Treating symptoms versus causes Part 2 – Buffel Grass Rundown

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Last month I wrote about treating causes rather than symptoms. This month I continue that theme and take a close look at Buffel grass rundown.

There has been a lot of publicity recently about Buffel grass rundown in Central Queensland, as though it was in some way different to what has happened in the rest of Australia and the world. Just like the rest of Australia, it requires research to see how the symptoms are to be treated and if we don’t solve the problem, it will cost the beef industry $17 Billion.*

Like all pasture rundown, it is characterised by a slow decline in productivity and frequently a slide to poorer quality grasses. This is evidenced by the rapid increase in Indian couch in areas where it has never been.

Lets compare two different approaches to the problem.

* Webinar with Stuart Buck and Brian Johnson, DAFF “Sown pasture rundown: The productivity decline of improved pastures” FutureBeef https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roZNFti4dBQ&feature=youtu.be

At a fundamental level, all biology relies on Carbon and Nitrogen as both food and by-product. For example, soil bacteria operate at a C:N ratio of 5:1, but the bacterial feeding protozoa that consume them operate at 50:1, which means that a Protozoa will consume 10 bacteria to get its Carbon requirement, but have to excrete 9 units of Nitrogen to stay in balance.

Therefore, we release Nitrogen by increasing Carbon

If we want long term solutions to the problems in agriculture and other parts of our society we need to look at treating the causes rather than the symptoms. However, treating causes rather than symptoms in the fields of agriculture and medicine often requires that we deal with our own behaviours. It is usually easier to treat the symptoms.

Proof is in the pudding at Baralaba (Photos courtesy of the Bailey family)

Photo below: November 1997, 14.6 SDH/100mm, Galv Burr and Buffel

Photo below: September 1998, 19.8 SDH/100mm, Buffel

Photo below: March 2002, 30 SDH/100mm, Forest Bluegrass

This transition was made using a holistic approach and no seeding, fertilizer or disturbance was required. This was done following the principles of regenerative grazing.

Terry McCosker

RCS Director