The Port Phillip & Westernport CMA, in partnership with Macedon Ranges Vignerons Association, AORA, GrapeLinks and Veolia, is undertaking a three-year trial into the financial and environmental benefits of composted mulch from urban green waste under cool climate Pinot Noir vines in high altitude vineyards of the Macedon Ranges.

Funded through the Victorian Government’s Wine Growth Fund, the project aims to assess ways of avoiding herbicide use and improving root conditions for vines.

The mulch was spread under 25 vines in September 2019, just prior to budburst (emergence of spring leaves on vines).

In February 2020, vines in the mulched rows at each of the three sites had grown past the top wire (see image below). In comparison, the vines in the control row (with uncontrolled weeds) were far less vigorous.

Samples of 100 petioles (the stalk that attaches a leaf to the plant stem) were taken for nutrient analysis from the mulched row and the control row at flowering in mid-December 2019. At the time, the results showed no significant difference in nutrient flow to leaves.

At one site, a burst dripper under one vine in the control row resulted in untypical growth and clearly demonstrated the competition for water from undervine weeds early in the season.

Aerial and soil temperature above and under mulch continue to be recorded and laboratory tested grape quality will be assessed in the next month.

Mid-season in the trial. Right row: mulch applied before budburst under 25 vines. Left row: control, no undervine management, weeds inhibiting vine growth except in one vine where a dripper had burst. Soil and aerial temperature loggers are inserted in both rows. Image courtesy of Darryl Ward.

This project is supported by the Victorian Government, Macedon Ranges Vignerons Association and AORA.

The concept is based on trials undertaken on the Mornington Peninsula between 2015 and 2018, which saw positive grape quality results from Pinot noir with recycled composted mulch under vine.

Related information

As a small conservation organisation we understand the value of providing these meaningful opportunities to students of natural resource management.

It not only give the students a real taste for working in the conservation and environmental sector, but it also provides us with many valuable insights and benefits

Recently we’ve been privileged to support two students – Jake Manning and Sophia Bagatsing – in different ways. Read below for their stories.

Work experience with Jake

In February, Jake Manning completed work experience with us as part of his Environmental Science studies at Deakin University.

Jake was tasked with updating some of our extensive spatial data, as well as undertaking environmental monitoring of shorebirds and waterbirds across our region’s internationally significant Ramsar wetlands. He also attended a number of project meetings, where saw first-hand how different agencies and conservation groups come together to plan and implement biodiversity action.

Being a small organisation, we at the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA don’t often get the opportunity to host students,

Jake’s thoughts? “Work placement at PPWCMA has been incredible, I couldn’t have felt more welcome by all the staff which made the entire experience that much more enjoyable. While here, I have been able to monitor threatened and endangered birds, build on my mapping skills, as well as witness the future proofing of our public lands. The past three weeks has been an incredible insight into the hard work that goes into environmental project management every day and I cannot thank them enough for it.”

A big thanks to Jake, our Environmental Projects Coordinator Andrew Morrison for hosting Jake, and to all of our partners for making him feel welcome.

Mentoring with Sophia

As part of the Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network’s Women in Conservation Mentoring Program, Agricultural Science student, Sophia Bagatsing, was paired with the PPWCMA’s Regional Agriculture Facilitator, Karen Thomas.

The purpose of the program is to provide professional development opportunities to the mentors and mentees through leadership strengthening and sharing mentor wisdom with the next generation of leaders in natural resource management.

Each month , Sophia and Karen have a Skype catch up and work through the program’s topics including goals, aspirations, elevator speeches and volunteering opportunities in the conservation and agricultural food systems sector. Below Sophia shares her story.

“I started out like many millennials, struggling to figure out what I wanted in life. Having completed a business degree, there was pressure to simply conform and work for one of the top 100 companies’. For a while, I dabbled in market research, events management, fundraising, and retail and sales, but I was hungry for a career that helped make the world a better place.

“When I worked in hospitality, I found myself on a food journey – I started behind the counter serving sandwiches and coffee; then in the kitchen as the chef of my own rice-bowl business; then I ended up in a farm learning about how food is grown.

“As I went further up the supply chain, I started to look at food differently. I learned about closed loop and zero waste systems, and I was so fascinated by organic farms that I started planting my own vegetables. As I enjoyed eating my freshly harvested lettuce and tomatoes, I began to consider that maybe a city-girl like me has what it takes to work the land.

“After visiting my grandmother’s hometown, I realized that I am the product of four generations of farmers. My paternal and maternal grandparents all hail from small rice farming villages in the Philippines. Maybe becoming a farmer is in my genes?

“Since then, I have wanted to fight global warming by creating and supporting sustainable food systems. Moving to Melbourne has allowed me to volunteer with The Werribee Heritage Orchard, Transition Australia, UN Youth, and Landcare Victoria.

“I’ve met so many great folks who love the land as much as I do, and they’ve shown me that we all have what it takes to do our part for Mother Nature. I’m so excited to be part of the future of Agriculture. If you were able to eat today, I hope you find the time to thank a farmer.”

On Wednesday 9th October 2019, the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA and Western Port Catchment Landcare Network ran an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) introductory workshop for local grazing farmers as part of the emerging interest in regenerative farming.

About 30 farmers attended the training session at Bayles and learnt how to develop an IPM strategy for their pastures. They they participated in a farm walk at a local dairy and potato farm to practice identifying pasture pests and beneficial insects.

Even with the damp weather (which tends to deter the insects) the group still managed to collect some specimens and identify them in the field.

A demonstration paddock will be set up in the coming weeks to implement an IPM strategy with a focus on managing Red Legged Earth Mite. The demonstration paddock will be monitored in spring for some baseline data and again in autumn to track changes to the paddock where, over time we hope there will be an increase in the ‘resident’ beneficial insects. A farm walk at the demo paddock will also be held next autumn.

These activities have been made possible through a grant from Ripe for Change, delivered through Sustainable Table.

The Port Phillip & Westernport CMA, in partnership with Macedon Ranges Vignerons Association, GrapeLinks and Veolia, has begun a three-year trial into the financial and environmental benefits of composted mulch from urban green waste under vine in high altitude vineyards of the Macedon Ranges.

The Macedon Ranges vineyards are the coldest in mainland Australia and produce outstanding cool climate wines. These highly labour intensive vineyards at 500-600 metres need a reliable method to increase the time vine roots and grapes can spend at beneficial temperatures with cost effective and efficient management practices.

It is expected that in mulched vines, warmer roots and buchzones in spring and cooler conditions in summer will increase grape and wine quality. Moreover, non-herbicide weed suppression under vine  is a goal for many vineyards in the region. 

The concept is based on trials undertaken on the Mornington Peninsula between 2015 and 2018, which saw positive grape quality results from pinot noir with recycled composted mulch under vine.

The PPWCMA’s Regional Agriculture Facilitator, Karen Thomas, and Dr. Erika Winter from GrapeLinks initiated the trials this week.

Three vineyards received AS 4454 certified composted mulch to cover a strip under 25 vinesone metre wide and 7.5 centimetres deep.

Bunchzone and soil temperatures will be measured hourly with electronic data loggers and compared to those in a control row with standard practices (brushcutting under vine). 

Grape quality traits will be assessed from 20 bunches in a laboratory. 

This project is supported by the Victorian Government, Macedon Ranges Vignerons Association and AORA.

Related information

In August 2019, the PPWCMA’s Regional Agriculture Facilitator, Karen Thomas, delivered three native bee forums across the region with local Landcare networks and groups, local councils, Box Hill Institute and Agribusiness Yarra Valley.

Over 250 participants attended and learned about:

Many thanks to forum participants for their excellent questions. Each Q&A panel sessions ran for close to 45 minutes, showing the level of interest and the knowledge gained from these forums.

The has already been some great ere was a click frenzy when Julian discussed how to re-purpose blackberry canes into suitable nesting substrate (bee hotels) for reed bees (Exoneura). Several farmers have already built their reed bee hotels! If you’ve made your reed bee hotel since the forums, please share it on the PPWCMA Grows Agriculturee Facebook page.

We will keep up to date with Kit, Julian and Katja’s native bee research and invite the speakers back in a few years for follow up events. Follow PPWCMA Grows Agriculture on Facebook for updates.

Related information

Pollinators drive biodiversity with over 75% of the world’s plants needing insect pollinators in order to reproduce. These pollinators provide ecosystem services in the natural landscapes as well as in agriculture and urban environments.

Australia has around 1,700 species of native bees, with more species being discovered each year. Native bees are important pollinators of Australia’s wildflowers. They also make an important contribution to Australian agriculture, through crop pollination. Populations of native bees can be threatened by land clearing and pesticide use.

At these special forums, learn more about native bees and other pollinators, their habitat requirements and how to improve the biodiversity of your property to increase native bee populations and benefit from the services they provide as specialised crop pollinators.

Free events. Light catering provided.


Kit Prendergast
PhD candidate, Curtin University WA (via video)

Native bees and protecting their habitat

Dr Katja Hogendoorn
Research Associate, University of Adelaide
Native bees and crop pollination (canola, fruits and vegetable production)

Dr Julian Brown
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Australian National University

Native bees in orchards, berry farms, and nature reserves

Karen Thomas
Port Phillip & Westernport CMA
Hover flies and other important invertebrates

Event dates:

Monday 26th August, 6.30pm-8.30pm
Darley Civic and Community Hub, 182 Halletts Way, Darley (Bacchus Marsh)
Hosted by PPWCMA, Moorabool Shire, Moorabool Landcare Network, Moorabool Catchment Landcare Group and Farming Moorabool

Book now

Tuesday 27th August, 1.30pm-3.30pm
Box Hill Institute, Centre for Biosecurity Excellence
Building LC Auditorium, 1 Jarlo Dve, Lilydale
Hosted by PPWCMA, Agribusiness Yarra Valley, Yarra Ranges Landcare Network and Box Hill Institute

Book now

Wednesday 28th August, 9:30am-11:30am
Bayles Public Hall, 660 Kooweerup Longwarry Rd, Bayles
Hosted by PPWCMA and Western Port Catchment Landcare Network

Book now

For more information contact Karen Thomas M: 0427 480 170 E:

On Saturday 6th July 2019, over 50 landholders from the Western Port catchment and Bunyip fire affected area attended a workshop focusing on biological approaches to soil and pasture recovery after a fire.

At the event, renowned soil microbiologist, Dr Mary Cole, explored how landowners can think of the emerging post-fire weed burden as ‘mulch potential’.

Dr Cole explains that although ‘weeds’ such as capeweed are quick to colonise after fire, they support the soil as groundcover, which prevents soil erosion while perennial pastures recover and re-grow.

“Soils immediately following fire are bacterially dominated partly because of the loss of the fungal biomass and increase in pH, but also because of the ability of bacteria to better use the soluble organic compounds released by the heat,” said Dr Cole.

“A post-fire environment benefits weedy species as the primary colonisers of the burnt soil. Weedy species are taking advantage of the bare soil and bacterially dominated soil biomass.

“It is important that the weedy species be allowed to grow because they are stimulating the nitrogen-fixing soil biota to replace nitrogen lost in burning. But it is important that weeds are not allowed to flower as they will produce more seed and spread.”

The landholders at the event learnt that by slashing these ‘mulch potential’ species and applying a remedial biological amendment to the soil, they can greatly hasten the recovery of the fungal biomass. This will support pasture species and reduce the ‘weedy’ species over time with a non-herbicide approach.

The event was organised by the Bunyip Fire Natural Environment Recovery Committee. The committee includes representatives from local councils, the Victorian Government, the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA, Landcare and the Victorian Farmers Federation and meets fortnightly to ensure that fire affected landholders have access to relevant information and services to support their recovery from the March bushfire.

The committee is hosting another workshop on Saturday 3 August in Bunyip North focusing on post-fire shelterbelt design, fire ecology and managing environmental weeds without chemicals.


Download fact sheet: Biological approaches for soil and pasture recovery after fire, Dr Mary Cole (PDF – 1MB)


On Tuesday 7 May, regenerative agriculture farmer and author Charles Massy spoke to regional farmers and landholders in Wandin North as part of a five-event tour through the Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Ranges and Gippsland.

Over 60 farmers from the Yarra Valley and surrounds attended and were engaged in Mr Massy’s presentation on some of the new thinking in regenerative agriculture.

“It’s the new form of ecological farming, grazing, cropping and replacing industrial nutrients which is really taking off around the world,” Mr Massy said.

“I’m not here to say ‘you’ve got to do this or do that’, but this is what’s happening around the world, there’s some exciting potential to replace industrial imports to get healthy soil and more biodiversity.

“From healthier soils, we’re getting a lot more nutrient diversity in our food, which leads to better human health,” Mr Massy said.

Mr Massy said that these methods of farming can help tackle climate change.

“Regenerative agriculture can pull out of the atmosphere more carbon than almost any other method and address big issues like the destabilisation of our Earth’s system.

“What we’re up against is some of the great powers in world economy and politics, who drive the big industrial food and agriculture systems,” he said.

“So this is a bit of an insurgent approach that disempowers the big chemical companies.

“It’s just a healthy alternative to some of our biggest problems… There’s definitely a shift to a more sustainable and regenerative way,” Mr Massy said.

It took a drought and some deep reflection to turn Mr Massy from a conventional farmer to one of the leading thinkers in regenerative agriculture today.

His concern about land degradation and the human influence on climate and the environment led him to complete a PhD in Human Ecology at Australian National University in 2012.

This resulted in his book, Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture – A New Earth that explores the emergence of a regenerative agriculture in Australia.

Mr Massy said that he wrote his book after learning from his own farming mistakes that led to debt.

“I’m no expert, but I can certainly tell you about some of the mistakes that a lot of us have made and I think that farmers identify with that.”

Mr Massy still manages a grazing property in New South Wales while teaching at universities and consulting widely in the fields of Merino breeding, landscape design and transformative change in agriculture.

The workshops were a partnership between the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA, Western Port Catchment Landcare Network, Bass Coast Landcare Network, South Gippsland Landcare Network, Yarra Ranges Landcare Network, Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network, Yarra Ranges Council, Mornington Peninsula Shire and the Baw Baw Food Movement and were supported by the National Landcare Program.

Extracted from article by Jed Lanyon via Mountain Views Mail

Workshop podcasts/vodcasts

Two of the Charles Massy workshops were recorded and are now available as podcasts and vodcasts.

Queensland Fruit Fly (QFF) is a major pest. It attacks a wide range of fruit and vegetables and can have a devastating impact on local and international horticultural industries.

The Port Phillip and Western Port region is currently QFF free, but QFF has been reported as close as Bendigo, so it’s important that we are vigilant if we’re gong to keep it out of this region, particularly sensitive areas like the Yarra Valley.

Now is the time for backyard fruit growers and small farms to check their fruit for signs of Queensland Fruit Fly (QFF) damage.

Infestations often starts when people bring fruit home from other parts of state/country and when backyard fruit growers don’t pick their trees.

We’ve collated some useful resources so our Landcare and community groups can access the information easily.

More information on Queensland Fruit Fly

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