AgTrialsWA is a collaborative project between Western Australia’s (WA) seven natural resource management (NRM) groups. It provides up-to-date information on agricultural trials, demonstrations and projects that have and are currently occurring throughout the state. Brief descriptions of each region including environmental characteristics and industries are provided below.
The Peel-Harvey Catchment covers 1.15 million hectares including the southern Perth suburbs of Rockingham, Mandurah to Myalup on the coast and rural towns Williams, Cuballing and Popanyinning inland.
The region experiences high precipitation (up to 90% humidity) between April and October with an average annual rainfall ranging from 900 mm over the Swan Coastal Plain to 1300 mm over the Scarp. Surface soils comprise duplex sandy gravels, loamy gravels and deep sandy soils.
Because of its close proximity to markets, the Peel-Harvey Catchment region grows over $350 million worth of produce across 140,000 hectares. Horticulture is an important primary industry for the region including both annual (e.g. vegetable gardens) and perennial (e.g. citrus) food crops. Viticulture is also extremely important economically and culturally as local wineries attract tourism.
PHCC delivers initiatives that focus on annual horticulture, perennial horticulture, viticulture, livestock and crop farming. Soil-landscape mapping and land capability assessments are key to ensure horticulture is managed sustainably and the quality of water catchments are protected.
The Swan region covers an area of 770,000 hectares including most of the Perth Metropolitan Area, Swan and Canning River catchments and extends three nautical miles off Rottnest Island.
The average annual rainfall across Perth ranges from 600 mm to 1200 mm in the Hills. Sandy soil types of the Swan Coastal Plain were formed primarily by river and wind deposits, whereas gravelly laterite profile of the Darling Scarp formed directly from the minerals of degraded granite bedrock. Soil health issues include nutrient management and controlling pests and diseases.
Horticulture is important to the Swan region, which contributes fruit and vegetables to feed the 6.1 million Perth population as well as wine and tourism opportunities on the peri-urban Swan Valley. An estimated 600,000 Perth residents frequent the Swan Valley at least once a year, the equivalent of approximately 40,000 visitors per week.
Perth NRM works closely with fresh food producers and undertakes projects in collaboration with orchadists, viticulturists, farmers, horse owners, land managers, industry partners and government bodies
The Northern Agricultural region (NAR) covers 7.5 million hectares from Gingin in the south to Kalbarri in the north and east to Mullewa, Perenjori and Kalannie.
Rainfall in the region is moderate to low ranging from 340 mm in the north to 600 mm in the south, which declines and becomes increasingly variable further inland. Soils range from very sandy along coastal areas to heavier red-loams in the east. Some of the major issues facing farmers in the NAR include soil acidity, non-wetting soils, compaction, low nutrient holding capacity and wind erosion.
Broadacre agriculture is the predominant industry of the NAR, occupying about 70% of the region’s land but fishing, mining and tourism contribute strongly to the economy. The region is an enormously important producer of food for local consumption and export; and contains sites that are internationally recognised as biodiversity hotspots.
NACC supports farmers through funding opportunities, capacity building, workshop and events, to encourage the adoption of NRM practices that increase productivity whilst increasing the health of natural resources.
Original printable case studies are available: https://www.nacc.com.au/project/farm-demonstrations/
The South Coast region covers 6 million hectares and stretches three nautical miles out to sea. Major towns include Albany, Denmark, Ravensthorpe and Esperance.
The average annual rainfall for the region ranges from 600 mm to 1000 mm. Duplex sand over clay soils dominate the coastal areas and are prone to waterlogging. Water repellence related to compaction issues is a problem associated with the sandy soils. Soils further from the coast tend to be heavier, have better water and nutrient retention characteristic and alkaline at depth. Many of the heavier soils tend to suffer boron toxicity lower in the profile but subsurface acidity is the main soil health issue affecting five of the six subregions.
Agriculture is the dominant land use on the South Coast with farmland occupying 70% of the landscape. Primary industries include tree farming, broadacre cropping, wool, livestock, horticulture and fishing, while manufacturing is based largely on the supply of equipment and machinery to agriculture and processing farming commodities. The major industry is grain worth $580 million (gross) followed by sheep at $204 million. Beef production also makes a significant contribution of $69 million annually.
South Coast NRM works with landholders to boost productivity and environmental outcomes through projects such as feral animal and weed control, soil testing and facilitating sustainable agricultural practices.
The South West region covers 5 million hectares including popular tourist destinations such as Margaret River and Augusta.
The long-term average annual rainfall for the region ranges from 700 mm in the east to 1200 mm in the south. The southern part of the South West is characterised by high quality karri and jarrah forest. The sandy dune systems are particularly susceptible to nutrient leaching.
The South West boasts a variety of agricultural enterprises from the famous vineyards of Margaret River and apple orchards of Donnybrook, marron farms in the southern forests and mixed wheat/sheep farms in the Wheatbelt. Dairy farming is a multimillion-dollar industry for the region and produces 90% of WA’s milk supply.
SWCC works with landholders through on-farm trials and demonstrations, revegetation, carbon farming and nutrient management to ensure agricultural industries can adapt to market and environmental changes in the future.
WA’s Rangelands extend over 1.85 million square kilometres, representing 90% of the state’s land mass and more than 75 percent of its coastline. Major towns include Karratha, Port Hedland, Newman and Broome.
The southern Rangelands have predominantly winter rainfall averaging below 300 mm, while the northern Rangelands receive summer rainfall of up to 1200 mm in the Kimberley. The region comprises iron-rich pindan as the main soil type, which is compacted and vulnerable to flash flooding with poor drainage and structure.
The main economic activities of the Rangelands include: mining, pastoralism, horticulture, agriculture, tourism, fishing and aquaculture. Pastoralism is the dominant land use, occupying approximately 45% of the landscape with stations ranging in size from 3000 hectares to 500,000 hectares.
Rangelands NRM works with pastoralists to improve fire regimes, control weeds and feral animals and boost productivity through innovation such as carbon farming.
The Avon River Catchment covers 12 million hectares of the WA Wheatbelt. Major towns include Northam, Merredin and Wongan Hills.
The average annual rainfall in the region is moderate (500 mm) to low (200 mm), which declines and becomes increasingly variable further inland. Key soil types include white and yellow sands, loams and clays. Duplex soils are prone to salinity and waterlogging. The majority of soils are relatively low in clay and soil organic matter.
Agriculture is the dominant land use in the Wheatbelt accounting for 7.7 million hectares or (68%) of the region’s total area. There are just under 4000 commercial-scale farms across the region with an average property size of just under 2000 hectares. Wheat is currently the highest value commodity contributing 31% ($846 million) to the local economy, followed by wool at $444 million along with sheep and lambs at $423 million. Canola and barley each contributed approximately 8% of the region’s gross value agricultural product (GVAP) annually.
Wheatbelt NRM works with the farming industry to mitigating system challenges including significant issues effecting soil health being wind erosion, acidification and nutrient excess.
AgTrialsWA is funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program (NLP), a program that aims to protect and conserve Australia’s water, soil, plants, animals and ecosystems. The Australian Government supports the productive and sustainable use of our valuable natural resources.