This report aims to provide an initial assessment as to the extent, potential causes and farmer’s understandings of the current seep issues across the South Australian and Victorian Mallee Farming region. This provides important information to guide future activities of MSF, NR SAMDB, the Mallee CMA, funding organizations and farmers as to what is needed to better understand, manage and combat this growing issue with our farming communities.
The findings from this report are based on a survey of mallee farmers that have been impacted by seeps, conducted in Oct-Nov 2017. The 15 question survey gained farmers responses as to the areas of seep affected land, when they appeared, possible causes and the effectiveness of various management strategies implemented. It also asked of how concerned farmers were about the issues, and reasons they may not have taken action to address the problems as yet.
The clear results from this study are that mallee seeps are becoming a significant problem for a large number of mallee farmers. The majority of seeps have become evident within the last 10 years and appear to be due to changes in farming systems coupled with very high rainfall periods. Farmers identify that poor water use on deep sands (impacted by effective chemical summer weed control) has led to new seeps appearing in both mid-slope and swale areas below these sandy rises.
A range of management strategies have been employed by farmers to varying degrees of success. Strategic lucerne and tree planting were generally listed as more successful by some farmers. However, nearly half of the farmers surveyed reported that they had not done anything to control the seeps on their properties. The majority expressed that they needed more information to know what to do, and were unsure of who to ask or what management they should apply. For many the problem is only relatively small at this stage.
This report provides a strong indication that seeps are a rapidly growing land degradation problem that mallee farmers are very concerned about. If left uncontrolled and unmanaged it is conceivable that there could be a tenfold increase to current area of affected land, building to a cost in the vicinity of $100,000,000 in lost production over a 10 year period.
There is a clear need for farmers, farming groups and agricultural workers to better understand the dynamics of the seep issues in the Mallee, and the most practical and effective methods to manage and ameliorate the problems and impacts they cause. Farmers are wanting more information and are willing to get involved in ways to find these answers so that they can apply them successfully to their farms.