Semi-arid and arid rangelands that comprise of native grasslands, shrublands, woodlands and the tropical savannah woodlands cover over 75% of the Australian land mass where low rainfall and a highly variable climate are major influences on sustainable land use.
“Reduced productivity of the rangelands is a major concern for pastoralists as financial viability of pastoral businesses largely depends on the biological sustainability of our rangelands. A reduction in productivity may result from overstocking, high grazing pressure and inappropriate fire, water and soil management practises.” (http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/australias-rangelands)
It is estimated that approximately 8% of the Australian rangelands (500,000 km2) is severely degraded (http://www.mssanz.org.au/MODSIM95/Vol%202/Ludwig.pdf). Land managers are seeking new ways of working their land for improved productivity and mitigation against the losses from droughts, floods and fire.
Over the last decade research has been undertaken into naturally occurring soil biological communities (SBC) with the view to improve pasture protein levels (through biofertilisation) and increasing agricultural land productivity.
Inoculation and enhancement of indigenous microbial communities is a smart move in regions where the use of fertilisers is costly or prohibitive due to large scale operations. SBCs are resilient with the capacity to withstand drought and re-establish following disturbance.
SBCs have been shown to accelerate mine site rehabilitation in their role as “ecosystem engineers”. SBCs modify the soil structure and facilitate seedling emergence, reduce erosion (dust control), increase water retention and, increase nutrient inputs (biofertilisation).