A flood in November last year would eventually break the drought covering much of Australia’s agricultural land, but unfortunately thousands of native trees along the Namoi River, planted as part of The Biodiversity Project, were not established enough to survive.
At the Kahl family’s cotton farm in Wee Waa New South Wales it's estimated about 80 per cent of the new trees planted were lost.
But like most Australian farmers, the Kahl’s, along with project partners Country Road and Landcare Australia, are committed to replanting and ensuring the future of the Namoi River is well timbered and protected.
About 16 months prior Country Road and Landcare Australia partnered with Australian cotton farmers to enhance biodiversity in the Namoi Valley.
About 3300 trees were planted across 13 hectares on the Kahl’s farm during phase one of the project.
“Some of the more mature trees held on, but we will have to replace a lot of those that didn’t make it,” Daniel Kahl, the farm’s business manager said.
“But we’ve got Country Road and Landcare committed to coming back and redoing the work so we can see the project through, and we are extremely grateful for that.”
Country Road’s Brand Sustainability Manager Fabia Pryor said the Biodiversity Project was a key component of the brand’s 2025+ sustainability strategy that aimed to foster positive environmental outcomes, ethical sourcing and diversity and inclusion.
“The partnership aims to protect soil health, provide natural habitats for local species and improve water quality across river systems. This includes replanting local tree, shrub and grass species, fencing off riverbanks from cattle to avoid erosion and installing alternative cattle watering points,” Fabia said.
“The plants we use are native to the area and, when old enough, can survive water inundation. We hope that with the new round of revegetation, plants are established enough to survive the next floods.”
Daniel, along with his brothers Sam and Matt, are part of the third generation to work within the family business, Merced Farming.
Along with their father James, they know that when biodiversity is at its peak it becomes a valuable asset to cotton farmers.
“When linking biodiversity outcomes to farming outcomes, we’re seeing an increase in beneficial insects, small birds and even microbats close to our cropping areas,” Daniel said.
“These are impactful tools in managing pests and reducing our pesticide use.
“We’ve grown our last two crops without any insecticides, and we’ve put that down to maintaining good beneficial insect numbers, plus positive cropping conditions. So, it is apparent those direct links between improving biodiversity and achieving better outcomes in our cropping programs exist.
Almost 5000 trees have been planted at two cotton farms along the Namoi River so far, with additional farms participating in the project to be announced later this year.
“Biodiversity loss and climate change are arguably the two key environmental issues facing our world today. There’s a clear path for businesses to reduce their carbon impact, but with biodiversity it’s not been as clear,” Fabia said.
“This project paves a way for a new era of farmer, NGO and brand collaboration, working together to drive positive biodiversity outcomes in Australia’s cotton growing regions and leave a positive biodiversity legacy for generations to come.”
The replant at the Kahl’s farm is scheduled for early 2023.
“My brother and I both have children, and the river has always been a favourite camping spot of ours,” Daniel said.
“We have fond memories at the river, and hopefully when our kids are enjoying the same space in the years to come, they will be coming through an area that’s well timbered with good populations of native species.
“They can enjoy lots of the really iconic parts about living in the Australian country – like birds, wallabies, wildlife – and can consider the river a special part of their home.”
You can get behind the Country Road Biodiversity Project by shopping Verified Australian Cotton Heritage Sweats here.