Agriculture projects

Small Farms Big Changes Growing sustainable farms Productive land use working group Recent projects

Small farm big changes

Small Farms Big Changes

Tweed Shire Council has been awarded an Education Grant from the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust to conduct a series of farm field days and workshops over the 2019-2021 period to help farmers find new ways to better manage their natural resources and improve productivity.

To receive emails from Council's Sustainable Agriculture Program on upcoming field days, project outcomes and other activities email “subscribe” to agriculture@tweed.nsw.gov.au.

Upcoming workshops

The following workshops/field days are planned for the remainder of the 2021:

  • Harnessing biodiversity benefits on farm – to be held at a Reserve Creek cattle farm
  • Farm innovation and technology - location TBD

Recent workshops

Realising Farm Potential with Keyline Designs

Held at Fiona Bryce and Greg Cook's grazing property at Mount Burrell, this field day showcased some of the challenges associated with managing land slips, erosion and soil health the innovative holistic management practices available to address them. This field day covered things such as:

  • farm design principles for water retention and erosion management
  • reading the landscape from a Yeomans' Keyline design perspective
  • ways to improve water infiltration and soil moisture on farms
  • problem solving soil erosion issues - landslips, gullies and creeks, roads and dams
  • the importance of ground cover, tree lines and riparian buffers
  • rules for constructing dams and harvestable rights

The day was facilitated by:

  • Abigail Jenkins from DPI who highlighted other potential methodologies and considerations to help manage soil erosion and water. See www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/soils for more information
  • Ken Yeomans from Keyline Designs who discussed the importance of farm planning and ways to do it effectively to optimise production and manage water and soil erosion
  • Melissa Hundy from WaterNSW who highlighted the regulations around water storage and licencing

Realising farm potential flier(PDF, 681KB)

Managing soil erosion and water on the Cudgen Plateau

Managing soil erosion and water on the Cudgen Plateau flier(PDF, 1MB) 

Held at Rob Prichard’s property on the Cudgen Plateau we explored the changes Rob is doing to his farm to reduce soil erosion and better manage water such as:

  • strategically transitioning from conventional sweet potato growing only to including a more wider variety of vegetable crops
  • integrating tree crops with permanent cover crops and using compost and mulch
  • installing sediment basis

The day was facilitated by:

  • Abigail Jenkins from DPI who highlighted other potential methodologies and considerations to help manage soil erosion and water. See www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/soils for more information
  • Ken Yeomans from Keyline Designs who discussed the importance of farm planning and ways to do it effectively to optimise production and manage water and soil erosion
  • Melissa Hundy from WaterNSW who highlighted the regulations around water storage and licencing

Please provide feedback on the regenerating soils for healthy vegetable production video by completing the evaluation form(PDF, 208KB)

Managing plant pests with biological controls

Small farms big changes biological controls flyer(PDF, 447KB) For this workshop we enlisted the help of a local Integrated Pest Management expert Jake Byrne to showcase the importance of integrated pest management (IPM) in vegetable production systems.

Jake showed the importance of the four pillars of the IPM model which includes chemical controls, biological controls, cultural practices and monitoring.

Summit Organics have been improving the way they deal with pest insects in their organic vegetable production system by incorporating various biological controls resulting in some significant successes.

Please provide feedback on the regenerating soils for healthy vegetable production video by completing the evaluation form(PDF, 208KB)

Regenerating soils for healthy vegetable production

Small farms big changes healthy soils(PDF, 881KB) This workshop was held at Farm and Co., Cudgen, to familiarise vegetable growers with the biological farming practices that can improve soil structure and biological activity leading to: 

  • greater water holding capacity, water availability and improved water infiltration and drainage; and
  • reduced plant stress and more productive, nutrient dense plants that are naturally more resistant to pests, diseases and climatic stresses.

This workshops keynote speaker was Dave Forrest, a renowned organic vegetable grower, educator, former TAFE NSW agriculture teacher and Vice Chair for SoilCare. In addition to the above, Dave covered:

  • the three pillars of biological farming;
  • management tools to restore soil organic carbon;
  • improving biology and nutrient availability with biological-based practices;
  • the importance of cover cropping and crop rotations; and
  • lots more.

Email Dave at organicforrest@hotmail.com

Also see Dave's PowerPoint slideshow Biological Farming Systems(PDF, 9MB)

Please provide feedback on the regenerating soils for healthy vegetable production video by completing the evaluation form(PDF, 208KB)

Managing pastures in the dry

Small farms big changes pasture cattle management(PDF, 375KB) A range of strategies and decision-support tools are available to assist graziers build more resilient soils and pastures to withstand extreme weather events, particularly drought.

This field day covered:

  • Common pasture species and what they tell you about land management and soil health;
  • Withstanding weather extremes with good pasture management;
  • The role of soil carbon for healthy grazing systems;
  • Calculating feed budgets and stocking rates; and
  • Strategies for dealing with feed deficits.

The day was facilitated by the following experts:

Carol Rose
Education Officer – Agronomy, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries
www.tocal.nsw.edu.au/home
Phone 02 4939 8924
Email carol.rose@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Nathan Jennings
Senior Land Services Officer (Agricultural Advice), North Coast Local Land Services
www.lls.nsw.gov.au
Phone 02 6623 3926
Email nathan.jennings@lls.nsw.gov.au

Please provide feedback on the Managing pastures in the dry video by completing the evaluation form(PDF, 208KB)

Also see Nathan's Powerpoint slides(PDF, 4MB)

The information presented in this presentation was developed as possible management options for beef producers impacted by the drought situation in the Tweed valley in the spring/summer of 2019, therefore information presented at the time may no longer be relevant to the current season, and market conditions. Please contact North Coast Local Land services to discuss your individual situation further.

Worst Weeds of the Tweed

Small farms big changes worst weeds of Tweed(PDF, 617KB) This workshop presented the best practice management options for a number of common pasture and environmental weeds in the Tweed, including Giant Parramatta Grass, Giant Devil's Fig and more. We focused on prevention strategies and non-chemical control methods.

The day was facilitated by the following experts:

Brendan O’Brien - Local Land Services
Pasture weed prevention and control strategies
Pasture Weed Management Presentation(PDF, 4MB)
northcoast.lls.nsw.gov.au
Phone 02 6563 6700
Email brendan.o'brien@lls.nsw.gov.au

Jeremy Bradley and Cathy Eggert - Beechwood Biological Solutions
Increasing biological activity for productive and resilient soils and crown rot of Giant Parramatta Grass and Soiltrooper
Soil Trooper Presentation(PDF, 2MB)
www.beechwoodbiological.com.au 

Jacqui Paine - Back 2 Bush
Effective, low chemical techniques for controlling weeds in bushland
Worst Weeds of the Tweed Presentation(PDF, 1MB)

Mark Fogarty - Agflight Farm Support
Applying herbicide and biological controls by drone
www.acuo.org.au

Please provide feedback on the worst weeds of the Tweed video by completing the evaluation form(PDF, 208KB)

Growing sustainable farms from the ground up

Soil improvement plan
Dave Forrest - Soil Improvement Plan

Tweed Shire Council received a grant from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, through funding from Australian Government’s National Landcare Program to support Tweed vegetable growers to implement best practices soil management techniques. The project aims to help enhance the skills of local growers to:

  • Regenerate soil carbon and soil biological activity
  • Increase plant resilience to climate and biological stresses
  • Improve plant production and nutrient density
  • Use sustainable and economically viable techniques which minimise environmental impacts

The grant covers costs associated with initial training and one-on-one extension advise, development of soil improvement plans and soil inputs i.e. compost, cover crops etc.

Workshops will be held on the participants farms to demonstrate and discuss the outcomes achieved through the soil improvement plan. Email "Subscribe" to agriculture@tweed.nsw.gov.au to be notified about upcoming workshops, project outcomes and other grant opportunities.

Tweed Valley Productive Land Use Working Group

The Tweed Valley Productive Land Use Working Group is a cross-agency group that was convened to identify and promote agriculture and food development opportunities in response to the State Government’s decision to build the new Tweed Valley Hospital on State Significant Farmland. The Working Group engaged Farming Together, a farming advisory service associated with Southern Cross University, to undertake a case study analysis to identify local agricultural growth opportunities in the Tweed Local Government Area. The findings of this work were presented at a community workshop on 4 May 2021.

Farming Together Case Study Report(PDF, 2MB)

Growing Agriculture in the Tweed Report(PDF, 4MB)

Guide for Implementing Your Collaborative Project(PDF, 1MB)

If you would like to learn more about the project, collaborate with other farmers or be involved in Working Group activities please contact the Program Leader – Sustainable Agriculture on 02 6670 2400.

Recent projects

Increasing soil carbon in Tweed Valley farmland

Organic carbon is an important component of healthy soils and is essential for sustaining productive agricultural landscapes. Soil organic carbon (SOC) improves physical soil structure and stability, enables retention of soil moisture and nutrients and improves aeration essential for plant growth.

Tweed Shire Council conducted a three-year research project in collaboration with industry, local farmers, research agencies, NSW DPI and soil scientists to investigate the benefits of compost for soil carbon capture with financial support from the Australian Government under the Carbon Farming Initiative.

The purpose of the project was to trial innovative on-farm practices to increase sequestration of soil carbon through the use of organic amendments such as compost, and reduce nitrous oxide emissions using biochar. The project aimed to improve understanding of the processes that increase SOC and reduce emissions of nitrous oxide arising from application of nitrogen rich fertilisers. The project involved a total of 30 farms including sugar cane, banana, vegetable, perennial tree crops and livestock (dairy and beef) in the Tweed Local Government Area.

Whilst the addition of compost did not result in an overall increase in SOC, a number of factors were identified that lead to SOC decline in agricultural soils including excessive nitrogen use, overgrazing and tillage.

Floodgates

Tidal floodgate with float arm
Tidal floodgate with float arm

The Tweed River is brackish (salty) as far upstream as Murwillumbah. Historically, floodgates were installed in creeks and drains to prevent high tides from flooding arable land with brackish water. This action inadvertently lead to a range of environmental issues such as acid sulfate soil pollutant export and reducing fish nursery habitiat.

In 2000 Council, in partnership with landholders and state government agencies, commenced a program to improve tidal flow and fish passage through floodgate modification in drains and creeks on the floodplain. Improving tidal flow in cane drains helps to buffer the impact of acid sulfate soil discharge, significantly reducing pollutant export to waterways.

Thirty-nine high priority floodgates have been modified so far, delivering significant environmental outcomes and even a few unexpected benefits to landholders, such as reducing the time and cost associated with controlling weeds in cane drains, which are reduced / displaced when drains are regularly flushed with brackish water. 

Greenbanks

Greenbank in action
A greenbank in action

Maintaining cane drains often requires soil disturbance to remove sedimentation and rectify bank slumping.

In 2007 Council, in partnership with state government agencies and local landholders commenced a program to plant out cane drains with native ground cover and small trees to stabilise the banks, discourage weeds and prevent topsoil runoff.

Known as ‘green banks’, vegetated drain banks require little maintenance and so the soil is not disturbed, drastically reducing acid sulfate soil impacts.

Unvegetated cane drain
Unvegetated cane drain - costly to manage and environmentally damaging

Nearly 30km of green banks have been planted on the floodplain in areas such as Johnsons Creek Condong, Blacks Drain South Murwillumbah, McLeods Creek Duranbah, Leddays Creek Tumbulgum and Mooball Creek Wooyung. 

Cane farmers interested in participating in the program are encouraged to contact the Program Leader – Sustainable Agriculture on 02 6670 2400

Greenbank with 3 years of growth
A greenbank with 3 years of growth

Drain filling

For more than a decade Tweed Shire Council in partnership with state government agencies and local landholders have facilitated field levelling and drain in-filling programs to reduce acid sulfate soil runoff to local waterways.

Historically, cane paddocks have had varying degrees of inundation, requiring large numbers of field drains to export surface water to the adjacent river or creek. These drains require regular cleaning, which disturb the soil and generate sulfates and release heavy metal pollutants detrimental to aquatic life.

Levelling cane paddocks reduces the number of field drains required, as excess water can flow off the paddock naturally. This increases the amount of land available for production while reducing soil disturbance associated with drain maintenance. This in-turn reduces acid sulfate soil runoff to the waterways.

More than 40km of field drains have been filled across the floodplain including farmland at Eviron, Bray Park, Christies Creek, Murwillumbah, Kynnumboon, Tygalgah and Chinderah with more field drains being filled every year.

Blacks Drain project

For many years, Blacks Drain at South Murwillumbah has been identified as a major source of acid sulfate related pollutant (e.g. iron, aluminium, sulfuric acid) export to the Tweed River.

In 2008 Council was successful in obtaining $100,000 from the NSW Environmental Trust, Urban Sustainability Grant to reduce drain depth and increasing drain width to retain drainage capacity without disturbing the acid sulfate soil layer. These works have been very successful, improving a previously unusable pasture while preventing further oxidation and transport of sulfidic materials to the Tweed River.

Blacks Drain photo report(PDF, 1MB)

Cudgen soil conservation

Paddock remodelling to reduce soil runoff during rain
Paddock remodelling to reduce soil runoff during rain

The Cudgen Plateau is famous for its fertile, volcanic soil and Cudgen Creek is famous for turning the colour of the soil after heavy rain.

Through the Sustainable Agriculture Program, Tweed Shire Council is working with local landholders to help keep the soil on the paddocks.

This has been achieved with minor modifications to the interface between paddocks and drainage lines along with revegetation works. Swales, or earth berms along drainage lines direct runoff into small settling ponds which slow the flow, giving the muddy water time to settle out. Farmers can then retrieve the soil that would have otherwise ended up in downstream waterways.

A two-year collaboration between Council, six local farmers and bush regeneration contractors has restored more than 1.5km of waterways along the Cudgen plateau. The project was funded by the NSW Environmental Trust and completed in December 2017, expanding on the Coastal 20 project area.

Native plants help to keep the earth berm stable
Native plants help to keep the earth berm stable

The project:

  • planted more than 8000 natives to improve waterway health and biodiversity on State Significant Farmland
  • led to the adoption of improved soil management practices to curb erosion
  • increased landholders’ capacity to manage environmental weeds

In addition, famers and other community members volunteered their time at a planting day to plant over 1000 natives between an intensive cultivation area and a local waterway.

The project equipped landholders with improved practices to manage soil and erosion, improve biodiversity and reduce environmental impacts.

Restoring the waterways of the Cudgen Plateau(PDF, 890KB)

Council is also working with the local farmers to promote the adoption of better management practices (such as greater use of covercrops and biological farming practices) that improve the productive capacity of the soil whilst reducing erosion and the loss of soil and nutrients into the local waterway.

View the Coastal 20 Video

Cudgen soil conservation

Acid sulfate soil research and remediation

Acid sulfate soil research by the river

Acid sulfate soil research from bridge
Acid Sulfate Soil Research by UNSW and Tweed Shire Council

The University of NSW and Tweed Shire Council in partnership with NSW Cane Growers Association and NSW Sugar Milling Co‐operative undertook an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project aimed at identifying and remediating acid sulfate soil hotspots in the Tweed Local Government Area. The project (LP110100480 ‘Exploiting Natural Processes to Effectively Remediate Acidified Coastal Environments’) commenced in 2011 with the aim of:

  • Identifying acid sulfate soil (ASS) hotspots within three catchments in the Tweed Shire and the most suitable remediation strategies to reduce ASS discharge on a catchment scale;
  • Conducting on‐ground remedial works; and
  • Determining the efficacy of the remedial works in reducing the discharge of problematic contaminants (particularly iron and aluminium) from the three catchments.

Between 2005 and 2008 Council co-hosted a research project by the Australian Research Council with the principal objective of developing innovative, scientifically-sound, practicable, floodplain management techniques to reduce the impacts on estuary and coastal water quality from Acid Sulfate Soils drainage products.

Investigations focused on three catchments, namely hotspots in the Clothiers Creek and Christies Creek catchments on the coastal floodplain and investigating the effectiveness of remediation works in Blacks Drain south of Murwillumbah. Remediation efforts are ongoing in the Clothiers Creek and Christies Creek catchments. More information is available in the Final Progress Report. 

Final Progress Report for the Australian Research Council Linkage Project(PDF, 3MB)

Sustainable grazing in the Tweed Valley

A 2015 project successfully engaged 16 commercial livestock farmers through an education program highlighting the economic, environmental and social benefits of managing their grazing systems using more sustainable practices. The project was funded by the NSW Environmental Trust with significant in-kind contributions from North Coast Local Land Services. The project raised awareness and appreciation for the value of soil health, effective pasture management, the importance of on-farm biodiversity and practical farm planning. Participants identified production limiting factors in their soils through mineral testing and physical assessment and were given strategies for improving soil health based on biological farming principles that will lead to more productive pastures, less erosion and runoff and ultimately healthier livestock and a healthier environment.

Sustainable grazing in the Tweed(PDF, 3MB)

Biological farming on the Cudgen Plateau

Tweed Shire Council has been assisting a number of commercial sweetpotato growers on the Cudgen Plateau to trial and adopt more sustainable farming practices resulting in less reliance on synthetic inputs and healthier soils for growing crops. Farmers were trained in biological farming practices and a soil improvement plan was developed to address a number of soil health and production issues with financial support from the North Coast Local Land Services. The Tweed Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association then trialled the soil improvement plan with support from the Australian Government’s 25th Anniversary National Landcare Grant Program.

The trial determined that biologically-farmed sweetpotato is achievable in a commercial setting, and can result in acceptable, quality yields at similar or lesser costs than existing practices without the need for interventions with synthetic pesticides and fertilisers.

Biological farming on the Cudgen Plateau(PDF, 2MB)

Restoring the Waterways of the Cudgen Plateau

Minimising the loss of valuable topsoils is a significant and ongoing challenge for Cudgen farmers especially where steep slopes, erodible soils, high intensity rainfall and intensive cultivation are involved. However, a two year project funded by the NSW Environmental Trust has helped make a difference by revegetating and restoring the local waterway with native species.

Restoring the waterways of the Cudgen Plateau(PDF, 890KB)

Dung beetles of the Tweed

Dung beetles play a critical role in sustainable livestock production systems, transporting dung below ground and digesting its contents, these beetles can improve soil structure and pasture productivity and significantly reducing nutrient and soil runoff into waterways. Healthy beetle populations also benefit animal welfare by reducing pest fly populations and reducing costs and exposure to chemical controls. Beetles are however adversely affected by many cattle parasite controls. Tweed’s farmers have been learning how to optimise their beetle populations through a number projects.

Dung beetles of the Tweed(PDF, 1MB)