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    13104: Dung beetles address soil fertility and environmental health

    Dung beetles bury dung in brood chambers (pictured) up to 60cm deep in the soil. Each chamber is about 1cm wide and there are often around eight beneath a cow pat. Every cow drops about 10 pats a day providing plenty of work for local beetles.
    Dung beetles bury dung in brood chambers (pictured) up to 60cm deep in the soil. Each chamber is about 1cm wide and there are often around eight beneath a cow pat. Every cow drops about 10 pats a day providing plenty of work for local beetles.

    Australia has around 350 species of native dung beetle and 23 species introduced from Hawaii, Africa and southern Europe. Most native species eat marsupial dung (from kangaroos and wallabies) and are not well suited to processing the moist dung of cattle.

    Introduced dung beetles are very useful in agricultural regions as they are able to bury large volumes of cattle dung, with many benefits for:

    • soil structure and fertility
    • water infiltration and runoff
    • pasture growth and productivity
    • biological control of bush fly
    • minimising loss of nitrogen (NH3, N2O) and carbon (CO2) to the atmosphere.

    A colony of dung beetle (Bubas bison) will be established on Bannister Downs Dairy farm in Northcliffe to investigate their impact on soil structure, chemistry, fertility and biology (including earthworms) under perennial pasture.

    Changes to the soil will be measured to a depth of 60 centimetres to see if the dung beetles work is effective in reducing compaction and fertiliser input needs and sequestering carbon.

    Investment: $ 26 482
    Delivery organisation: Warren Catchments Council
    Project duration: February 2014 - November 2015
    Location: Daubney Estate, Muirillup Road, Northcliffe

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