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Unit 1 - What's in it for me?
Unit 2 - Saltland Basics
Unit 3 - Can I trust the technology?
Unit 4 - Plant and animal performance
Unit 5 - Sheep, cattle and conservation
Unit 6 - Do the $$$'s stack up?
Unit 7 - The saltland toolbox
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Solution 2: Volunteer pasture
Solution 3: Saltbush
Solution 4: Saltbush & Understorey
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UNIT 1

What's in it for me?

 

1.4 What’s in it for catchment managers?

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Assistance from Saltland Genie

Saltland Genie brings a little ‘magic’ to the process of making sure those searching for saltland information get connected painlessly to the right information for their particular situation and information needs. For catchment managers, Saltland Genie offers help with the following:

  1. Navigating around all the information that is available on this web-site;
  2. Exploring all the latest information about dryland salinity in Australia in synthesised form, or working out where staff members might most effectively start (Unit Selector);
  3. Genie Search in response to key words or phrases;
  4. Linking to dozens of farmer stories about saltland, either by region, or by the farmer’s type of saltland solution;
  5. Comparing the relative advantages of different saltland solutions that might be applicable in your catchment across a wide range of criteria, from water use to future prospects (Compare Engine).
  6. Assessing funding applications for saltland management by working with farmers, farmer groups or farm advisors to match their site(s) with the most appropriate saltland solution (Solution Selector).

Saltland Genie provides catchment managers with ready access to the latest information on saltland management that can educate staff, assist them assess funding proposals as well as forming the basis for information products that individual catchments may wish to develop about dryland salinity.

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A catchment management tool

Recent research and trials across Australia now provide catchment managers with scientifically validated data to help them make sound decisions and provide good advice regarding the opportunities for farmers from saltland pastures.

There is a long history of new pasture species and improved management techniques resulting in significant increases in productivity on the ‘normal’ grazing land that makes up the majority of most catchments. Until relatively recently saltland was largely neglected by graziers and researchers as it appeared to offer few potential rewards. However, some farmers and researchers persisted, often through trial and error and some ‘exciting’ stories emerged. See case studies on how farmers are successfully managing saltland for profit and sustainability. Coordinated research trials followed and there is now a range of proven saltland management options, with well- documented costs and benefits.

The evidence is now strong that saltland pastures can:

  • improve on-farm production and profit - though usually to a lesser extent than similar investments in non-saltland;
  • greatly improve the amenity of saltland;
  • increase water use from saltland, reducing accessions to the watertable, and in some cases actually drawing down the watertable;
  • increase groundcover on saline sites and therefore provide significant reductions in erosion and improved conditions for biodiversity;
  • reduce salt movement from saltland sites into streams.

It is now clear that in most catchments, managing discharge (or saltland) sites should be a higher priority than has historically been the case. For more information, see Integrated Gumble Site Report. The sites are usually small, easily identified and there is a relatively short time lag between catchment investment and visible gains. These issues are discussed more fully in General Saltland information Sections 2.3 and Section 2.4.

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Manage hazardous land

Saline discharge (both surface wash-off and direct discharge into streams) is the source of much of the salt that is carried from dryland agricultural catchments into rivers and streams. In many instances, these sites are very prone to gully erosion and are often delivering significant quantities of soil and nutrients (as well as salt) into streams.

Although attitudes and experiences vary from catchment to catchment, until recently salinity and waterlogging were often seen as intractable problems on-farm, and were therefore best avoided. Ignoring saltland often left it vulnerable to erosion, particularly when under grazing pressure, or contributed to off-site impacts due to saline wash-off. Intervention was often costly (for example, through engineering works) and had potential to cause further off-site environmental damage. However, catchment managers can now approach many of these situations with confidence that there are practical (and often profitable) management tools, all based on good science and on well-documented experience, that can deliver catchment benefits, particularly in terms of water quality, but also through biodiversity benefits and increased amenity.

However, ‘improving’ saltland does require a different mind set to most other soil problems. Traditionally, the approach has been to ameliorate soil problems – for example, acidity, sodicity, low fertility and non-wetting soils are ‘treated’ with ameliorants such as lime, gypsum, fertiliser and clay. However, there are no ameliorants for saline soils, so they are usually best addressed by establishing specific plants that are well adapted to the conditions. Many catchment authorities are assisting farmers to understand the capability of their saltland and make management choices to benefit the catchment as well as for the personal benefits that can accrue.

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Progress against Resource Condition Targets

With the recent string of dry years across the southern states, many catchments have experienced a stabilisation of salinity, instead of expanding as often occurred until the late 1990s. This has moved the focus from recharge reduction to halt the spread of salinity, towards discharge management of now well defined and stable areas.

Catchment managers can now address Resource Condition Targets (RCTs) relating to salinity knowing that they can confidently access current, credible knowledge and interpret this under local conditions.

One of the clear messages from the SGSL initiative is the pride that landholders feel when they ‘turn around’ land that for years was an eyesore. This proves to be a very powerful motivator for landholders to take action, and represents an opportunity for catchment managers to engage their community in asset protection through saltland reclamation.

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Options vary between catchments

Treating salinity is challenged by its great variability from region to region and even within regions.

On the one hand there is ‘primary’ salinity (salt lakes, salt marshes etc) that is a natural condition in many landscapes, which pre-dates European settlement and is often part of the landscape that catchments wish to ‘protect’. On the other, there is ‘secondary’ salinity that has appeared as a result of agricultural practices such as clearing and the disruption of natural drainage processes. The balance between primary saline sites (that catchment authorities might be seeking to protect) and secondary sites (that catchment authorities might seek to ameliorate) varies greatly – this website deals only with amelioration of secondary salinity.

In addition, the best agronomic approaches differ between catchments on the basis of climate, soil types and properties, and types and concentrations of salts present. Socio-economic factors such as the situation of individual farming enterprises and their profitability, catchment priorities and previous experience also differ between regions and influence decisions on suitable options. Catchment authorities can play a key role in assisting farmers with saltland to understand and implement the best options for a particular catchment.

Research has recognised the importance of these variables. There are now best-bet options for most situations and these are supported by a network of saltland practitioners across all regions.

This website makes available the best-bet approaches for any catchment with secondary salinity across southern Australia.

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Individuals deliver catchment services

Management Action Targets need to be practical and achievable. On farmland this means that there must be rewards for effort, such as increased profit, improved farm management, increased amenity, access to financial support, or all of these.

Saltland agronomy represents new territory for many farmers who are unfamiliar with the available plant species and the establishment and management techniques, and with grazing strategies for optimum livestock performance.

Recent research has filled many of the knowledge gaps and added confidence to recommendations. Trials and investigations undertaken through the SGSL Producer Network add a very practical dimension to the knowledge gained and also give it regional relevance.

Through this website, catchment managers looking to invest in saltland management through incentives, extension and application of new technologies can draw upon the most current research to encourage widespread uptake of sustainable practices that provide both private and public benefits.

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All saltland information is accessible

It is now possible for catchment managers to easily access the best and most up-to-date information about managing discharge sites and to customise it for their region. All the information from the SGSL (Sustainable Grazing on Saline Lands) initiative has been reviewed and synthesised into this website. The SGSL information was gathered by farmers, extension agents and researchers (from state government departments, CSIRO and universities) at more than 100 saline sites across southern Australia between 2002 and 2007.

Traditional thinking about basing dryland salinity management almost entirely on recharge reduction is being overturned as some of the negative side effects such as reduced freshwater flows and declining water quality in streams have become apparent. Saltland rehabilitation is rapidly emerging as a front-line tool for salinity management because it achieves faster results than recharge reduction, and all the impacts seem to be positive. This website provides catchment managers with information that can be used to better educate people within their catchments (from board members to individual farmers) and to underpin a strategy that uses available public funding to get the right mix of recharge and discharge management for their catchment.

To assist catchment managers and other users, this website has synthesised all available information in an accessible format. There are 7 ‘Units’ of general saltland information that summarise all the issues relating to dryland salinity, its causes, impacts and how it might be profitably and sustainably managed within a catchment:

  1. What’s in it for me
  2. Saltland basics
  3. Can I trust the technology?
  4. Plant and animal performance
  5. Sheep, cattle and conservation
  6. Do the $$$s stack up?
  7. The saltland toolbox

Saltland Genie can help you explore this general information about dryland salinity.

It also contains11 Saltland Solutions that provide in-depth advice and assistance about how to implement and manage an effective saltland solution for your particular situation.

Saltland Genie’ can help you decide which solution is most likely to suit a particular client and their individual saltland problem.
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