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Natural Capital Accounting baselining at Green Range

 At Dirty Clean Food we are proud to have five of our farmers signed up for Phase 2 of the Natural Capital Accounting Project, run by Perth NRM. 

Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) is a framework that has been developed to baseline and monitor the natural capital on a farm. By undertaking this method of monitoring on a broad range of farms across Western Australia, Perth NRM are creating a baseline data set that farmers can use to track the changes their farming practices are making over time. This means they can use their data to make management decisions, which will enable them to achieve their goals – whether that is improving their productivity, establishing a diverse range of perennial grasses, or restoring water and nutrient cycles across their farm.

At Dirty Clean Food we are excited about this project because we are currently moving from a practice based to an outcomes based measurement methodology. This means that rather than recording the regenerative practices our farmers are undertaking, we will be moving towards recording outcomes, such as soil carbon, biodiversity, and water and nutrient cycling. 

I headed down to Green Range to catch up with Dave Broadhurst and Bonnie Jupp from Perth NRM to undertake some baseline measuring on Col Bowey’s farm, as part of this project. 

Our first step was to navigate to one of the sites located on our map. We used Avenza maps which allows us to download a map for navigating the farm when we don’t have phone reception. We tried to get as close to our map point as possible, without falling down a cliff or pushing through impenetrable bush!

When we found our point we logged it on the map, then took photos in all four directions, so we can use them as a baseline to compare this point in the future. We then did the ecological assessment, where the information is collected and logged in an app called iauditor.

In the ecological assessment we are looking at all the different plant species in a particular area, along with their height and density. We have  25 points logged on the map across different soil types and ecological communities.  At Green Range we came across a broad range of grasses and forbes in the pasture paddocks, and some gorgeous banksias, isopogons, mosses and lichens, melaleucas, eucalypts and sundews in the remnant vegetation. We also met a rather bewildered goanna on the side of the road, and almost came too close to a chunky tiger snake basking in the sun on one of the wheel tracks through the long grass. 

After we completed the ecological assessment, we took soil samples to be sent off to Chemcentre for a chemical soil analysis, and undertook a rapid soil assessment. We used a penetrometer to see how compacted the soil was.

Along the creek we were standing on deep sand – usually you have to use a fair bit of strength to push the penetrometer in the soil, here we had a bit of fun pushing it in with just one finger!

We found that the irrigated pastures were doing really well, with some perennial and annual grasses that were actively growing and sequestering carbon in the soil – as shown by the darker layer of topsoil. 

We traversed the farm from south to north and after quite a hairy four wheel drive crossing, we made it to the northern tip of the farm and our final sites. Luckily we finished our assessments and got out onto the main road just as the storm front started to hit – I call that perfect timing!

A huge thanks to Bonnie and Dave for helping me get my hands dirty and letting me join them for this field work. I can’t wait for the next round of assessments commencing this year! 

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