Australia: Rangeland extension personnel across northern Australia are to be trained to use specially-designed software, VegMachine, to analyse satellite imagery. According to the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) they will be at the front line working with property managers using the imagery to help show impacts of land management decisions, compare the health of one area of land to another and track land recovery or degradation.
DPI&F secured $91,000 funding from the Australian Government Caring for Our Country (CFOC) initiative for a collaborative project titled: “Realising a national rangeland monitoring network: VegMachine”. DPI&F senior scientist Dr Terry Beutel at Rockhampton will lead the 12-month project to develop a VegMachine training package for an industry roll-out beyond July 2009. Dr Beutel said VegMachine software allowed users to drill down through the past 20 years of satellite imagery to estimate and benchmark land cover change at selected locations.
“Queensland is very fortunate to have an extensive archive of satellite imagery and land cover products within the Department of Natural Resources and Water,” he said. “VegMachine makes this state archive of imagery and datasets more accessible for land managers. The project will provide software manuals and training workshops that will enable personnel from grazing extension agencies to service large numbers of northern Australia’s grazing land managers. The VegMachine delivery model is well placed to provide timely input for future property management planning. It also fits the CFOC project goal to achieve greater uptake of sustainable farm practices.”
Dr Beutel has worked collaboratively on the VegMachine software development since 2002 and the technology is in use on more than 50 rangeland properties in Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia. The project will have direct in-kind support from agencies participating in the steering group, planning activities and the pilot VegMachine training workshop.
The supporting agencies are the NT Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts; WA Department of Environment and Conservation; WA Department of Agriculture and Food; CSIRO; and Meat and Livestock Australia.