Natural capital underpins the function and performance of all farm production, supporting crops, pastures and animal shelter, ecosystem services such as pollination and pest suppression, nutrient cycling and soil health.
Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) is a not-for-profit, farmer-driven organisation based in the Wimmera Mallee in Victoria. BCG became project partners in the Landcare Smart Farm - Farm-scale Natural Capital Accounts project to help growers understand natural values and environmental metrics on their farms.
Fifteen farm businesses are involved in the project from across the Wimmera, Southern Mallee and North Central regions in Victoria. At the end of the project, each farmer involved will be given a natural capital account for their farm.
Farmer Engagement Manager Alison Frischke said the understanding natural capital on-farm is becoming increasingly important: “More and more, consumers and international markets are calling on agriculture to demonstrate sustainability credentials, resulting in market entry requiring higher levels of certification.
“I’m keen on the quote ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’. These natural capital accounts will provide our farmers with a tool to measure where their farms sit environmentally for the first time, eg. what emissions the farm is producing, what ecosystem services and biodiversity benefits are provided by the farm natural capital.”
By understanding the position of their natural values, farmers will be able to identify how management could maintain or improve some of the metrics and track changes over time. The accounts will also present something tangible—how well natural capital is supporting production or is responding to positive changes on farm—to demonstrate to buyers, banks and insurers.
“It’s exciting to be involved in developing these new natural capital accounts. Farmers are eager to understand the condition of their resources and nurture sustainable systems,” Alison finished.
BCG and participating growers are looking forward to seeing the outcomes from the 2021 spring monitoring and being involved in the next round of monitoring in autumn 2022.