Last month I wrote about the rarity of native grassy woodlands and how restoration is an important tool to halting their loss. I also noted that seed limitations are major constraints to restoration, but that seed production areas (SPAs) can be used to provide that much-needed seed.
Today I’ll reflect on some other potential benefits offered by SPAs.
SPAs are often setup in a similar way to horticultural farms growing vegetables or flowers, although instead of short-term annuals, crops are mostly long-lived. Like vegie farms, SPAs require infrastructure to grow plants, house equipment, and manage crops. Because many people are not familiar with our wonderful native flora, SPAs are an excellent setting to become familiar with them.
When beds and crops are established, growing as they do, they offer a rare glimpse that few see of a range of often colourful and interesting plants. In this sense, they can be important tools for education or training and help people to recognise, and hopefully take an interest in, native plants they might see in the wild.
While most SPA seed is used for restoration, it can also produce plants for amenity wildflower plantings in council flowerbeds or home gardens, or as wildflower and grass mixes on public reserves. There is also an increasing focus by indigenous peoples across Victoria in cultivating traditional foods (for commercial and cultural purposes) and the potential of SPAs to grow grasses for native flour, or daisies and lilies as root crops. This is attracting much interest.
In the two decades I’ve been involved with SPAs, there have been numerous examples of positive outcomes beyond growing seed for restoration - as good an outcome as that is! Various project SPAs have been visited by large numbers of children from primary, secondary, and through to university levels, helping all recognise and better understand our native flora. They have also provided opportunities for training a large range of people in areas such as seed collection/handling or how to manage plants, including those from TAFE, community groups (including senior citizens), indigenous peoples, farmers, Landcare and land management staff, and more.
SPAs will be critical to Kalbar’s goal to restore native grassy woodland. Our hope is that they can also create opportunities for these many other co-benefits and collaborations with the wider Gippsland community.