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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
Site Assessment
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Solution 2: Volunteer pasture
Solution 3: Saltbush
Solution 4: Saltbush & Understorey
Solution 5: Tall Wheatgrass
Solution 6: Puccinellia
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UNIT 1

What's in it for me?

 

1.3 What’s in it for farm advisers?

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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 farmer advisors, Saltland Genie offers help with the following:

  1. Navigating around all the information that is available on this web-site;
  2. Showing where to start if exploring general information about dryland salinity (Unit Selector), and then helping you continue your exploration;
  3. Genie Search in response to key words or phrases;
  4. Connection with farmers or technical experts through a discussion forum;
  5. Linking to dozens of farmer stories about saltland, either by region, or by the farmer’s type of saltland solution;
  6. Comparing the relative advantages of different saltland solutions across a wide range of criteria, from cost to amenity value (Compare Engine).
  7. Matching your clients saltland site(s) with a the most appropriate saltland solution (Solution Selector).
  8. Detailed supporting information (research reports, printed products, web-sites etc) to more effectively underpin your recommendations to farmers;

Saltland Genie provides farm advisors with ready access to the latest information that can be tailored into specific advice for clients, as well as providing tools (eg Solution Selector) that can be worked through with farmer clients.

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Adding value for clients

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

A key message from researcher and farmers is that previously worthless land can be made productive and profitable. Traditionally farmers and advisors have focused their management effort on the best available land, making gains from pasture improvement, species selection, fertiliser application, weed control and grazing management. The opportunity now exists to add value for farmer clients through supporting an investment in saltland. The prospect of making some profit from previously unproductive land, while at the same time creating other benefits is a powerful motivation for improving the management of saltland.

Saltland invariably looks unthrifty and neglected – a visible indicator of degradation that no farmer wants to have ‘on show’. Because many farmers have only small areas of saltland (nationally 50% of woolgrowers with saltland reported having less than 20 ha - in NSW and Victoria 50% of woolgrowers with saltland had less than 10 ha), it is often pride rather than economics that provides the primary motivation to improve saltland.

Farmers who have restored saltland by protecting it from grazing or who have established or renovated saltland pastures take great pride in their achievements. Numerous farmer case studies highlight this and therefore assisting with saltland management can give farm advisors another string to their bow.

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 saltland soils, so they are usually best addressed by establishing specific plants that are well adapted to the conditions. The key questions for advisors to assist their clients with then become: assess the potential of a particular site as to which plants, where best to establish them, and how to manage them to meet the multiple goals?

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Improved saltland opportunities

Recent research and trials across Australia provide farm advisors with scientifically validated data to help them advise their clients on the opportunities for saltland pastures.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s a small number of enthusiasts persisted with trials which showed that there are real opportunities for saltland to make a significant contribution to productive farming systems. Inevitably, this work raised further questions demanding answers before farmers could confidently embrace saltland pastures in their region and for their particular farming situation.

Coordinated research and trials, particularly through the Sustainable Grazing on Saline Lands (SGSL) initiative, have improved our understanding of which saltland pastures grow best in which conditions, how to establish them, and how to manage them. It has also greatly improved our knowledge of animal performance on these pastures and how saltland can be integrated into existing farming systems. Importantly, it has also quantified the costs and benefits of these options.

These research results can assist both public and private sector advisors to deliver the benefits (outlined in ‘What’s in it for farmers’) of better saltland management to their clients.

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Recommend solutions confidently

With the recent string of dry years across the southern states, many farmers have seen salinity stabilise on their farms, instead of expanding as often occurred until the late 1990s. This in turn has moved the focus from recharge reduction to halt the spread of salinity, towards discharge management of now well-defined and stable saltland areas.

Recent research has filled many of the knowledge gaps and added confidence to recommendations. Trials and investigations undertaken through the 120 SGSL Producer Network trials have added a very practical dimension to the knowledge gained and provided regional relevance. There has been a research site, farmer trial or farmer case study in every region across southern Australia where saltland occurs.
 
Farm advisors can now access current, credible knowledge about all aspects of saltland management and confidently work with their farmer clients to ensure the best saltland solutions are implemented by those who want to take action.

One of the very clear messages from the SGSL initiative is that the motivation to improve management of saltland varies greatly from farmer to farmer. Some are driven by the production potential and are therefore focussed on the economics, some by a desire to prevent the further spread of salinity, while others are far more concerned about overcoming what they see as a real eyesore on their farm. Management options are now available for all saltland – the key for advisors is to assist farmers understand the capability of this land and to make the best choices for it.

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Customised options

Treating saltland is difficult due to its great variability from region to region and even within regions, from farm to farm. The particular option that is best for a saltland site is influenced by biophysical conditions such as soil type and properties, climate, and the types and concentrations of salts present. Socio-economic factors such as the individual situation of a farming enterprise, catchment priorities and previous experience with saltland management will also shape decisions on which options might suit a particular site and farmer client.

Just as importantly, farmers differ greatly in what they personally want to achieve from their saltland, and teasing this out is a key role for farm advisors – some want production and profit, others may want to slow the spread of salinity on their farms, while many others will be more interested in amenity than production.

Experience across the 120 SGSL farmer-managed trial sites showed categorically that the most critical decision for farmer clients was identifying the best saltland pasture option for a particular site – what to grow where! Assisting clients to get the right plants into the right situations through Saltland Genie’s Solution Selector is a major feature of this website.

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

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All saltland information is accessible

Now, farm advisors can readily access the best information on saltland management from across Australia and customise it for their individual clients – this applies to both public sector and private sector advisors. All the information from the Sustainable Grazing on Saline Lands (SGSL) initiative has been reviewed and synthesised into this web site. 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.

However, this website contains more than just the SGSL results, it is the synthesis of basically all we know about the management of saltland, and through this website, it is freely available and the advice is completely independent of any commercial interests.


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 on-farm:

  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 contains 11 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.

In addition this website has two features to assist advisors: 

  1. The website covers everything from environmental benefits to economics so that advisors can quickly build substantial knowledge about all aspects of saltland management and therefore answer or anticipate what their clients will need.
     
  2. Supporting information is provided so that advisors can research individual topics and build their understanding and ability to customise information for their clients. Web delivery makes all this information readily accessible and it allows hard copy to be downloaded, customised and printed for clients.
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