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Land Units

Under the new Freshwater Farm Plans Regulations 2023, a farm operator must identify, map and describe Land Units (LU) on the farm, in order to identify risks of adverse effects of farming activities on freshwater or freshwater ecosystems. The farm operator must also assess for each LU, its inherent vulnerabilities and the risks from farming activities being carried out.

The Regulations define LAND UNITS as ‘an area of contiguous or non-contiguous land with similar biophysical features’.

Land Units can be defined by identifying the geology, soil type and landscape features of the property and overlaying this with the farm management practices for the different areas within the farm.

Identifying the LU on the farm, can simplify the process of identifying risks to the environment and how those risks can be addressed with mitigation strategies.  For example, when designing a Freshwater Farm Plan, areas of the farm which have flat topography and are poorly drained, may be prone to animal pugging damage, increasing the risk of sediment, nutrient, and pathogen loss via surface runoff. Identification of areas like this can then help you target specific management strategies to minimise risk to freshwater, for example drainage, set backs from waterways and/or riparian planting.

Understanding differences in the way certain areas of the property respond to nutrient management and different management practices is not only another important tool to achieve production goals but a way of recognising and understanding the environmental risks associated with nutrient and land management activities. The risks associated with different management practices may vary on different parts of the property, so it is practical to consider each of these areas separately.

Some things to consider when classifying different Land Units:  

  • Physical factors: soil type, slope, aspect
  • Management factors: dryland vs irrigated areas, arable or horticultural crops, dairy effluent discharge areas
  • Areas of riparian planting
  • Erosion management areas
  • Areas prone to flooding
  • Wetlands
  • Pugging management areas
  • Weed or pest control areas
  • Areas with certain type of soils (e.g: fragile soils)
  • Size: Areas big enough to be managed as a ‘unit’
  • Areas at different stage of development (e.g: forestry)

When mapping your Land Units it is a good practice to mark the area in different colours and name it with the most representative feature. Note also any significant environmental features within each Unit – e.g. waterways, wetlands, native bush or areas subject to frequent flooding, potential nutrient ‘hot spots’ sites such as silage pits, offal pits, feedpads, effluent ponds, fertiliser storage areas, stock yards, etc.

Identifying your LU’s and the inherent vulnerabilities associated with these is a good way to get started with your Freshwater Farm plan.

Map showing Land units

 Natalia Zefferino