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Biological Carpeting

Biological Carpeting is a method introduced to us by Rodger Savory of Savory Grassland Management. Rodger is the son of Holistic Management founder Allan Savory and managed the African Centre for Holistic Management’s research station at Dimbangombe, Zimbabwe for six years.

At our home and training site, Rosella Waters on the Atherton Tablelands in northern Queensland, Australia, we soon realized that we lived on pretty marginal land and what would be described by Allan Savory as a ‘brittle environment’. It is essential for us to produce as much grass as possible through our growth season and cycle that carbon through a ruminant animal such as a cow to manage the landscape in line with our holistic context.

On the 6th November 2013, the day after we completed our most recent earthworks, this ‘office paddock’ (below) was left pretty bare and dusty — which is enemy #1 in this high wet-season rainfall environment. Our earthworks included the rock wall that hugs the contour of the landscape in the pictures below. The ‘swale’ that extends 50m along the edge takes overflow from a newly built pond.

After seed balling with molasses and rock dust a shotgun mix of pasture, legume and root crop seeds, we followed with a feathering of hay mulch from some old square bales we had.

Our ‘herdette’ of cattle then harrowed the seed into the soil. With little to graze on, we spot mulched with feed hay that the cattle ate, spread, stomped, manured and urinated on, after which we then covered the soil with an additional feathering of mulch.

After 4 days of this, the area was rested and we waited for the rain…, which came a week, or so later, and since then we have had approximately 450mm — 234mm of which came in two events.

A few weeks later after 160mm of rain, seeds were just starting to germinate.

On the 14th February we took this last photo (below). The mix is still growing and getting up towards knee high. There has been minimal erosive flow with the soil 100% covered. The paddock was irrigated once for 4 hours in December 2013 to save the cover crop from dying.

This 50m x 20m space will be lightly grazed with two head at 250 square metres a day towards the end of the month, followed by a recovery and another graze before the final wet-season graze, where we’ll take the pasture down to the ground with slower moves and more trampling.

Here at RegenAG® we’re always looking to trial the various techniques and methodologies we learn along the way as we conduct our educational events for farmers. We’ve been very happy with the results of this trial, which could be done on any scale — in the backyard with chickens, up to larger grazing operations seeding by air if required but perhaps not mulching if paddock size and therefore cost made that prohibitive. Either way, biological approaches utilizing animal and plant symbiotic relationships and having the animals in the right place, for the right reason, for the right amount of time, followed by the right amount of rest, seems to work well.

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