Farming for a better future

MASG regenerative agriculture workshop participants enjoy a hands-on workshop on multi-species cover cropping at Muckleford earlier this year.

Farmers in Mount Alexander Shire are learning how to increase productivity and profitability through the practice of regenerative farming.

They’re benefiting from workshops run by the Mount Alexander Regenerative Agriculture Group, which provide practical demonstrations and on-ground implementation.

Regenerative agriculture has been identified as a critical means by which we can mitigate climate change and also develop greater resilience to the effects of global warming.

The practice draws atmospheric carbon down into the earth through photosynthesis, which can be measured through testing for organic carbon levels in the soil.

Healthier soils store more water and increase nutrients to grow more resilient pastures and help drought-proof landscapes.

Mount Alexander Sustainability Group’s Deane Belfield, who facilitates the program, said United Nations estimates revealed declining top soil levels on our planet had only 60 growing seasons left.

“Regenerative farming practices and the use of products such as biochar and compost can enrich the soil and ensure it is suitable for growing healthy produce and grain into the future,” he said.

“Increased soil organic carbon can help the community achieve its goal of zero net emissions by 2030.”

In 2019 the group received funding through the North Central Catchment Management Authority to facilitate the three-year program, which involves up to 70 landholders.

Topics include soil and plant biology, soil testing, cover crops, managed grazing, identifying native and pasture grasses, revegetation, dung beetles and bio-amendments such as biochar and compost.

Five dung beetle nurseries have been established by group members, the aim being to multiply the number of beetles across the shire many thousands of times within a few years.

Farmers commit to adopting a range of regenerative agriculture methods during that time and have their soil tested before and after to assess any changes in its carbon levels.

The most recent workshop on multi-species cover cropping included a three-hour morning session in Castlemaine by one of Australia’s top educators where participants were exposed to the theory, science, practical implementation strategies and case studies.

This was followed by a hands-on afternoon session at a Muckleford sheep/beef farm that enabled workshop participants to see some of the equipment and methods in practice and discuss what would work best on their own properties.

Subsequent workshops have included a holistic grazing session at Walmer and a revegetation event at Guildford.

Harcourt garlic grower and workshop participant Zane Tronson said being part of the Mount Alexander Regenerative Agriculture Group had been the single most valuable source of knowledge and support for his property.

“The information and experience I have gathered in the last two years will benefit our land (and the land of some of those that I share my experiences with) for the rest of our time caring for it, and we trust this exceptional program can continue,” he said.

The workshop program for the coming 12 months is set to be released shortly. Keep an eye on the MASG website for details or email