Cotton growers' corridor planting contributes to natural pest control (16 Aug 2017)

In 2001, in partnership with Greening Australia and the Australian Government's Envirofund, cotton growers Geoff and Ally O'Neill planted eight hectares of native trees and shrubs on their cotton property “Lllano” near Bald Hill. 

“We wanted to increase the biodiversity on our farm as well as provide a windbreak,” Geoff said. “Fifteen years later we definitely see more birds and lizards and feel the corridors are contributing to natural pest control.”

Before planting the corridors, Geoff fallowed the area for 18 months.

“We approached the plantings in a similar manner to how we plant our dryland crops - planting on a full profile of soil moisture and controlling our weeds.

"We undertook no follow-up watering, however without good ground preparation we would not have had such a high survival rate, especially during the dry years in the early 2000s.”

The success of their 2001 plantings encouraged Geoff and Ali to undertake other corridor plantings on their farm in mid 2000, this time in partnership with the Border Rivers Gwydir Catchment Management Authority. 

“We worked with local native vegetation experts to ensure we selected the right species for our soils and climate,” Geoff said. 

“The next step would be to work with our neighbors to see how we can better connect to other vegetation in our local landscape. We would also like to do a study of what fauna is utilising our corridors.”

Soils: Sodic grey clays
Rainfall: average 600ml
Vegetation planted: (Note: high survival on all species planted)

  • Saltbush (Atriplex nummularia)
  • Needle wood
  • Myall (Acacia papyrocarpa)
  • Cooolibah (E. Coolibah)
  • Belah (Casurina cristata)
  • Bimbal box (E. populnea)
  • Grey box (E. microcarpa)
  • Tea tree 
  • River red gum (E. camaldulensis)
  • Beefwood (Grevillea striata)
  • Black wattle (Acacia stenophylla)
  • Cooba (Acacia salicina)

Top tips for corridor plantings:

  • Ground preparation is critical, long fallow and control weeds!
  • The wider the better due to edge effect on biodiversity (at least 50m)
  • Include shrubs and trees to maximize habitat value
  • Flowering shrubs such as salt bushes will attract more bennefcial insects
  • Include gum species eg. River Red Gums, as they will form hollows and coarse woody debris more readily then other eucalyptus species like Box trees.
  • If planting for spray drift management refer to the CottonInfo fact sheet Using vegetative barriers to minimise spray drift on cotton farms as design and species selection is very different to that of a biodiversity planting.