Published on March 1st, 2018
Rural land: how to do the groundworkIf you’re buying rural land to operate as a farm or to support any agricultural enterprise, it’s important that you understand the climate and conditions of the land you’re buying. Some parts of Australia better support crops, whereas others are perfect for cattle and still others may be the perfect spot for the vineyard you’ve always dreamed of. Before you drive the distance to admire those sweeping acres and gorgeous views, make sure that the ground under your feet will support your dreams.
Luckily, there are a number of excellent resources that will help you do your homework.
Soil QualityThe quality of the soil under you will determine the success or failure of your new enterprise.
Soil Quality, an Australian website, is contributed to by leading soil scientists and supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. It will give you a breakdown of the biological, chemical and physical characteristics of the soil, including its clay content, nitrogen stock and pH levels.
The CSIRO has also made available a Soil and Landscape Grid which provides a nation-wide look at the soil and landscape attributes throughout the country. It includes soil depth, fertility, permeability and water storage. This forms part of the Australian Soil Resource Information System and offers maps and other information free of charge.
WaterWater comes from a number of sources. The first and most obvious is rainfall. You can find out what the annual rainfall in your chosen area is by going to the Bureau of Metereology, which will also show you the extremes and a seasonal breakdown of rainfall.
If you’re setting up somewhere where the rainfall is extremely seasonal, you’ll also need other sources of water. Groundwater is the water that lives within the cracks and pores of rocks, forming aquifers. Groundwater accounts for over 30% of our total water consumption in Australia, but not all groundwater is suitable for human or livestock consumption.
Groundwater on the property should be disclosed as part of the selling features: look for dams, bores and reservoirs and make enquiries as necessary about the quality of the water. State governments also provide information about the groundwater in that state: for example South Australia’s Water Connect and Groundwater in NSW.
TemperatureYou’ll want to know the temperature in the region you’re considering, for which you can head back to the Bureau of Meteorology here. Look at both the mean and median temperatures, including the historical extremes, so that you can plan for frost or to combat heat stress if necessary. Don’t forget to consider the overall trend, either: in some regions, temperatures have been steadily climbing which may affect how you manage your land going forward.
Weed and Pest ManagementIt’s one of the realities of rural living that many other species will want to share your idyll. The Agriculture department in your state will give you an overview of the invasive weeds and pest animal species that might be in the area along with tips on how to control or get rid of them. If you have the knowledge upfront, management is rarely onerous.
Rural properties offer a quality of life like no other. That’s why it’s worth spending some time making sure that your slice of heaven offers the right environment to support your particular dreams.