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Producing more food with fewer resources

Part one of the NFF’s project “Sustainable agriculture in Australia and China: Innovation exchange for farmers” took young Australian farmers and representatives from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences to two innovative farms close to Collector in New South Wales.

The project is a collaboration between the National Farmers’ Federation and the Australia-China Council.

“Nature speaks the same language wherever we are – in sharing our knowledge and experience, there is much to be gained”, said Jenny Bell, a merino farmer from Collector. Jenny was one of two farms visited by the NFF-China grant delegation in late October 2016 to familiarize the participants with the Australian Landcare movement. Jenny’s farm engages in regenerative agriculture which has resulted in the significant improvement of soil and pasture health on farm and resulted in reduced animal husbandry requirements such as the minimization of sheep drenching – the application of chemicals to stop parasite developments – through rotational grazing.

Jenny Bell and Alfred Chung discuss rotational grazing in Jenny’s shearing shed.

The primary goal of the exchange between Australian and Chinese farmers is to connect innovators and to showcase sustainable farming techniques in both Australia and China. Part of sustainable or regenerative farming is to change cultural practices around natural resource management. In Australia, the Landcare movement has been a driving force behind land management practice change.

After visiting Jenny’s farm, Mary Bonet the representative from Upper Lachlan Landcare took the delegation to Margie Fitzpatrick’s farm ‘Australind’. Margie practices pasture cropping – a technology that sows seeds into existing pasture to enrich the nutritional profile for grazing animals.

The NFF delegation, framed by Michael and Alfred Chung, with Margie and Emma Fitzpatrick (middle) on ‘Australind’, standing in a pasture-cropped paddock.

Participants Alfred and Michael Chung, honorary counsellors of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) in Australia, embraced the opportunity to see Landcare practices on-farm and to discover Landcare’s rich history.

Dr. Shane Norris, the head of Landcare Services at Landcare Australia, provided a seminar for the delegation outlining how Landcare approaches big land management issues such as water crisis and the loss of agricultural land. During the seminar, Alfred highlighted how China’s unprecedented economic growth goes hand in hand with food security, “We want to build stronger bridges between Australia and China. To do this, we need to think outside the box”. Alfred also pointed out that agriculture is a major driver in the Australian-Chinese relationship, necessitating a shift in thinking about food and fibre production.

Ellen Grinter, a young agronomist from Kaarimba in Victoria, will be part of the delegation’s visit to China in March next year. Read her essay on sustainable farming that won her the trip here.

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