Small Talk Winter 2018

In this issue

No ordinary farm visit – a gourmet mushroom farm

Women thriving together – inaugural conference for women in agriculture and agribusiness

Dung beetles and cockchafers – what's the difference

Save the date – 2018 National Landcare Conference and Awards

Updated publicationsRural Living Handbook and Best practice land management guidelines for small grazing properties

Events – Find out what landholder events are planned for this winter

Handy hint – SoilMapp

Things to do in winter – Get your property ready for the winter season

No ordinary farm visit

Jeff Edwards, Sustainable Agriculture Officer, Fleurieu and Willunga Basin, Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges

Primordia mushrooms - Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor with bags of Pink Oyster mushrooms. Photo: Jeff Edwards

As a Sustainable Agriculture Officer for Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges (NR AMLR) I am one of the lucky ones. Often I have the privilege to go onto farms across the region and help landholders identify and plan environmental projects that support good economic outcomes.

But my latest farm visit was no ordinary visit – there were no gates to shut behind me, no rubber boots to slap on, no over friendly kelpie greeting me along the dirt track. In fact there wasn’t even a dirt track!

I knock on the door of this brown brick suburban house in the centre of Aberfoyle Park, and am greeted by the smiling face of gourmet mushroom farmer Michael Taylor of Primordia Mushrooms.

Young Farmers Scholarship recipient

Michael, a scientist, and now a local modern farmer, was the 2017 recipient of the Willunga Farmers Market, Young Farmers Scholarship.

The $15,000 scholarship is a partnership between Willunga Farmers Market, and AMLR Natural Resources Management Board. The scholarship is allowing Michael to set up his gourmet mushroom growing farm. It also helps to develop this fledgling business to sell and market his product every Saturday morning through the Willunga Farmers Market right here in South Australia.

As Michael invites me in for a look over his farming operation, I am instantly won over by his enthusiasm and passion for his work.

You see, Michael is no ordinary farmer, in fact he is no ordinary mushroom farmer.

Michael has been growing gourmet and medicinal mushrooms for consumption and research projects since 2010, backed by honours in biotechnology and a PhD in environmental health and microbiology. Working in both a research and consultancy capacity has given him extensive experience in food safety, quality control and good laboratory practice.

Before we head to the shed, Michael explains that South Australia currently imports almost all of its gourmet mushrooms, leaving both consumers and chefs unable to source locally grown speciality mushrooms.

Currently Primordia Mushrooms grows a mixture of Shiitake, Blue Oyster and King Oyster mushrooms and takes them to market each week.

However, Michael says that some mushrooms are even too delicate to be shipped.

Shimegi and Lions Mane mushrooms. Photo credits: Jeff Edwards

Shimegi and Lion's Mane mushrooms. Photo: Jeff Edwards

New and exciting mushrooms

"I’m now looking at growing mushrooms never seen in Australia, including one called Lion’s Mane", he says.

"That’s not only exciting for me, but even more exciting for gourmet chefs who are just itching to get their hands on some of these unique and colourful products."

Michael says that growing locally can also protect global fungal resources through sustainable cultivation practice that reduces a reliance on wild harvesting of mushrooms.

We make our way through the kitchen to the modified garage area – more affectionately known as ‘the farm’ – and enter a well-engineered set of temperature and climate controlled rooms, housing an array of colourful and interesting mushrooms at various stages of their development.

In layman’s terms – aka easy for me to understand – Michael explains that the fungi colonise the growing medium and grow for a few weeks in one main room set to mimic spring/summer conditions, and are then transferred into the second room to fruit in cold and wet winter conditions.

With a scientific mind-set and an environmental ethos, Michael finds himself constantly trialling and learning new techniques to improve the quality and quantity of his specialised gourmet products.

Primordia mushrooms - Michael Taylor in the lab

Michael Taylor with the mushroom ‘starter kit’. Photo: Jeff Edwards

In producing the high quality, flavourful mushrooms Michael aims to incorporate ‘as many reclaimed and recycled materials as possible in order to provide a sustainably grown, delicious and exciting product while raising awareness about fungi in the Australian landscape’.

The Young Farmer Scholarship certainly helped to make things happen, but Michael attributes much of the success and creative thinking to his father and fiancée Tara for helping the farm get off the ground.

Looking to grow

Michael and his family are now looking at using improved techniques and efficiencies in the farming operation to upscale and innovate, and thus reduce some of the day-to-day, hands on, time-consuming work.

In the last few months, Michael has demonstrated his ability to provide a regular, high quality, sustainably grown, gourmet product. It boosts South Australia’s reputation as a premium food destination, and has a lower carbon footprint by being produced locally.

Every Saturday morning you can find Michael and Tara selling their mushrooms at Willunga Farmers Market. But be sure to get there early, they sell out fast each week!

For more ways to buy local produce or meet the farmer, get along to your local farmers market. You never know who you might meet, and what inspiring produce and recipes you can find.

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Women thriving together

Thriving Women Conference 2018  

Sarah Stevens, Sheree Bowman, Carla Wiese-Smith at the conference. Photo: Lucy Hyde

Empowering women in agriculture and agri-business

An inaugural conference for empowering and connecting women across the country in agriculture and agri-business has been a sold-out success.

The team behind Women Together Learning designed and delivered ‘Thriving Women’ – a two day conference in Hahndorf with guest speakers across all areas of the industry. Topics included mental wellbeing, local marketing, agricultural finance, farm succession planning, investment models, media, resilience, bushfire preparedness and communication.

The conference was supported by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

The board also invited three local women to attend the conference following an application process. Sheree Bowman, a local consultant, Carla Wiese-Smith, a regional journalist, and Megan Sherry of Harvest the Fleurieu all attended the full conference.

Thriving Women Conference 2018. Photo credit: N Sommerville

May Campbell, Lucy Hyde, Caroline Dorr, Issy Campbell at the conference. Photo: N Sommerville

The Board, again through the National Landcare Program, also funded the attendance of Issy and May Campbell. Issy is a custodian for the Peramangk and Nganguraku nations, where Hahndorf is located. Issy and May gave a Welcome to Country presentation at the beginning of the conference, and attended sessions across the two days and the dinner.

The event was extremely well-received, with all 200 attendees making the most of a huge opportunity to connect, share ideas and stories, and be inspired by each other’s challenges and successes in the agricultural industry.

Read more about the conference online.

Sheree Bowman, Principal Consultant TS Environmental Consulting

The Thriving Women’s Conference was a fantastic opportunity to meet new people in the rural agriculture sector and hear some awe-inspiring stories of women as leaders in a male dominated industry. One of my favourite speakers was Sandra Ireson (2017 NSW AgriFutures Australia Rural Women’s Award Winner), who told her story about starting up Hay Inc Rural Education Program in response to the increasing number of young people leaving the agriculture sector.

Sandra recognised a need in her small rural community and developed an educational pathway that provides hands-on training, mentoring and networking for young people starting out in primary industries. Her talk encouraged me to think of the wealth of opportunity that exist in the business world and the Landcare movement. A take home message for me from the conference was from Hannah Wandel, CEO of Country to Canberra: ‘If you’re not willing to fail greatly then you’re not willing to succeed greatly.’

Carla Wiese-Smith, rural journalist

As a rural journalist for the past decade, I've had the opportunity to take part in some exciting conferences and events, but the Thriving Women conference was something different altogether.

The speakers I enjoyed most (they were all great, so I'm cherry picking here!) were Hannah Wandel, Sandra Ireson and Kate Carnell. Hannah's opening keynote was an inspiring start to the conference, and I can't wait to hear more about Project Empower. Sandra's keynote took us on her own personal and professional journey. Her passion for not only her local community but wider industry was particularly evident and inspiring. Kate provided some sound practical advice and education on some basic small business principles which are key to success. She made what could be a dry topic very interesting!

Overall, Thriving Women proved to be a fantastic networking and learning opportunity. I hope to be able to continue to share my learnings with my local community. I am incredibly grateful to Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges for providing me with the chance to take part, and I cannot wait for the next one!

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Dung beetles and cockchafers - what's the difference?

Bernard Doube and Loene Doube, Dung Beetle Solutions

Cockchafers - curl grubs

Cockchafer larvae

Many pastoral grazing systems contain dung beetles and cockchafers - both scarab beetles. They can be hard to distinguish in both larval and adult form, but their effects are quite different.

Dung beetles provide enormous benefits to pasture systems. Some cockchafers are pests whose larvae (curl grubs) eat pasture roots or foliage and other organic matter. Adult cockchafers don’t do any damage.

Australia has nearly 500 dung beetle species and more than 1,400 recognised species of cockchafer. Two species of native cockchafer are serious pests of improved and semi-improved pastures in southern Australia: the red-headed and the black-headed cockchafer. In South Australia, the redheaded cockchafer is restricted to the lower South-East; the black-headed cockchafer is widespread in agricultural regions.

Adult dung beetles can be 3–40 millimetres long; cockchafer adults 2–25 millimetres long. So it’s not easy to distinguish them by their length.

Most dung beetles and all cockchafers lay eggs under the soil surface. They hatch into larvae which feed on organic matter (plant roots and dung respectively) and grow through three larval stages (instars) before turning into pupae which later become adult beetles.

Third instar larvae for both dung beetles and cockchafer beetles can be relatively long lived (up to several years for some dung beetles). So it is that larval stage that most of us see in pasture soils.

Adult dung beetles bury dung underground in tunnels or in a series of clumps adjacent to the main tunnel. They lay eggs in small cavities in this dung (the dung plus an immature beetle is called a brood). One large dung pad contains enough dung for up to 50 large-beetle larvae. Cockchafers lay their eggs in the soil close to the surface, where they hatch into larvae (curl grubs) which feed on pasture roots and other organic matter.

Most larvae discovered when digging in pasture are cockchafer curl grubs, because they are active in or on top of the soil. Dung beetle larvae are tucked away in their brood balls or masses and feed only on the organic matter in the brood ball.

The two South Australian cockchafer pasture pests have different activity patterns. Black-headed cockchafer grubs live in underground tunnels and come to the surface at night to feed on pasture foliage. Red-headed cockchafer grubs remain below the surface at all times and feed on roots and other organic material in the top 10 centimetres of soil.

The third-instar larvae cause the most damage to pasture when they feed during autumn and winter. When many are present, the pasture root system can be cut about 25 millimetres below the soil surface and the pasture rolled up like a carpet.

Substantial pasture losses begin at about 70 larvae per square metre in autumn, but population numbers have been known to reach over 1000 per square metre – pasture destroyed.

The larvae of dung beetles and cockchafers are often discovered when the soil is cultivated or dug up (e.g. for post holes or excavating for dung beetles). How do we know which are dung beetle larvae and which are curl grubs?

Dung beetles - life cycle, larvae, protective capsule

Top: Dung burial strategies of dung beetles. Left: Dung beetle larvae. Right: A dung beetle larva in its protective capsule

Distinguishing features

Dung beetle larvae

  • Have a pronounced hump
  • Have easily ruptured fragile skin
  • Have poorly developed legs
  • Third instar larvae inside a protective capsule produced by excreting part of its gut content
  • Found at varying soil depths, e.g. summer active beetles Onthophagus taurus and Euoniticellus fulvus commonly bury broods at 5–15 centimetres; winter-active Bubas bison bury broods at 40–60 centimetres       
  • Found in association with buried dung with distribution across a paddock determined by the distribution of dung; buried dung pads commonly occupy 5–10% of a paddock surface

Cockchafer larvae

  • Have tough skin resistant to rupture
  • Have strongly developed legs
  • Third instar larvae free-living in or on soil
  • Remain largely on top of or in the first 10 centimetres of soil, with greatest concentration of root and organic material
  • Free-living and found over a wide paddock area through the surface soil; can have a highly clumped distribution, e.g. black-headed cockchafers prefer to lay eggs on patches of bare soil

Natural enemies of cockchafers include birds, parasitic wasps and some flies. Procedures for biological control have been developed using pathogenic fungi (Metarhizium anisoplaie and Cordyceps gunni) and a nematode (Heterorhabitis zealandica, for the red-headed cockchafer). The surface-feeding black-headed cockchafer can be chemically controlled by spraying the soil surface with insecticidal chemicals or applying poisoned baits to damaged pasture patches. There are no known effective chemical treatments for the ground-dwelling red-headed cockchafer.

These cockchafer-control chemicals have not been tested on dung beetles or dung beetle larvae, but their deep soil location is likely to protect them from the chemical and biological control measures directed at pasture cockchafers.

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Save the date - 2018 National Landcare Conference and Awards

2018 National Landcare Conference and Awards

The 2018 National Landcare Conference and Awards in Brisbane, 10–12 October, offers three days of knowledge sharing, insightful discussion, and informative presentations by pioneers, leaders of natural resources management bodies, scientists, academics, government, and environmental, climate and biodiversity experts.

The biennial National Landcare Awards, on 11 October, acknowledge and celebrate local Landcare achievements at a national level.

Held since Landcare’s inception, the State and Territory, and National Landcare Awards ceremonies showcase the achievements and history of Landcare and Coastcare. They recognise the invaluable contribution of volunteers to both the initiatives, and showcase the projects and partnerships around Australia.

This year, 65 finalists from across Australia will feature in nine diverse categories. Also presented is the Bob Hawke Landcare Award, which celebrates an individual who champions the Landcare ethic and inspires others to take action on their own property or through a Landcare group.

Subscribe to receive the latest updates about the event. You can also find out more about the award categories.

The event is delivered by Landcare Australia through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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Updated publications available

Updated publications - winter 2018

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges (AMLR) has reviewed and updated several of its key land manager support publications.

The Rural living handbook is designed to support potential and new land managers to the AMLR region in identifying some of the unique and significant issues they will face. The handbook gives advice on matters such as zoning and regulatory considerations, waste and resource management, and property development.

Best practice land management guidelines for small grazing properties contains information and resources on key aspects of managing a small grazing property. The technical information in the guidelines encourages landholders to implement sustainable, improved grazing practices.

Both publications are available through your local Natural Resources Centre.

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Landholder events are supported by funding from your NRM levy and the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

Sign up for our monthly landholder events calendar for a list of upcoming field days, workshops and courses run by Natural Resources, community groups and industry groups by emailing

See all events coming up.

If you would like Natural Resources staff to run a specific event for your organisation, please contact us at one of our offices.

Viticulture workshop at Marananga

Field day

Transition to soil health
16 June, Charleston
Contact: Will Hanaford, 8336 0901


National Landcare Conference and Awards
10-12 October, Brisbane

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Handy hint - SoilMapp

CSIRO soilmapp for iPad

SoilMapp is designed to make soil information more accessible to help Australian farmers, consultants, planners, natural resource managers, researchers and people interested in soil.

The free app taps into the best available soil information from Australia’s national soil databases and enables you to:

  • learn about the likely soil types on your property
  • view maps, photographs, satellite images, tables and graphs of data about nearby soils
  • uncover your soil’s physical and chemical characteristics, including acidity (pH), soil carbon, available water storage, salinity and erodibility
  • access the app anywhere there is wireless or internet connection to your iPad

SoilMapp is a joint project of the Australian Collaborative Land Evaluation Program and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

It is currently compatible only with Apple iPad, version iOS 7.0 or later. To download SoilMapp for iPad, visit the App Store.

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Things to do - winter

  • Develop or revise your bushfire survival plan. Use the off-season for tasks such as installing gutter-guards and sprinklers.
  • Observe and monitor waterlogged and erosion-prone areas. Use temporary fencing where necessary to keep livestock out of waterlogged areas. They damage the soil and soil cover, and can develop health problems such as botulism, footrot, foot abscesses or greasy heel.
  • Watch for insect attack in newly sown pastures, particularly from Red-legged Earth Mite and Lucerne Flea.
  • Check your dam spillway is operating effectively.
  • Complete broadleaf spraying as early as possible. Cape Tulip in particular can quickly dominate pastures and is toxic to livestock.
  • Plan paddock management in advance. Determine which areas to cut for hay, graze, slash or spray to set back annual weeds in early spring.
  • Control weeds in areas of native vegetation.
  • Ensure livestock vaccinations are up to date, and worm test sheep and calves.

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Related links