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Dung beetles dig in to rejuvenate Queensland grazier's drought-ravaged land

By Maddelin McCosker, Monday April 19, 2021 - 21:48 EST
ABC image
Dung beetles burrow into manure and help aerate and fertilise the soil. - ABC

After introducing thousands of dung beetles to her property, a Queensland grazier is seeing incredible results.

Adma Sargood introduced the beetles, originally from Africa, to her property between Charleville and Morven in November.

When the beetles burrow into the cow dung on the land, they also dig down into the soil and bury the dung, which helps aerate and fertilise the soil.

Good rain and busy beetles have seen the paddocks in the drought-affected South West region start to thrive.

"They just went crazy," Ms Sargood said.

"Literally overnight we could see them getting about ? burrowing through the dung.

"In a very short time we have noticed an incredible improvement in the soil."

'Heavy lifters'

Ms Sargood said the difference between the areas where the beetles were introduced and where they were not was stark.

"The cow pats in those areas just remained whole," she said.

"They dried as big blocks and just did nothing for the soil."

Dung beetle distributor and former CSIRO scientist John Feehan said the beetles were a staple of pasture regeneration.

"They're just ? little God-given gifts," Mr Feehan said.

"A heavy lifter is almost an understatement for what they can do."

Mr Feehan said while dung beetles were on the land, importing fertiliser was totally unnecessary and that approximately half a million tonnes of cow dung was produced every day in non-drought periods.

"We have half a million tonnes of one of nature's very best products already on the farms and in the paddocks," he said.

"Without dung beetles, it sits on top of the ground.

"It rejuvenates [an area] roughly the size of a bicycle wheel every time dung beetles bury dung well."

Bringing land back to its best

Because the beetles were only introduced to a small part of Ms Sargood's 90,000-acre property, she said it would likely be years before their full impact was known.

But she said the early results led her to believe it could be a great success.

"There is a lot of grass growing where the dung has been buried," Ms Sargood said.

"We've actually noticed grasses coming through and we don't know what they are ? they're obviously native grasses that we've never seen in these paddocks.

"If it works ? I think it will probably bring this country back to the way it was supposed to be a long time ago."


© ABC 2021

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