The ruins of human civilisations in every climate zone of the planet indicate a failure by our forebears to utilize basic landscape and climate functions. More of the same or similar is therefore not an option.
The Australian landscape has been naturally subjected to river flow loss and subsequent plant destruction, resulting in climate collapse that would normally be associated with human activity.
After a number of cycles of collapse, plant biodiversity built an ecosystem which allowed the development of mega-fauna in Australia. Once again human intervention (Aborigines) brought about climate change and the loss of the mega-fauna. Subsequently, the landscape went from an era of growth to one of slow decay.
Landscape functions managed by plants had combined to achieve the lost sustainability. Sunlight is converted to food product by plants. Plants manage the atmosphere and climate by executing the following functions:
We can judge the efficiency of these processes because they supported the evolution of giant paleo-marsupials, the largest on the planet. Landscape fertility was maintained, despite CO2 levels both older and higher than today’s.
Once I understood the facts of landscape efficiencies, I looked for undisturbed examples so the results could be repeated. I was amazed to find that Australia’s water was managed in the opposite way to how I expected.
Even though the landscape and sedimentary areas clearly demonstrated a counter intuitive hypothesises - plants forced water to build raised flow lines - it was difficult for traditionally-trained people to appreciate how Australia worked.
In 1976 after examining explorer’s logs and historic data, it was obvious that drainage was a very destructive process in Australia. I made every effort to publicise the dangers of drainage from 1976 to 1984. By 1986, I realised most people felt more comfortable with European systems. It seemed to me it would be necessary to inform as many people as possible of the basic facts. If I could convince enough people to test my theories and examine my models it would offer all stakeholders a sustainable set of management strategies.
The environment continues to change and agricultural practices need to be in step with these changes. Plants have modified the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to the present level – it is a growth stimulant and they have evolved to make the best use of it.
As mentioned above, plants convert sunlight into plant matter; they filter water, modify millions of compounds and slowly release those compounds when water activates the microbial breakdown of dead vegetation. The visual components of these processes can be seen in the juxtaposition of forestry and agriculture, particularly on the grand and diverse scale of the Murray Darling River system.
I drove 150,000 km during both flood and drought cycles to identify the basic functions of the Australian landscape. Then I copied these landscape sequences at Tarwyn Park and the two neighbouring properties, all of which I owned.
In the last twenty years the spectacular results on these properties have been witnessed by dozens of qualified specialists. I am convinced that the way humans manage and mismanage the land can be more accurately assessed in Bylong than anywhere else on the planet.
In the past five years, over 100 experts have observed drought, flood cycles and plant progressions in Bylong. I am certain that all Australian river systems can be managed with lessons that can be taught in Bylong.
Human frailty, ego, greed, the “tall poppy” syndrome and artificial chemical processes interfere with the common sense essential for practical environmental management. Once the simple truths demonstrated by the Australian landscape are presented, obvious mistakes will be realised. The cycles of fire, flood and drought that presently dominate, were once managed in sequences of recycling, land-based filtration and retained wetland moisture.
For might to be right and bad practices to flourish, it only requires that “good men do nothing” (apologies to Edmund Burke). It is critically important that Tarwyn Park be used as the prime example of Australian “best practice” agricultural production because it applies the most efficient elements of the Australian landscape.
Why Natural Sequence Farming? (NSF)
A natural sequence requires all processes to compete to achieve the most balanced and productive results. Production means converting sunlight and water into plant material. Farming should mean taking this plant matter and recycling it into food products. The green area assessed in “time and space” is production at that place and at that moment in time. Excess residue (leaf, bark, and dead material) is accumulated in production areas, so that it is possible to achieve multiples of the production average of the whole area due to nutrient containment and recycling.
The environment relies on plant biodiversity to compensate for extremes of geology and climate. Feedback loops achieve maximum production and precise balances via inputs and outputs that we, as yet don’t fully understand. Therefore, it is not possible to model or describe these relationships accurately. However sunlight production connected to the environmental production line (water and gravity) and the daily water cycle are basic functions not presently assessed when farms or landscapes are planned.
A blueprint for the efficient incorporation of the daily water cycle and environmental compounds delivered by the production line can be identified in all landscapes. The capacity to modify landscapes for commercial exploitation is most effective when in harmony with all these sequences.
The variety of NSF installations that I have constructed all over Australia could be employed most effectively if government employees, CMA’s, Landcarers, bankers, agronomists, climate and environment managers all understood how the Australian natural sequences operate.
Peter Andrews OAM, Australian landscape repair specialist, grazier and race horse breeder