Lack of ground cover in northern WA leaving properties vulnerable to dust storms

Countryman
DPIRD soil and land conservation commissioner Cec McConnell.
Camera IconDPIRD soil and land conservation commissioner Cec McConnell. Credit: Picture: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

Recent widespread dust storms across the northern agricultural region are a reminder of the need to protect paddocks and people’s lives from the impact of wind erosion.

Soil and Land Conservation Commissioner Cec McConnell said the topsoil losses eroded landholders’ productivity and profitability, and posed a risk to public safety.

“While the Mid West and northern Grainbelt has experienced some unusual weather events recently, strong wind events at this time of the year are not unusual,” she said.

“This year has been particularly bad, dust storms posing a hazard to those on the roads, reducing visibility to almost nothing, posing a risk to people with asthma and other respiratory conditions,” she said.

“These wind events are not going to go away, so it is important for landholders to adopt strategies that mitigate the risk of wind erosion threatening future sustainability and people’s health and safety.”

A Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development assessment of ground cover found a third of the northern agricultural region had less than the recommended 50 per cent at the end of summer, leaving large areas vulnerable to strong autumn winds.

Ms McConnell encouraged landholders to integrate land management strategies to protect topsoil from being blown away.

“Now is the time to start planning strategies and investments to maintain ground cover over summer and into autumn, including harvesting measures to optimise crop residues and stubble management,” she said.

“There are short and long-term strategies that landholders can implement to maintain and increase ground cover and reduce erosion, like maintaining and sowing into stubbles and undertaking soil amelioration activities after it rains and the soil profile is wet.

“We all want to build sustainable farming systems for future generations and maintaining topsoil and soil health is crucial to attaining long term productivity and profitability.”

Ms McConnell encouraged landholders to consider the influence of wind speeds in their day-to-day activities.

“Landholders must consider whether the wind speed is conducive to erosion, especially when cultivating or undertaking soil amelioration activities,” she said.

For more information and advice visit agric.wa.gov.au and search for ‘Managing wind erosion in southern Western Australia’.

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