Regenerative agriculture - Case studies from Western Australia

Page last updated: Tuesday, 28 June 2022 - 10:18am

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has worked with farmers to document their use of regenerative agriculture practices in Western Australia. Farmer experience and the lessons learnt can help other farmers make decisions about adopting these practices.

We provide these case studies to share the experience and observations of farmers practising regenerative agriculture. We recommend that you assess these practices for your own conditions before making large investments.

Building the soil carbon sponge at Murray Wells - July 2020

Peter and Wendy Bradshaw in a summer cover crop of sunflowers
Peter and Wendy Bradshaw in a summer cover crop of sunflowers (©South Coast NRM photo supplied by Wendy Bradshaw)

Peter and Wendy Bradshaw's farm is 25 km west of Tambellup in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, with an annual rainfall of 450 mm. They produce wool, prime lambs, oats and barley. Normally, around 70% of the farm is under pasture each year.

Peter and Wendy, driven by a desire to produce healthy food and minimise harm to the natural environment, have trialled and adopted a wide range of regenerative farming practices. Many of these practices are established ‘good farming’ practices used throughout the Great Southern.

Practices used on the farm to protect soil biological function and farm profitability include:

  • perennial pastures
  • multi-species cover crops
  • min-till seeding operation using disc openers
  • minimising the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers
  • managing pastures to maximise ground cover
  • biodiverse shelterbelts
  • protecting and buffering creek-lines.

Peter and Wendy have a strong focus on the relationship between soil health and plant nutrition. They test their soil regularly and design their nutritional inputs to overcome key limitations to productivity – allowing the soil biology to do the heavy lifting. They supplement nutritional inputs with humic/fulvic acid, compost extract, liquid fish and other bio-stimulants, to maintain and enhance a diverse and thriving soil microbiome.

‘Our lifestyle and wellbeing has dramatically improved as a result of practicing regenerative agriculture, an approach to farming that aligns with our value framework. Economically it has been challenging, with many ups and downs. It is important to immerse yourself and be constantly questioning whether you are addressing the key limitations to making the system work. It is not easy – but it is exciting! It is a constant journey of discovery involving collaboration with others for mutual learning’.

Rehydrating the landscape at Yanget, Geraldton - March 2022

Rod and Bridie O’Bree’s farm is 25 kms east of Geraldton in the Northern Agricultural region of Western Australia. They run a 150 head beef cattle herd, fatten 500–700 lambs annually and have a 40–60 head horse stud on the farm. The long-term rainfall average is 486 mm, although that has dropped to 354 mm over the last 30 years.

Rod and Bridie purchased the farm early in 2008 after one of the worst droughts in the area. There was little to no vegetation, brown or green, across the farm, and all of the water from a 25 mm rainfall ran off the farm through the creek lines taking valuable soil with it. The O’Brees felt they could do better and set about learning and trialling how to manage the farm sustainably.

The O’Brees aimed to hold as much water on the farm as possible using the broad natural sequence farming approach. This included earthworks to hold water up and then spread it out across paddocks. They established perennial pastures to use the water and allowing a wide diversity of annual plants to establish in the paddocks.

Water now moves slowly through the farm with little or no water leaving the property in creek lines. Groundcover has increased and erosion has significantly reduced. Pastures are much more diverse now, and this keeps stock healthy and happy. Creeklines have regenerated naturally with native species. Grazing capacity has increased.

To read more about what they have done download Rehydrating the landscape at Yanget, Geraldton, Western Australia.

Managing dryland salinity - case studies

Some of the practices used to manage salinity in Western Australia are regenerative in nature. Practices such as the use of perennial pastures, fodder shrubs such as saltbush and grazing with livestock can contribute to overall soil health and improve production on saline areas. DPIRD and other organisations have documented a number of case studies of salinity management. These case studies may be useful to farmers considering options to use saline land on their farms.

Contact information

Jamie Bowyer
+61 (0)8 9368 3135