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Beyond the Bale : Jun 07 - Jul 07 Supplement
Saltland pastures extend the season in WA Graziers Rodney and Sharon Drage estimate they are now carrying 200 to 300 more sheep than was previously possible, thanks to the rehabilitation of a salt-affected and waterlogged area of their farm at Upper Hay River in Western Australia. The water table has been lowered by an estimated 10 to 20 centimetres in just 18 months, and where supplementary feeding would normally have begun in February, it was not needed until April. The Drages say the site looks much better too, with less surface water lying about. Previously bare areas now support good stands of saltbush and perennial pastures, such as Rhodes grass and setaria.The farm has an average rainfall of 550 millimetres. Pride, productivity and pastures Land,Water & Wool has identified pride as an important motivating factor behind farmers' decisions to invest in saltland management.Two markets have emerged for saltland management information: ú woolgrowers with large amounts of saline land on their properties -- mostly in Western Australia and South Australia. For these farmers, the productivity and profitability of saltland pastures is the main consideration, as there is considerable scope for them to contribute to whole-farm income. Amenity and environmental health are important, but are not the main drivers for pasture rehabilitation; and ú woolgrowers with small patches of saline land. Nationally, 54 per cent of farmers with saline land have less than 20ha affected; in NSW and Victoria, 51 per cent have less than 10ha. For woolgrowers with small areas, there is less scope for saltland pastures to generate much profit. Amenity value, personal pride in management and potential for environmental improvements tend to be the major drivers of rehabilitation, with economic returns an important but secondary consideration. SUSTAINABLE GRAZING ON SALINE LANDS Producer networks unite against salt SGSL research was bolstered by a national network of more than 1200 producers who carried out pasture and grazing trials and came up with new, practical information about how to keep pastures alive and thriving in saltland. SGSL had producer groups in South Australia,Victoria,Tasmania and NSW, but it was no coincidence that the greatest participation was in Western Australia. Up to 78 per cent of woolgrowers in WA are directly affected by salinity, compared with 40 per cent of growers nationally. There were 120 projects in total -- 70 in WA and the rest in the eastern states -- designed and run by farmer groups who examined their specific questions in relation to pasture productivity, animal performance, system economics and environmental impacts. (CRC) for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity. It has been shown that some plants that tolerate waterlogging -- such as balansa clovers -- are sensitive to salt, while others can cope with salt but not saturated soil. In many cases, fencing-off to prevent stock access to a salty site or to permit rotational grazing is the cheapest option, and woolgrowers may apply for grants to help with the cost through local Catchment Management Authorities or other government and non-government initiatives. ú More information: See back page for Land,Water & Wool Sustainable Grazing on Saline Lands sub-program publications, and see www.landwaterwool.gov.au for more resources. * The SGSL initiative is a collaboration between Land,Water & Wool, the CRC for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity and Meat & Livestock Australia, and is supported by state agriculture agencies in WA, SA,Victoria,Tasmania and NSW. LAND,WATER & WOOL SUPPLEMENT BEYOND THE BALE 7 Along with the four major scientific research projects, SGSL supported 120 woolgrower demonstration sites across southern Australia. PHOTO: CURRIE COMMUNICATIONS Rodney Drage about to seed an Evergreen mix. PHOTO: ARJEN RYDER Meir Altman, technical officer with the Department of Agriculture and Food,Western Australia, downloads a data logger attached to a continuous water level recorder. PHOTO: DR ED BARRETT-LENNARD
Aug 07 - Sep 07
Jun 07 - Jul 07