The pride of Jacup

21 Aug, 2002 10:00 PM
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Geoff Bee wins top Landcare Award

WA farmer Geoff Bee, Jacup, has won the prestigious National Landcare Award.

Mr Bee received the award from Prime Minister John Howard at a special ceremony in Parliament House, Canberra.

Mr Bee won the Rural Press (Farm weekly's parent company) Primary Producer Award in recognition of his enormous dedication to landcare over 30 years.

The victory for Mr Bee recognises his mammoth work in a difficult environment affected by salinity, erosion and land degradation.

Mr Bee has been a farmer at Jacup since 1966 and farms 3900 hectares of land over two properties.

Mr was a pioneer of property management planning, water table monitoring and the establishment of Lucerne as a staple crop.

Landcare chief executive Brian Scarsbrick says Geoff Bee is a wonderful winner - this is a man with landcare running through his veins".

He has been a tireless worker for the Jerramungup community.

He puts theory into practice on his properties.

He is known as a walking talking example of sustainable land management. Mr Bee is known locally as the amiable ambassador for landcare.

"Geoff has farmed in WA since 1966. He works with his wife - Dianne - and sons - James and Stuart," Mr Scarsbrick said.

"Geoff has been part of so many landcare groups and projects.

"He was a real pioneer with issues like property management planning, water table management and direct drill seeding.

"He has pioneered the use of lucerne as a crop. Geoff is helping to conquer salinity.

"He has known success and failure and he has just kept going.

"He is truly a magnificent ambassador for the landcare movement.

"Geoff has hosted numerous field days on the property."

On a number of occasions, the family has converted its sheep shed into a major conference venue for more than 100 people.

He is also highly respected in the scientific community.

Mr Bee has encouraged many neighbours with landcare techniques.

Colin Baulch, general manager of Rural Press Victoria said, "We're thrilled to sponsor the Primary Producer Award to recognise the positive contribution made to environmental management by farmers in Australia."

Rural Press supports Landcare in partnership with the Landcare Awards and also through ongoing coverage in its newspapers and Australian Landcare magazine of Landcare issues and events.

In response Geoff Bee said: "Lucerne has helped us control salinity.

"We are convinced Lucerne forms the basis of a very robust farming and land management system.

"It has many environmental benefits. It improves the structure of the soil.

"It gives you better soil fertility and it stabilises the water table.

"We have increased our lucerne pastures from a 20-hectare planting in 1970 to an area covering 800 hectares in 2000.

"Initially the pasture was nothing more than a hobby plot.

"We grew it using the summer rain and it then proved very useful as a supplement for our sheep.

"Lucerne has a deep root system that is extremely effective in lowering the water table. It helps fight salinity and increases the nutrient content of the soil. It is also an extremely useful supplement for feed for livestock.

"We have definitely seen a steady downward trend in our water table as a direct result of planting lucerne on our farm. In some paddocks the reduction has been by up to three metres.

"Lucerne is extremely important to the farm. Salt has the potential to destroy our land. By improving our production and lifting soil fertility we have not just improved our income, we have ultimately been able to continue farming this land."

"The rising water table was the main reason for our move to Lucerne. We ultimately found it also helped improve soil fertility.

"It offered big rewards. Researchers on our land have discovered that following a Lucerne phase, wheat yields are improved by up to 1t/ha and the protein levels in the wheat actually rise by 1pc.

"Lucerne is a real winner when it comes to the battle against salinity because we are able to use it over the entire farm.

"For me it's being involved that counts. We are a big team focusing on the problems of Landcare.

"I just want to contribute to better land management techniques and better agriculture. Lucerne has really been a step forward. It's robust and it has really helped. It feeds livestock. It rebuilds soil fertility which, of course, we depend on."

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