Fertiliser Is A Key Factor In Biodiversity Management

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1st October 2008, 01:32am - Views: 966

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Land & Water Australia 


1st October 2008

Fertiliser is a key factor in

biodiversity management


Although fertilisers have boosted the production of improved pasture species this has

been at the expense of drought tolerant perennial native plants. 

According to researcher Sue McIntyre, the environmental cost of fertiliser use is

expressed as a decline in the diversity of native pasture species and the loss of

native grasses.  

She will be a speaker at the Veg Futures Conference in Toowoomba this month. 

Veg Futures is a about practical aspects of vegetation management in production

landscapes presented by Greening Australia and Land & Water Australia.

It is not suggested that farmers, particularly grain producers, ignore the advantages

of fertilisers but being aware of the effects could influence their management,

particularly where the advantages of drought-tolerant native plants are valued. 

“For a long time we have blamed livestock grazing for having impacts on biodiversity

and ignored the effects of fertiliser use” Dr McIntyre said. 

“While it is true that overgrazing can have serious impacts on the soil and reduce

habitat quality for plants, birds and animals, the effects of fertiliser use are far more


"Because many Australian native plants and animals are adapted to drought and low

fertility soils, they fail miserably to persist when superphosphate and exotic legumes

are added.

"Fertiliser inputs mean that grazing pressure needs to be increased to gain returns. 

Pastures tend to lapse towards annual dominance under these conditions and

erosion risks increase. Eucalypts stop regenerating as the seedlings are either

grazed out, or out-competed by fast growing exotic pasture, so tree decline and

habitat loss become part of the picture as well.

"Reducing or stopping fertiliser use enables drought tolerant native grasses to

persist.  Peaks of production may be lower, but ground cover is better and growth

response to rainfall in summer gives useful production benefits.”

The Veg Futures 08 Conference will be held in Toowoomba from October 20 to 23 at the

Empire Theatre (media contact is Samantha Morris on 0421 709 519). It will address carbon

markets, revegetation, the role of native vegetation in agriculture, and other issues. Further

information can be obtained from Kirsti Sampson of Greening Australia  Ph (02)6202 1600, or

Sue McIntyre can be contacted at CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems on (02) 6242 1604.

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