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Win-win for native grasslands

Published 07 Apr 2021 by Chris Wilson (Healthy Landscape Manager)

We’ve recently wrapped up the second phase of an innovative grass seed harvesting project on Carnarvon Station Reserve, Bidjara country, where I live and work with my family in central Queensland.

With the help of Carnarvon Field Officer Glen Baker, we harvested approximately 700kg of native grass seeds in 2021; mainly Queensland Bluegrass (Dichanthium sericeum) with up to a dozen other native grass species in the mix.

It’s an increase of almost 30% from the 550kg of seeds harvested in the inaugural trial in 2020 and reflects an exceptional wet season after five years of below average rainfall.

The brush harvester used has minimal impact on the plants and takes only 10% to 15% of available ripe seed, leaving the rest to go back into the ecosystem.

Bluegrass species typically grow best on fertile clay soils. These soils are suited for grazing and cropping and as a result, their extent and condition has declined dramatically since the introduction of large-scale agricultural practices.

It's critical we maintain healthy grasslands on Canarvon and elsewhere as they attract insects, the start of the food chain, then subsequently birds, small rodents and native mammals.

Native grasses help to retain all these species, and also reduce the impact of the more intense bushfires predicted under climate change.

Carnarvon’s harvested seeds will be sent to specialist soil, land and ecological restoration consultants Highlands Environmental in Emerald for use in grassland regeneration and mined land rehabilitation programs throughout the Brigalow Belt bioregion.

Highlands Environmental scientists are undertaking soil and vegetation condition monitoring pre- and post-harvesting to build up a solid ecological dataset over time.

Not only does this project provide Bush Heritage with a sustainable income stream to support on-ground conservation work, but it facilitates the uptake of native grasses in other locations. It’s a win-win!

I look forward to bringing you more good harvesting news in about a year or so.

Carnarvon's grasslands cover just 4000 hectares of the 56,000 hectare reserve Photo by Krystle Wright. Carnarvon's grasslands cover just 4000 hectares of the 56,000 hectare reserve Photo by Krystle Wright.
Beautiful Bluegrass. Photo by Krystle Wright. Beautiful Bluegrass. Photo by Krystle Wright.
Chris Wilson has managed Carnarvon Station Reserve for more than a decade. Photo by Krystle Wright. Chris Wilson has managed Carnarvon Station Reserve for more than a decade. Photo by Krystle Wright.
With some of the freshly harvested native grass seed. There's about 850,000 seeds per kilo! Photo by Krystle Wright. With some of the freshly harvested native grass seed. There's about 850,000 seeds per kilo! Photo by Krystle Wright.
Bush Heritage staff members Chris Wilson and Glen Baker spread the seed out to dry. Photo by Krystle Wright. Bush Heritage staff members Chris Wilson and Glen Baker spread the seed out to dry. Photo by Krystle Wright.
Freshly harvested seed. Photo by Krystle Wright. Freshly harvested seed. Photo by Krystle Wright.
The brush harvester used has minimal impact on the plants and takes only 10-15% of available ripe seed, leaving the rest to go back into the ecosystem.Photo by Krystle Wright. The brush harvester used has minimal impact on the plants and takes only 10-15% of available ripe seed, leaving the rest to go back into the ecosystem.Photo by Krystle Wright.
Once the seed is harvested it is laid out on tarps at 100mm thick and turned every day for seven days to dry out. Photo by Krystle Wright. Once the seed is harvested it is laid out on tarps at 100mm thick and turned every day for seven days to dry out. Photo by Krystle Wright.
Carnarvon has been home for the Wilson family for 11 years. Photo by Krystle Wright. Carnarvon has been home for the Wilson family for 11 years. Photo by Krystle Wright.

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