Territory Stories

Alice Springs Rural Review



Alice Springs Rural Review


Northern Territory. Department of Resources


Alice Springs Rural Review; E-Journals; PublicationNT; Alice Springs Rural Review




Alice Springs


Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).; This publication contains many links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.; Includes : Pastoral Market Update November 2010; Arid Zone Research Institute; AZRI, Alice Springs




Agriculture; Alice Springs Region; Periodicals

Publisher name

Northern Territory Government

Place of publication

Alice Springs


Alice Springs Rural Review


V 44 (9-12) December 2010

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Northern Territory Government



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ALICE SPRINGS RURAL REVIEW, Page 2 of 20 The pasture growth already experienced around Alice Springs over the 2010/11 financial year has been extensive, and is a follow-up on the significant growth experienced earlier this year (2009/10) and again from the Nov/Dec 2008 growth event (2008/09). Across the Alice Springs district wide spread pasture yield estimates are exceeding 2000kg/ha, and once cured will increase the risk of wildfires. Should we be thinking fire? Arguably yes. Right now wildfire mitigation in the form of fire break maintenance and controlled burning of the less productive country needs to be considered, planned and implemented. For example, you may have an opportunity to use strategic burning in breaking-up your spinifex country to protect the productive country from any potential extensive hot wildfires. But should we be considering fire for improving pasture production more? Does a rare opportunity exist? For some time now controlled burning has been advocated as a cost-effective land management tool. However, in many cases the opportunity to implement such a strategy depends entirely on these unique growth periods when enough fuel accumulates to implement an effective burn. Influencing the tree/grass balance The aim of such burns is to reduce the competition of the trees and shrubs to enable more pasture growth, and especially during smaller pasture growth events. That is short-term feed reassignment for longterm production gain. Two vegetation types that are showing signs of increased competition from trees and shrubs that can benefit from fire are the; more productive open woodland country with an oatgrass/bunched kerosene grass (mulga grass) under storey; and run-on areas/drainage systems dominated by perennial grasses (kangaroo grass, silky brown-top). These vegetation types often have an overstorey of coolibahs, ironwoods, bloodwoods, river red gums and other mixed Acacias such as victoria wattle, witchetty bush and mulga. Country with poor soils that support relatively unpalatable pastures such as wiregrasses, erect kerosene grass, bandicoot grass or woolibutt; with or without a woody vegetation layer, generally do not have the capacity to produce productive pastures. These soils are often dominated by thick mulga or a combination of mulga and witchetty bush. What productive pastures that do exist are often only found under the shrubs and trees where there is higher soil organic levels. Therefore burning these vegetation types would be of little benefit pasture wise and may even have a negative effect on productivity while reducing the Top-feed benefits of this country. Managing the risks The greatest risk for many producers with the use of fire is a lack of follow-up rain and the loss of feed. This risk can be dramatically reduced by taking control of the situation, and restrict the fire to where you want it to burn rather than to let the fire dictate terms. In most situations numerous small burns are often better than one large burn. The beauty of such a unique growth event as this is the quantity of available pasture and potentially making the amount needed to implement a burning strategy look relatively small in comparison. Things to think about before burning: Be clear of your production and land management goals Be realistic when it comes to the soil and countrys capabilities Identify and avoid poor condition country that is at risk of increased erosion from reduced cover. Reduced grazing pressure following fire is important to ensure the productive pasture species can establish Take control of the burn and restrict it to areas that you want burnt Notify Bushfires NT Fire has the ability to provide benefits in: improving the short-term feed quality of a pasture maintaining the tree/grass balance opening up country to improve cattle management reducing patch grazing improving biodiversity