Field trip participants in front of the flood marker at Macrossan Bridge

Gully symposium brings international experts to North Queensland

Grazier Matt Bennetto presenting alongside Grazing Field Officer Sam Skeat

The global issue of gully erosion was the focus for a major international conference held in Townsville last week.

More than 100 researchers and practitioners working in this space travelled from as far afield as China, Italy, Germany, India and the USA to attend the 8th International Symposium on Gully Erosion, organised by CSIRO.

NQ Dry Tropics was a major sponsor for the event, and took the opportunity to showcase efforts to remediate gullies and improve the condition of grazing lands across the Burdekin Dry Tropics Region.

The conference featured a field trip to Virginia Park Station, Mingela, hosted by the Bennetto family. Grazier Matt Bennetto said that NQ Dry Tropics and CSIRO had been working with the family on the property for many years to remediate gully erosion and monitor sediment levels in water.

“It’s fantastic to have so many people interested in gully erosion, here at Virginia Park”, Mr Bennetto said.

“We’ve had some long-term trials here, and we’ve been able to get some great information and advice from the field officers who have been coming here over the years”. 

Mr Bennetto is working alongside NQ Dry Tropics to trial short-term high density grazing, which aims to use livestock as a tool to regenerate degraded areas of land.

“If you’re losing topsoil, your most valuable soil, it can take a very long time to get it back on the top where you need it to be able to grow your preferred grasses”, Mr Bennetto said.

“I strongly believe that having very healthy grasses is our primary tool for reducing soil runoff,” he said.

Grazier Matt Bennetto (Virginia Park Station) with Grazing Team Leader Jared Sunderland

NQ Dry Tropics Grazing Team Leader Jared Sunderland said that examples seen on other properties and internationally had demonstrated that livestock can help improve soil health and microbiology.

“We are testing the theory that some grazing practices can be applied to effectively rehabilitate catchments and reduce erosion by increasing ground cover, which improves infiltration and reduces the speed of water flow that can cause gullies to form.

NQ Dry Tropics Grazing Field Officer Sam Skeat said that NQ Dry Tropics works with landholders to deliver solutions to gully erosion that have multiple benefits.

“Without good grazing management, no intervention or structure we build will succeed in the long-term. We work very closely with landholders to support changes in grazing management to improve landscape function, build ground cover and land condition, and overall productivity of that landscape,” Mr Skeat said.

“The way we’re doing things is evolving, and we’re finding that when we look at the bigger picture and integrate remediation structures into the grazing management and the landscape, we’re getting really excellent results,” he said.

The high-density grazing trial at Virginia Park Station is part of the Reef Alliance – Growing a Great Barrier Reef project, funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust through Queensland Farmers’ Federation.

Delegates were warmly welcomed by the Bennetto family at their homestead

Dr Scott Wilkinson (CSIRO) presents to delegates under Macrossan Bridge

Brett Baker (CSIRO), Pete Arthofer (NQ Dry Tropics), Sunny Behzadnia (Greening Australia)