18 May 2017
Wheatbelt farmer Bruce Storer has been a strong supporter of diversifying into sandalwood trees and native forage shrubs for more than two decades.
The Cunderdin farmer’s expertise is now being more widely spread, with him mentoring other landholders on how to best grow their selected species.
The move is part of natural resource management group Wheatbelt NRM’s goal to encourage farmers to improve productivity on marginal land.
They’ve created a Perennial's for Profit mentoring program to help achieve this, funded by the Australian Government's National Landcare Programme.
Wheatbelt NRM’s Project Manager for Sustainable Industries Jo Wheeler said an increase in demand for forage shrubs was a result of a better understanding of how to manage these systems.
“The demand for forage shrubs has also grown out of greater awareness and knowledge of the available species, their growth potential in different conditions and palatability to stock,” Jo Wheeler said.
“Farmers have also discovered that growing native forage provides a feed source during the summer and autumn months when they would otherwise be supplementary feeding.
“The shrubs are also providing significant health benefits to livestock.”
Nearby tree nursery Chatfields has reported an increase in orders for forage shrubs with 900,000 seedlings under current production.
The Tammin nursery has produced more than three million forage shrubs in the past four years.
Bruce Storer hoped his experience could help other farmers as they tried to convert unproductive land into a financial asset.
“Any landholders thinking about growing forage shrubs on unproductive crop land or saline land need to consider their soil types, the varieties they want to grow and then how to successfully manage the site,” Bruce Storer said.
“The forage crops I planted nearly two years ago proved just how valuable they could be during the rain event experienced in February this year.
“Our 700 Poll Merino ewes had plenty of high quality feed to sustain them when the rest of the paddocks were underwater.
“I’m now testing the fibre density and overall fleece quality to see what impact this diet is having on wool production.”
Bruce Storer will share his successes and failures with other farmers through the Perennials for Profit program.