Sustainable Barley Trial

The Redlands Sustainable Agriculture Project was an NRM South initiative that ran from 2013 until 2015 and focused on developing and delivering a whole-farm system that both improved the quality of the land on the Redlands Estate, helping to ensure the barley crop for whisky, and also provided benefits to the wider ecosystem.

NRM Sredlands 2outh led the development of the sustainable agriculture approach on the Redlands Estate through the development of a management plan, sustainable agriculture trials and monitoring the barley crop to help optimse quality and yield.

Posts from the Redlands Estate blog archive, managed by Regional Landcare Facilitator Ken Moore, have been collated into a single document; The Redlands Estate Diary. The original Redlands Estate blog website can also be found here, however this site will close in 2017.

 

 

Summary

On 23 April 2014, Redlands Estate and NRM South signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together and jointly fund a whole of farm trial to:

  • Develop and apply whole farm property planning for sustainable agricultural production and whisky distilling including sustainable strategies for expansion;
  • Apply sustainable practices for growing high quality malting barley for premium whisky production on farm.
  • View Redlands Estate in the context of longer term landscape or catchment sustainability (Redlands Estate adjoins the Plenty River which is a tributary of the Derwent River).

The Redlands Estate Trial project was successful from a number of perspectives. The first was the willingness of the landowner to enter into an MOU and management agreements with NRM South to introduce sustainable practices and for NRM South to play a leading role in the management of the project and on-farm operations.

The historical and cultural significance of Redlands Estate ensured high visibility of the project in the community and in the media. It is also located in the Derwent Catchment and adjoins the Plenty River which is a tributary of the Derwent River. This project encapsulated the perspective that farms in high value catchments must be viewed as part of longer term landscape-wide or catchment sustainability.

The sustainable cropping trial was successful in that a barley crop was grown, harvested and yielded NRM South a financial surplus. Although, the yield was relatively low (3.7 tonnes/ha) due to difficult seasonal conditions and the unavailability of irrigation infrastructure, the grain achieved Grain Trade Australia’s Malt 1 Grade standards. It was also grown with fewer inputs than preceding crops and less use of chemicals and fertiliser. In this sense, the trial commenced a journey towards sustainability as was the goal of the landowner and NRM South set out in the MOU.

The project demonstrated the importance and feasibility of collecting and analysing data for decision making. This included test results from soil, plant and grain sampling, real time data from Sense T’s sensors and high resolution imaging of the crop with a unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone).

The Sense T Alpha Trial established at Redlands Estate was the first Tasmanian trial with sensors in a grain crop. In addition, biophysical baseline data was collected from the grazing paddocks. Ken Moore gave a presentation to the National RLF Forum in May 2015 on the Redlands Trial as an example of moving into the field of big data in farming.

Working partnerships were established with key stakeholders such as Sense T, ACROSS, DroneAg and the Tasmanian Whisky Producers Association which will enable future projects with these organisations.

The project also gave strong media profile to the NRM South and the other stakeholders. Operations and results were reported in local newspapers, TV news bulletins and the national media with a report by ABC News 24 on the barley harvest. It was also featured in NRM South’s social media – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a blog.