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UNIT 4

Plant and animal performance

 

4.3  Performance of saltland pastures

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There are now hundreds of examples from across Australia that show that managed saltland pastures can be significantly more productive than unmanaged saltland.

While the actual production levels achieved will be very site specific, some generalisations have emerged from the SGSL core research sites and the farmer trials:

  1. In most cases, total production from saltland will be lower than from adjacent, non-saline paddocks, but there are exceptions. These exceptions tend to be on sites with relatively low levels of salinity where saltland pastures (especially with a significant perennial component) can have a longer growing season than the volunteer species they replace because of the availability of subsoil moisture – the “sub-irrigation effect” discussed in Section 4.2).
     
  2. As a general rule, production from saltland pastures declines as salinity increases, making it more difficult for the production benefits to cover the costs associated with pasture establishment. For more information, see Do the $$$’s Stack Up. An example from Western Victoria illustrates this:
     
    Figure 4.6

    Figure 4.6  Pasture growth between April and December 2003 in relation to topsoil salinity measured in December 2003. The volunteer pasture consists of a significant proportion of saltwater couch.
     
  3. At low levels of salinity, the production difference between a sown saltland pasture and a volunteer pasture will be greatest. As salinity levels increase, a point is reached where the sown pasture is no more productive than a volunteer pasture.
     
  4. Across a number of  the SGSL sites (core research sites and farmer trials) volunteer pastures produced about half as much as sown saltland pastures (for more information on the opportunities associated with volunteer pastures see Saltland Solution 2 – Fence and volunteer pasture.
     
  5. As with most perennial systems, saltland pastures prefer rotational grazing to set stocking. In the SGSL program, while animal performance gains from rotational grazing were minor, rotationally grazed plots had more under-storey biomass remaining after grazing, the under-storey consisted of a greater proportion of legumes and less saltbushes were killed.
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