“Unlikely bedfellows” working together to improve land condition

Fifth-generation grazier Bristow Hughes believes that bringing graziers, scientists and technical experts around the table to design gully erosion solutions and improve water quality is already yielding positive results.

“For me, the best thing about the Landholders Driving Change project is that we are a part of it right from the start”, Mr Hughes said.

“It’s really been an eye opener for the graziers, scientists and technical people to see both sides of the story. It isn’t just experts telling you how to run your business – they are valuing our input and everyone is feeling very open about putting forward their ideas”, he said.

Bristow runs the 82,000 acre Strathalbyn Station, 75 km from Collinsville. He is one of five local graziers sitting on a Project Panel helping to design projects aimed at reducing sediment runoff from the priority Bowen, Broken Bogie catchments.

He added that although traditionally there has been a perceived gap between scientists and graziers, the Queensland Government-funded project was helping to change that.

To succeed, we need science and practice to come together – we all want the same thing, we just use different words”, he said.  

“Graziers, scientists and government appear to be odd bedfellows but it’s crucial that these groups work together to come up with a commonsense approach that will result in practical on-ground works to keep soil on the land.

“Science provides credibility to the outcomes, especially if scientists stick up their hands and say we’ve gone on the journey with these graziers, we support what they’re doing and we’ve got proof that they’re keeping soil on their land”, he said.

He added that gully erosion was a symptom, and successfully tackling it required addressing the causes, one of which is lack of ground cover:

“On Strathalbyn, we have some gully problems and I intend to dramatically increase my ground cover so I don’t get run off into the erosion area. Once that’s done, I’ll then fix the erosion, in conjunction with spelling country, rotating, and time-controlled grazing, among other things.  

If you fix the erosion area and not what’s caused it, it’s going to keep eroding.  If sediment is running off your property, you’re losing valuable ground – you paid for that country, don’t let it wash away”, he said.

Main photo: Bristow Hughes observes the effect of water on the dispersive soils found around Collinsville.