
6. Using structures in streams to provide productive flow form patterns in freshes
These NSF approaches result in increased microbial activity helping to provide essential nutrients in a readily available form. NSF approaches do what mineral fertilisers cannot do - produce a functional soil ra ther than just a hydroponic support medium.
A diversity of plants is encouraged by NSF succession approaches using grazing, slashing and mulching to produce a resilient system with essential elements. As surface soils are often prone to leaching, NSF advocates deep-rooted plants to stabilize them while accessing and recycling trace elements to support later successions of palatable grasses.
For soils and plants, the role of NSF structures in generating flow form patterns in streams can be as important as reducing the velocity of flows. Certain patterns can help produce new soils through the deposition of sands, clays and organic matter on the floodplain while protecting the lush vegetation already there.

Appendix 5
NSA Structure
This submission has been prepared by Natural Sequence Association (the Peter Andrews System) Inc.,
c/- Mr. Bill Saunders, 47 Antimony Mine Road
Toolern Vale ,Victoria ,3340.
Telephone:61-3-97461217
Fax:61-3-97461440
Email: bill.saunders@naturalsequenceassociation.org.au

The Directors of this Association comprise, Mr. Tony Coote (Chairman), Mr. Martin Royds (Secretary/Treasurer), Mr. Bill Saunders (Chief Executive Officers), Mr. Peter Andrews (Principal, Natural Sequence Farming Pty Ltd), Mr. Paul Cochrane, Mr. Paul Dann and Ms. Julia McKay.

There is a referral group of reputable scientists, known as the Natural Sequence Farming
International Reference Panel, which has been nominated by Peter Andrews as the body that will resolve any disputes that might occur within the NSA Governing Body or any chapter.

International Reference Panel Membership
Dr John Williams Soil Scientist Former Chief CSIRO Land & Water
Dr David Goldney Ecologist University of Sydney
Dr David Mitchell Ecologist Charles Sturt University
Professor Wilhelm Ripl Hydrobiologist ret’d Berlin Technical University
Professor Jan Pokorny Ecologist Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic
Peter Andrews Concept Originator
Dr Bill Hurdich Ecologist/Lobbyist Fifth Estate
Professor Leigh Sullivan Geomorphologist Southern Cross University

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