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Beyond the Bale : March 2014
44 ON-FARM FAST FACTS l Western Australian farmers have been quick to access a limited research release of an "elite" line of old man saltbush. l The elite varieties have been bred to withstand high saline conditions and be more palatable for livestock than the traditional saltbush varieties. l The development of the elite varieties builds on research carried out by CSIRO, SARDI, NSW Department of Primary Industries and WA Department of Parks and Wildlife, with funding by the Future Farm Industries CRC and the AWI-co- funded Land, Water & Wool project. Western Australian farmers wanting to boost productivity on marginal land have been quick to access an elite line of old man saltbush developed by research funded from the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). The old man saltbush limited research release, available from Chatfield's Nursery in Tammin, Western Australia, follows the improvement project which has expanded shrub use through the selection of new cultivars with improved biomass production, nutritional value and palatability for livestock. Using a combination of sheep preference and traditional agronomic and laboratory measurements, the research team has assessed thousands of saltbush plants on sites across WA, SA and NSW, and chosen four to continue testing with on-farm trials. These plants were propogated in limited numbers by Chatfield's Nursery and (at time of writing) were as good as sold out for this season. CRC CEO Peter Zurzolo said the research release was an exciting step for the old man saltbush project, led by CSIRO's Dr Hayley Norman. "As a component of the CRC's Enrich farming system program, Hayley and her team have significantly improved the relative palatability, nutritive value and productivity of old man saltbush. We're confident the elite line will be an important part of any mixed farming system in Australia, and especially those looking to make use of marginal or salt-affected land," Mr Zurzolo said. "The success of the research allowed the CRC to arrange with Chatfield's Nursery to sell a limited research release of vegetatively propagated material to farmers and landholders in WA who are interested in trialling the plant on their land, while still working with researchers who will continue to collect and evaluate data." Mr Zurzolo said the CRC chose this commercial option because of the significant interest and support from WA farmers and landholders. "The CRC and CSIRO will continue to work with Chatfield's Nursery, as they are an important part of this research study -- in particular, to examine ways to reduce the cost of plants and improve survival during establishment." Farmers or landholders must complete a Material Transfer Agreement that outlines the obligations when buying saltbush through the research release. More information: Dustin McCreery, Chatfield's Nursery 0427 371 075. CSIRO's Dr Hayley Norman (right) with Dustin McCreery from Chatfield's Nursery with the new elite saltbush stems that were on sale. PHOTO: Future Farm Industries CRC. Release of 'elite' saltbush ELITE SALTBUSH TRIALS For the past 10 years, woolgrowers Tony and Simon York from Tammin in Western Australia's central wheatbelt have hosted a series of Land, Water & Wool, and Future Farm Industries CRC saltbush experiments, run by Dr Hayley Norman from CSIRO. 20,000 seedlings of old man saltbush varieties, collected from its native habitat were planted on their property in 2006 (one of three trial sites across Australia), and after six years, 12 elite varieties were chosen for extensive testing prior to the commercial release of the first cultivars. Tony is excited about the results of the trial, saying the new elite lines had the potential to revolutionise the pastoral industry in Australia. "When we ran the livestock in the trial plots, there would be some elite varieties that the sheep would strip bare, and some, right next to them, that the sheep wouldn't touch," Tony said. "Visually, the plants look different, and are certainly more attractive, than the saltbush of 20 or 30 years ago." Woolgrower Tony York in an elite saltbush trial plot on his property in Western Australia's central wheatbelt. March 2014 BEYOND THE BALE