The Northern United Forestry Group

Introduction
Northern United Forestry Group (NUFG) is a community-based collective of 45 farming families committed to establishing permanent systems that bring about sustainable land use change. The group’s focus is to establish low-rainfall (
In 2004 NUFG received the National Landcare Research Award for its research into suitable native trees for farm forestry on Victoria’s northern plains. The Kamarooka Landcare Project involves reclaiming 50 hectares of salt affected land using a mix of saltbush, native grasses and farm forestry species. Changes in the soil/water/vegetation balance, and the productivity and biodiversity benefits, are being measured through a ‘community monitoring program’.

Results to date challenge the conventional understanding of how both remnants and new plantings interact with the saline environment in which they live. Grassroots research at Kamarooka is capturing the unprecedented change in both water balance and groundwater behaviour. As the watertable drops it provides a window of opportunity to establish new management regimes on land previously subject to salinity. The project is a working example of an effective partnership between science and the community.

About NUFG
NUFG was founded in 1998. The group has a strategic plan and an investment strategy to help increase membership and achieve 2,500 hectares of farm forestry. NUFG members focus on growing trees and building the group’s collective knowledge. Members own and manage large areas of cleared agricultural land and have the silvicultural expertise needed to propagate, establish, manage and harvest trees. They are also skilled in milling logs on-farm, adding value to products and sourcing markets for end products. A strong farmer base ensures that plantations are managed as part of the farming system. Farming enterprises include cropping, fodder production, prime lambs, wool, dairying and beef cattle. Skilling group members in all aspects of farm forestry is an important activity. More than half the group has completed the University of Melbourne’s Master Tree Growers (MTG) course.

History of the Kamarooka Project
Salinity was first observed at Kamarooka in the 1950s. The Kamarooka project started in 2004 with the group planting a mix of saltbush, native grasses and farm forestry species to reclaim saline land. The Hay family, also NUFG members, support the project making available the land and actively participating in project management. The project has received funding from the Australian Government through the Natural Resources Innovation Program (2004/05) and the National Landcare Program (2005/06). The project also receives in-kind support from NUFG members, scientists and local natural resource management (NRM) agency staff.

During 2004 NUFG members consulted with the scientific community, including hosting a site visit and ‘think tank’ with Dr Ed Barrett-Lennard (Department of Agriculture, WA) Dr Richard George (Department of Agriculture, WA) and Dr Nico Marcar (CSIRO Division of Forestry). Dr Clive Malcolm (WA) also advised on species selection for the site.

In 2004 the group established 11,000 trees, 10,000 saltbush plugs, six hectares of direct-seeded saltbush and native grasses and five kilometres of direct-seeded trees. Another 8,000 trees were planted in 2005.

In 2006 grazing trials commenced to research the productivity benefits of reclaiming marginal land – again the Hay family contributes large numbers of lambs for the trials.

Monitoring soil/water/vegetation interactions at Kamarooka
Phil Dyson, NUFG member and hydrogeologist, manages a comprehensive groundwater-monitoring program as part of the project. Phil brings important history to the project having been involved in monitoring at Kamarooka since the early 1980s when he worked for the Soil Conservation Authority.

Monitoring has taught us about the groundwater system and the way that it functions to cause salinity. Recent monitoring has clearly shown the impact of more than twelve years of altered rainfall regimes on the salinity-groundwater interactions in the Kamarooka catchment.
In 2004 ten groundwater observation bores were installed on site to evaluate the on-going impact of the growing vegetation. Another four bores were installed in 2006.

To better understand the interactions between the remnant vegetation and the watertable a number of high definition water level loggers and a barometric pressure logger were installed. The loggers permit short interval watertable measurements (ten minutes) over extended time periods (three months).

The latest monitoring results can be found at www.nufg.org.au

Posted 10 December 2009 in News