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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
Solution 7: Vegetative grasses
Solution 8: Temperate perennials
Solution 9: Sub-tropicals
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Solution 11: Revegetation
Solution 12: Messina
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UNIT 1

What’s in it for me?

 

1.2  What’s in it for farmers?

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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 farmers, 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 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. Connecting with other 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 (Compare Engine).
  7. Matching specific saltland solutions to your individual saltland site (Solution Selector).

Saltland Genie provides those farmers who want to seek saltland information in ‘do it yourself’ mode, with specifically designed web assistance to make the job of finding what you need as easy as possible.

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Tackling a difficult problem

There is a long history of new pasture species and improved management techniques resulting in significant increases in productivity on ‘normal’ grazing land. Until relatively recently, saltland was largely neglected by graziers and researchers as it appeared to offer few rewards. Recent research and on-farm trials across Australia have given a real boost in the confidence with which saltland can now be tackled. For more info, see Can I trust the technology?

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s a small number of enthusiastic researchers and farmers persisted with saltland management and began to show how saltland could make a significant contribution to productive farming systems. For more info, see Golden Pastures and farmer case study on saltland revegetation.

Their results, combined with the increasing incidence of salinity across southern Australia caused a re-think in research priorities. The result was a major new effort, with coordinated research and trials, particularly through the Sustainable Grazing on Saline Lands initiative, part of the national Land, Water & Wool Program . This has improved our understanding of assessing saline land as to which saltland pastures grow best in what conditions, and how to establish and 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.

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Making worthless land profitable

Traditionally graziers have focused their management effort on those pastures growing on the best available land. It has been there that the greatest gains have been made from pasture improvement through species selection, fertiliser application, weed control and grazing management.

This principle still makes a lot of sense; in most cases the financial returns to be made from an investment in saltland will be lower than from a similar investment in non-saltland. However, some profit from previously unproductive land, while at the same time creating other benefits (such as environmental and social as outlined below) is a powerful motivation for improving the management of saltland. Farmer case studies strongly demonstrate this.

Until recently salinity and waterlogging were often seen as intractable problems; problems that were very costly to address (for example, through engineering works): or unlikely to deliver significant rewards for effort. However, we can now approach many of these situations with confidence that there are suitable pastures and practical management tools to use, all based on good science and/or well documented experience.

However, ‘improving’ saltland does require a different mind set to addressing most other soil problems. Whereas acidic, sodic and non-wetting soils respond to ameliorants such as lime, gypsum and clay, saltland soils are usually best addressed by establishing specific plants that are well adapted to the conditions. The questions then become: which plants, how to establish them and where? Saltland Genie can help.

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Gaining environmental benefits

Well managed saltland pastures provide groundcover for saltland – it is this groundcover that gives most of the proven environmental benefits.

Firstly, groundcover (particularly critical over summer) limits evaporation from the soil surface. Evaporation from bare saltland is a major factor in concentrating salts in the soil and increasing the salinity of the site.

Secondly, saline sites are often highly unstable and prone to erosion, and groundcover is a critical component of erosion prevention.

In addition, there are some environmental benefits that are not as certain – either because of site differences or because research has not yet supported anecdotal evidence. These include:

  1. In some regions, saltland pastures lower the watertable, potentially slowing the spread of salinity and making the site more suitable for more productive but less salt-tolerant plants.
     
  2. Where saltland pastures replace overgrazed and bare saltland sites, biodiversity is expected to increase. SGSL research provides some support for this hypothesis through an increase in the number and diversity of flora and fauna present on revegetated saline sites.
     
  3. Saltland pastures are expected to reduce salt wash-off from saline sites into nearby streams. Research has shown that salt wash-off initially increases when a saltland pasture is established because of the disturbance to the site – however, over a 2-3 year period, there is a substantial reduction.
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Pride from renovated saltland

Few landscapes appear as desolate as those that are severely affected by salinity and waterlogging. Even from the air, saltland can appear ‘desperate’ and a symbol of past management practices that have gone wrong. Mildly affected saltland invariably looks unthrifty and neglected – a visible indicator of less than ideal farm management 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 farmers with saltland had less than 10 ha), it is often pride rather than economics that provides the primary motivation to improve saltland. The recognition that it can also be profitable often follows.

Farmers who have restored saltland by protecting it from grazing or who have established or renovated salt and waterlogging-tolerant pastures take great pride in their achievements. This has been demonstrated in numerous case studies based on farmers’ experiences and through the SGSL photo competition.

"Five years ago I would never have dreamed that we could turn such apparently useless land into something so good. Not only that, but we are now able to take sheep out of the stubble paddocks before they start to do damage there. I just wish we had started this 20 years ago, but I am pleased to be doing this now for the next generation.


Our success with saltland pasture has encouraged us to also fence off three lagoons and allow them to regenerate as wetlands for wildlife."


Reclaiming Productivity with Puccinellia


SGSL Photo Competition

In 2005, SGSL conducted a photo competition with the theme of “Pride in Saltland Management” and invited anyone involved in the restoration of saltland (farmers, advisors and scientists from across Australia) to submit photos highlighting their achievements. The five competition categories (‘Farmers in Action’, ‘Science in Saltland’, ‘Productive Saltland Pastures’, ‘Before & After’ and ‘Saltland Humour’) attracted 400 entries. Fifteen winners shared $30,000 in prize money, donated by a range of sponsors. A travelling exhibition took a selection of the photos (including all the winners) to natural resource management conferences and field days across Australia. The overall winner is shown below.

For the full story and winners of the other categories

SGSL Photo Competition

TITLE: “... and that’s where I live”
LOCATION: Quairading East, Western Australia
PHOTOGRAPHER: Peter Garside, Alcoa (entered by Colin Stacey, South Yoting Catchment Group, WA)
CATEGORY: Science in Saltland
MOTIVATION: “I thought this demonstrates the true essence of catchment planning ... everyone allowed input. This simple exercise will eventuate in an integrated approach where both neighbours will be working toward a common goal with a much better outcome.”

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All saltland information is accessible

For the first time, all the information from the SGSL (Sustainable Grazing on Saline Lands) initiative has been reviewed and synthesised into the single ‘product’ that is 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 2001 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 $$$ 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.

 
Saltland Geniecan help you match your saltland site with one or more of the solutions.

Farmers can benefit from this website in two ways:

  • For farmers who are comfortable using a website and who are used to seeking and reviewing their own information, this site offers a stand alone service with the best and most up-to-date information available. At some stage through the process you might decide that professional assistance is needed, but even then, you can check any advice you receive against the information provided.
     
  • For farmers who prefer to get assistance with decisions such as whether to revegetate their saltland, then this website can be accessed and used by their advisors. Though indirectly, you will still be getting access to the best and most up-to-date information, and you can refer to this website to gain further information from the many farmer case studies included.
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