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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
Solution 1: Exclude grazing
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
Solution 10: Legumes
Solution 11: Revegetation
Solution 12: Messina
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UNIT 3

Can I trust the technology?

 

3.2  Tested by farmers?

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The role of farmers in developing and testing saltland pasture systems has always been significant, but was highlighted during the 1990s when funding of saltland pasture R&D was reduced to a trickle. Through this time, and right up to the present, farmers have been experimenting with establishment and management of saltland pasture systems to suit their own particular saline sites. This farmer-generated knowledge has now been made available, with the Saltland Pastures Association, Sustainable Grazing on Saline Land, and the CRC Salinity (now Future Farm Industries CRC) all playing key roles.

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Saltland Pastures Association

The Saltland Pastures Association (SPA) was formed in WA in 1997 to maintain the momentum following the success of the 1996 PUR$L Conference in Albany. Its members are farmers, researchers and individuals with strong links and partnerships with other farmer groups and R&D organisations interested in productive saltland management.

The SPA has the following objectives:

  • promote the benefits and use of saltland pastures
  • publicise success achieved by farmers in establishing and profiting from saltland pastures
  • lobby governments, public and private funding bodies to provide funds for research into establishment and utilisation of saltland pastures
  • support the development of economic and agronomic packages for establishment and utilisation of saltland pastures
  • provide, or assist in providing training in the establishment and management of saltland pastures.

The SPA produces an excellent newsletter that contains considerable information on saltland for farmers and advisors.

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SGSL producer network

An exciting component of the Sustainable Grazing on Saline Land (SGSL) initiative was the Producer Network which enabled 120 groups of farmers across southern Australia to undertake the research or trials that they considered most relevant and pressing in their district. These groups have captured a vast array of information on saltland management for accurately described sites and situations that other farmers can readily relate to. As an example, SGSL Posterbook for all WA sites contains a one page summary of all 70 SGSL grower network projects in WA.

Importantly, the findings from these sites, and the participating farmers’ stories about saltland management are accessible to other farmers. For more information, see Genie's Maps.

“The trial has fitted in perfectly with our existing practices. As a stand-alone practice it is not necessarily profitable – I wouldn’t go and buy a bit of barley grass country if I was getting into farming. But integrated into existing practices it is very profitable.”

John Pepall, farmer, North Badgebup, WA
 

Have a yarn talking grazing trials with John Pepall 

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Case studies

Back in 1999 the National Dryland Salinity Program, in partnership with GRDC, introduced SALT Magazine, a bi-annual publication featuring farmers addressing salinity. These were ‘warts and all’ stories which shared the frustrations and setbacks along with the triumphs.

In 2004 the CRC Salinity took over SALT, this time partnered by AWI and MLA. Prompted by the large number of requests from readers for more information – usually technical – than could be provided in the farmers’ stories, SALT introduced a Science behind the story by-line to allow researchers and farm advisers to comment on science issues behind the farmer’s particular salinity problem and the approach he or she had taken to it. All back issues of SALT Magazine are available.

An independent survey in 2006 showed that readers considered SALT as an important source of information and influential in how they go about managing their own saline land.

One of the first products of the SGSL program was Insights – a set of 10 case studies from across the four southern mainland states. This was the most sought-after publication during the life of SGSL, and it still has a high download rate from the Land, Water & Wool website.

The SGSL grower network in SA elaborated 7 of their case studies in more detail, and supplemented them with economic analyses where possible – see SA case studies.

In WA, the SGSL grower network summarised all 70 of their grower network sites but also developed 21 of the sites into full case studies in the Have a yarn series.

“If you came to buy this place five to 10 years ago and I put a price of, say, $1000 an acre on it, with the salinity you’d say I was crazy. But now if I took people down here, nobody would worry about the salinity problem – I’ve increased the value of my place and the area is back to making me money. I wouldn’t hesitate buying a place with salt now after seeing what I’ve been able to achieve here.”

Bernard Sheridan, farmer, Arthurville, NSW 

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