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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 3

Can I trust the technology?

 

3.4  Uncertainties

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Climate change

Salinity is most likely a cyclical problem at the regional level. Wet periods, as experienced in many parts of Australia during the mid-1970s and again during the late-1980s to mid-1990s, exacerbate the problem, particularly where groundwater flow systems are local. On the other hand, below average rainfall result in contraction of some saline areas as has been the case during the dry, early years of the 21st Century.

If climate change delivers the predicted hotter and drier climate into those areas with dryland salinity, we can expect a reduction in the area of waterlogged and salt-affected land. On the other hand, if the dry conditions currently experienced in many parts of Australia are principally a reflection of climate variability and we return to a series of wetter years, we would expect dryland salinity to begin expanding again.

Within the generally accepted predictions about future climate, we can suggest that the expansion of dryland salinity is likely to be slower than would be the case without climate change and this may reduce the ability of saltland pastures to make a significant contribution on some farms.

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Impact of intervention

Extensive revegetation of the landscape with trees, and perennial crops and pastures will have an impact on groundwater recharge and hence on saline discharge. Modelling suggests that in most situations this impact will be minimal, except where it is carefully planned and implemented on a large scale.

Drainage and groundwater pumping are designed to lower groundwater, either directly or by reducing recharge. Where this is undertaken on a large scale, such as in the upper south-east of South Australia and parts of Western Australia, the impact might prove to be quite significant. Pastures such as tall wheatgrass and puccinellia that rely upon some ‘underground irrigation’ can be seriously disadvantaged by such landscape scale intervention.

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Livestock markets

The profitability of saltland pastures, like all other pastures, is intimately linked to the profitability of the industries they support. As with all things agricultural, there will be fluctuations in product prices driven largely by supply and demand. However many graziers with saltland have found that it provides a buffer against market fluctuations, enabling them to carry stock over during drought periods.

By providing out-of-season feed, saltland pastures also provide an opportunity to buy stock in when most people are selling and prices are depressed, or to turn stock off when the markets are under supplied.

“Having good livestock proved invaluable for us in 2006 and justified the serious approach we take to this component of our farming system.” Peter Treloar, farmer,

Eyre Peninsula, SA  

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Pests, diseases and environmental threats

Most saltland pastures appear to be relatively free from serious pests and disease, however waterlogging associated with high summer rainfall has been shown to cause bleaching of saltbush. While not strictly a disease, bleaching can lead to death of the saltbush. Inundation has also led to death of puccinellia pastures in the upper south-east of SA, despite its very high tolerance of waterlogging.

Grasshoppers or locusts can provide a significant challenge, especially over summer when green feed is scarce. If a saltland pasture is in the path of a locust swarm, then all green feed can disappear within hours. Perennials will shoot again after the locusts have moved on, but existing green feed is destroyed.

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