When a group of Cowra and Canowindra farmers attended a recent talk by 2005 Conservation Farmer of the Year, Colin Seis, they were told; ”Watch and learn from Costa. How we garden is how we should farm,” he said.
Seis is famous for developing the Pasture Cropping system.
“Pasture Cropping is also companion cropping,” like the companion planting in Costa’s veggie patch.
For example, a nitrogen fixing plant is placed next to a plant that uses up nitrogen or a flowering plant will attract insect predators that protect the plant next to it.
“Pasture cropping is perennial cover cropping. It brings more profit, restores grassland, produces stock feed and grain, improves soil and costs less over time,” he said.
“Australia’s grassland has declined in species diversity and livestock carrying capacity over the last 150 years. But what has caused this destruction?” he asked.
“All the tempting stuff has been selectively grazed out, leaving the poorer grasses to dominate.
“But we don’t need less animals. Animals aren’t detrimental at all if managed well.
“Use animals to mulch and manure. After that, plant recovery is key. Annuals will look after themselves. Its perennials you have to manage,” he said.
Seis developed his award winning approach to farming after losing everything to a major fire in 1979. “I had no money. I was broke. That made me interested in low-input agriculture.
“I stopped using fertilizer for a while and focused on full ground cover. Only the gardening people were talking about litter cover back then.
“Our original grassland had 200 species and that’s what we need to aim for again.
“Pastures need to function like grasslands with as many diverse plant, bird and insect species as possible.
“Plants build soil. Plants drive nutrient. Diversity creates resilience and improves health and structure and profit.”
On his own property, Seis combines pasture cropping with holistic planned grazing. He focuses on restoring grassland. He runs two mobs of sheep over 75 paddocks with a three to four month recovery period in each paddock.
Seis is a fourth-generation farmer and believes his forefathers made several mistakes. “Monoculture has been an ecological disaster, he said. “I do not believe (my forefathers) should have adopted a European style of agriculture.
“Within the first 60 years of farming, grasslands had declined. By the 1960s too much timber had been ringbarked, gullies had formed and effective insecticides like DDT were destroying the ecology. Weeds, acidity, salinity and lack of soil structure had become new problems. Not listening to the Aboriginal people who worked harmoniously with our ecology, was a big, arrogant mistake,” he said.
Colin Seis was invited to speak to farmers by Scottie Hickman from Mid-Lachlan Landcare’s Growing the Grazing Revolution Program.
In 2007 Colin Seis won the NSW Carbon Farmer of the Year Award.