Pasture rundown – treating symptoms versus causes

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The most common symptom in the grazing lands of Australia is the universal “problem” of pasture rundown. It occurs all over the country, for example:

  • The increase in white spear grass (Aristida spp) in Mitchell grass country.
  • The conversion of Themeda, Black Spear and Bluegrass country into Indian couch in North Queensland and now in Central Queensland.
  • The regular resowing of “permanent” pastures in southern Australia.
  • The decline in productivity on Buffel grass pastures in Queensland.
  • The conversion of Danthonia, Microlaena and Stipa communities into Red grass and Aristida in New South Wales.
  • Invasion of introduced species by Silver grass and Barley grass in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

There are two ways we can deal with a “problem”. We can treat the symptoms of the “problem” (often the symptoms of the symptoms) or we can identify and rectify the causes.

The mostly uncomfortable truth about treating causes rather than symptoms is that they are generally man made. The “problems” are caused by the effect of mismanagement on ecosystem health. It therefore stands to reason that effective management will reverse the damage and the symptoms will disappear once the cause has been treated, as the evidence from all over Australia shows.

We live, work and produce within a very complex ecosystem and commonly forget that within nature, as in life, there can be unintended consequences. Symptoms of mismanagement of an ecosystem may be slight or severe, may happen quickly or very slowly, but almost always, they are not pleasant from a production or economic perspective.

The goal therefore should be to work with mother nature so that ecology, production and economics are progressing favourably.

The table below compares the differences between a Reductionist approach and a Holistic approach to managing “problems” with pastures.

 

If we want to change the outcomes, we should change our management input.

Moral of the story:
The moral of the story is – when it comes to ecosystem health, take a holistic approach, not a reductionist approach. Treat the cause, not the symptom. Most importantly, focus on what you want, NOT on what you don’t want.

Article by Terry McCosker
RCS Director