Rising biodiversity a labour of affection

Images: Shawn McAvinue

South Otago dairy farmer Sandra Campbell is a self-proclaimed “loopy tree girl” as the scale of her native plant nursery continues to develop.

“It’s gone from zero to ridiculous.”

She and her husband Chris, nicknamed Tubby, milk about 450 cows on their 280ha farm in Clifton, about 20km west of Balclutha.

The couple have owned the farm Oakwood Hills since shopping for out their fairness companions in March final yr.

Once they moved on to the farm, the biodiversity on it was restricted to ryegrass, white clover, fodder beet and pine timber.

“That was it.”

Each paddock on the farm incorporates a gully.

The gullies cowl about 30ha of the farm.

About seven years in the past, they started fencing the steep gullies and planting native riparian margins to higher handle inventory, defend waterways and supply wildlife habitat.

“Who doesn’t need extra birds?”

The purpose was to develop one thing stunning, present shade for inventory however guarantee it was low sufficient to minimise the quantity of pasture in shade.

About 4ha of gullies had been planted.

As a result of the gullies on the farm related, the planting might sooner or later be eligible to be a part of the Emissions Buying and selling Scheme.

“I’d prefer to suppose long-term they are going to find yourself within the ETS and we are able to make some revenue off these areas.”

The rationale for beginning to plant natives was by no means to earn cash, it was to extend biodiversity.

Leaving the gullies to proceed rising “rank” grass and weeds somewhat than being a spot to supply one thing “superior” and enhance the farm can be a misplaced alternative, she mentioned.

As an Otago South River Care board member and Waiwera-Kaihiku Catchment Group member she has learnt methods to enhance freshwater.

The primary native vegetation have been purchased in 2018 and it turned clear how “fickle” they have been and the whole lot wished to kill them.

“It was both frost, inventory, pests, drought or spraying.”

The species which survived have been Carex secta (a grass), ribbonwood and tree daisies.

Oakwood Hills proprietor Sandra Campbell inspects a ribbonwood in her nursery in South Otago.

“I’ve killed a number of stuff. You reside and also you be taught and also you don’t plant them once more.”

Shopping for vegetation was costly.

“You’ll be able to eliminate a number of thousand bucks shopping for them every winter.”

To get extra vegetation within the floor, she determined to gather native seed domestically.

“It’s a free useful resource — it makes life simpler and it’s in all places.”

In 2020, she constructed a nursery on farm to develop her personal vegetation, regardless of having not one of the abilities required.

“I’m fairly rip, s… and bust.”

She learnt on the fly, together with the significance of defending vegetation from the wind to cease them dying.

The nursery dimension had grown considerably.

“When you see one thing strike and develop —it’s somewhat bit addictive.”

Rising the biodiversity on a farm your self was laborious work and wanted to be a “labour of affection” to remain motivated.

Nevertheless, that they had paid contractors to place vegetation within the floor as a result of she had discovered she loved being within the nursery greater than in a gully.

Dunedin firm Seed NZ Natives direct drilled some native seeds to create an indication website on the farm for a subject day.

Assist from Otago South River Care included working a drone trial in a 1ha of gully on the farm.

The trial goals to make use of innovation to make it simpler to extend biodiversity in locations laborious to entry on the farm.

The drone sprayed herbicide, then returned to scatter native seed in August final yr and had since been again for some upkeep spray work.

It was too early to attract conclusions from the trial, however the seed had struck and appeared these vegetation might be extra drought resistant.

“I feel it has some benefit”.

Her kids Charleigh (11) and Ryan (8) supported the mission by serving to within the nursery and planting out.

One factor she had discovered on her journey was the more durable you labored, the higher the outcomes. In lower than three years, the nursery had developed to with the ability to produce as much as 4000 vegetation yearly to progress the mission.