Peter Andrews is a grazier and race horse breeder from Bylong in the Upper Hunter Valley. He is a man who many believe is way ahead of his time. Peter has gained fundamental insights to the natural functioning of the Australian landscape that leave him almost without peer. He has applied these insights in restoring his and other properties to fertility levels that he says existed upon European arrival in this country.
Over 30 years ago Peter, bought a run-down 2000 acre grazing property called Tarwyn Park, near Bylong in the Upper Hunter Valley. He then quietly set about testing the theories that he had been developing virtually ever since he was a child, growing up on a station near Broken Hill. By 1976 Peter Andrews claimed that the model he had set up on Tarwyn Park was an example of a sustainable agricultural system.
Peter had recognized that the incised nature of most streams in Australia was in fact accelerating the fertility decline of agricultural landscapes (Figure 1). Stream incision meant that the increasing erosive energy of water was leading to accelerated soil and nutrient loss, lowered capacity for the floodplain to hold water and a loss of wetland habitat within that valley. Stream incision had in fact lead to a total disruption of the natural fertility cycle, leading to a chronic decline the overall health of the landscape. He also observed that, under natural conditions, the interaction between fluvial and biological processes would combine to maximise the efficiency of nutrient and water use as well as carbon cycling. He argued that this would actually lead to a growing of that landscape as sedimentation would far exceed erosion and carbon sequestration would far exceed carbon loss.
The model that Peter Andrews set up at Tarwyn Park was based on the principle of reintroducing natural landscape patterns and processes as they would have existed in Australia prior to European settlement. This included:
- reintroduction of a natural valley flow pattern, reconnecting the stream to its flood plain, which would reintroduce a more natural hydrological and fertility cycle to that landscape.
- and that through a managed succession of the vegetation (mostly weeds back then), the natural fluvial pattern could be ‘regrown’, so that then nutrients and biomass harvested on the flood plain could be redistributed throughout the property and obviously through the stock.
To test his theories about improved animal health, he measured the growth and performance of thoroughbred race horses.
Mr Andrews called his approach the Natural Farming Sequence. It has later become known as Natural Sequence Farming.