Project Delivery: Warren Catchments Council
Contact: Wendy Wilkins (SWCC – Bridgetown). Ph: 9761 4184
Website: SWCC Sustainable Agriculture
Start Date: May 2014 End Date: Dec 2017
Site ID: IN2.1.003
Size Are Ha: 40
This project provides paddock-scale replicates to evaluate and quantify dung beetles’ capacity as a low cost biological mechanism to inter organic matter up to depths of 60cm+; and the degree to which they are responsible for:
• elevating levels of available nutrients (through cycling of macro and micro-nutrients leached to the subsoil)
• increasing pH buffering capacity, SOM
• increasing earthworm and other soil biology populations that contribute to:
• improving soil structure – improved infiltration, aeration, moisture and nutrient retention and reducing compaction
• reducing nutrient and silt run-off polluting waterways
• reducing wind and water erosion potential
• maintaining ground cover through reducing (potentially eliminating) the need for tillage to rejuvenate pastures to improve productivity
• reducing breeding grounds for parasites, stable and house flies, lessening the need for chemical pest control and veterinary chemicals
This project will establish eight sites across Warren Catchments Council region, reflecting the variety of soil types and rainfall zones, to provide a range of paddock-scale contexts, as recommended by MLA, in response to the results of the small scale trial they commissioned Dr Bernard Doube to conduct – The pasture growth and environmental benefits of dung beetles to the southern Australian cattle industry (2007-8).
The impact of dung beetles’ tunnelling and carbon storage on soil physical and chemical characteristics, soil biology, pH and EC and pasture growth will be monitored.
Education of local farmers and the wider community on dung beetle characteristics, identification and monitoring techniques will be supported by DAFWA entomologist, David Cousins and Dr Doube of Dung Beetle Solutions Australia.
Monthly monitoring for existing dung beetles on 8 cattle properties from Walpole, to Northcliffe, to Boyup Brook began in November 2014. One property in Walpole counted 24,338 individual beetles (5 different species) in traps in January 2015 – a six fold increase in beetles from the previous month! Training for landholders has occurred to help identify dung beetles. Release of the new beetles will be dependent on the database of existing beetles and will occur at the optimal time for specific beetles in specific locations to reduce pre-breeding losses due to predation and other factors. Baseline soil testing has occurred and photopoints have been established.
All 8 properties have released Bubas bison.
Dung beetle monitoring by landholders is continuing and colonies of Geotrupes spiniger, a large winter/spring active beetle, and Copris hispanus, a large winter active beetle, are being bred for further release.
Warren Catchments Council has established a Facebook page for South West dung beetles at https://www.facebook.com/dungbSW
SWCC has produced a YouTube video of an interview with dung beetle expert, Dr Bernard Doube, who was a speaker at the Talkin’ Soil Health Conference in Kojonup in September 2015. Follow the link to see the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-HUUiwX9pk&feature=youtu.be
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