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Multi-disciplinary approaches suggest profitable and sustainable farming systems for valley floors at risk of salinity

E. G. Barrett-Lennard A D , R. J. George B , G. Hamilton A , H. C. Norman D and D. G. Masters D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Cooperative Research Centre for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity, Department of Agriculture, South Perth, WA 6151, Australia.

B Cooperative Research Centre for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity, Department of Agriculture, PO Box 1231, Bunbury, WA 6231, Australia.

C Cooperative Research Centre for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity, CSIRO Livestock Industries, Floreat Park, WA 6014, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: egbarrettlennard@agric.wa.gov.au

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 45(11) 1415-1424 https://doi.org/10.1071/EA04157
Submitted: 30 July 2004  Accepted: 12 November 2005   Published: 16 December 2005

Abstract

Australia’s traditional approach to salinity abatement has been to focus primarily on the control of recharge in land not at risk of salinity by incorporating deep-rooted perennial plants (e.g. lucerne, oil mallees and farm trees) into farming systems throughout the landscape. However, in the broad valley floors and sedimentary plains of Australia’s cropping regions (the areas most at risk of salinity), recharge is mainly a 1-dimensional process. Thus, offsite recharge management may have little or no impact on salinity outcomes for the areas at risk. The future of the broad valley floors will be most influenced by the management decisions of landholders in the valley floors.

To be sustainable and profitable, farming systems on valley floors need to (i) target perennial plants to the valley floors and improve soil management to dry the root-zone, decrease recharge and minimise capillary rise, (ii) increase the discharge of groundwater from valley floors using deep drains and stands of perennial plants, (iii) improve surface water management to ameliorate waterlogging, inundation and flooding, and (iv) incorporate better plants and better agronomic methods in the growth of profitable salt tolerant crops and fodder plants.

This paper will illustrate the convergence of new research and development that offers real prospects of low risk, high return farming systems for Australia’s threatened valley floors. We argue that there needs to be a major refocus by farmers, researchers and their funders in the development of profitable sustainable farming systems for valley floors.

Additional keywords: halophyte, hydrology, raised bed, saltbush, saltland pasture.


Acknowledgments

We are grateful for the thoughts of Richard Price, Michael Lloyd and Kim Diamond. Support for our research into the growth of cereals on raised beds and the nutritive value of saltbushes has been received from the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the Sustainable Grazing on Saline Lands initiative (a component of the Land, Water and Wool Program).


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