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Beyond the Bale : September 2014
ON FARM 49 The release of a new and easily digestible saltbush variety has the potential to change the profitability of otherwise unproductive agricultural land, particularly in a mixed cropping and livestock business. After ten years of trial work, the newly launched Anameka variety is ticking all the boxes, winning the race against 12 other tested varieties, all voted on by a mob of hungry sheep. CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Hayley Norman, said out of an initial 60,000 saltbush plants, the sheep chose 12 elite varieties for their biomass production, digestibility and palatability. “We then planted out these 12 varieties in 12 different environments across Australia and the Anameka genotype maintained these two key characteristics, plus produced more biomass,” Dr Norman said. “But when it came to the sheep’s choice, the Anameka genotype was certainly a winner.” The new variety, named after the business of Tony and Simon York who farm in Western Australia’s central wheatbelt, is considered the most palatable saltbush plant now available in Australia. Western Australia is renowned for its extensive areas of salt land, and according to Tony York, almost 20 per cent of his property is what he considers unproductive, or salt affected land. But while many farms around him are forced to hand feed sheep in the dry autumn months, the York’s property is a sea of green saltbushes. Mr York said because of the dominance of salt on his property, sheep are critical to the profitability and long-term sustainability of his business and his land. “Through the use of saltbush, particularly these newer varieties, our otherwise unproductive land is now part of a profitable farming system,” Mr York said. Dr Norman said other CSIRO studies had shown that the availability of saltbush as a feed supplement during the dry autumn months could reduce the break in the wool. “This may be because of the protein and sulphur contained in the plant, and both nitrogen and sulphur are essential ingredients for wool growth,” she said. “Saltbush has also been shown to increase wool growth by 10 per cent, due to the protein and salt content. “This Anameka saltbush has one of the highest digestibility rates, and appears to be the genotype that is most suited and broadly adapted to farming environments across Australia.” Chatfields Nursery, also based in the central wheatbelt of Western Australia, has won the contract to propagate and supply the new Anameka variety to farmers across the country. Chatfields owners Dustin and Lisa McCreery will begin propagating the Anameka genotype in coming weeks, ready for winter plantings next year. The Nursery has already received interest from farmers across the country, from Longreach in Queensland, to Parkes in NSW, and down to Ravensthorpe in WA. Anameka is established from clones not seed. Mr McCreey said the saltbush could be grazed just eight months after planting. “We are very excited about this national contract and believe this new elite saltbush variety will become part of the risk management strategy of many farming businesses, drought proofing their properties and providing valuable feed options in the drier years,” Mr McCreery said. Dr Norman said further research projects would look at the development of a seed line from the elite cohort to reduce the cost of establishment and allow for direct seeding into the paddock. “In the long term, we believe this will make a huge difference to whether or not the plant is integrated into the farming system at a large enough scale to optimise sheep productivity and environmental benefits,” she said. Development of the new variety was run by scientists from CSIRO, SARDI and the NSW Department of Primary Industries working through the Future Farm Industries CRC, of which AWI is a partner. The variability in nutritional value of saltbush, and the ability to select better varieties, was first noted during CSIRO research as part of the AWI’s Land, Water and Wool project. NEW ELITE Lisa and Dustin McCreery of Chatfields Nursery, woolgrower Tony York and CSIRO research scientist Dr Hayley Norman with the new saltbush variety. VARIETY NOW AVAILABLE • The newly launched Anameka saltbush variety is ticking all the boxes for digestibility, palatability and bio mass. • Studies have shown that saltbush, as a feed supplement during the autumn months, can reduce the break in the wool. • Pre-orders for the Anameka variety are being taken now for planting next winter. MORE INFORMATION Woolgrowers can pre-order the Anameka Old Man Saltbush from Chatfields Nursery Tammin via firstname.lastname@example.org or www.chatfields.com.au SALTBUSH