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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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SOLUTION 1

Fence and exclude from grazing

 

1.1 Fence and exclude from grazing in a nutshell

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A quick summary

In this package of solutions for saline land, there are two that do not involve grazing:

  1. This solution (Fence and exclude from grazing) is recommended for saline sites that that are too saline, waterlogged and/or inundated for other solutions to succeed. It may also be the preferred solution for farmers who wish to see an improvement in their land at the lowest possible cost, though if the site is not highly saline and/or waterlogged, then Saltland Solution 2 (Fence and volunteer pasture) offers the same low cost but without excluding grazing as a management tool.
     
  2. Revegetation with non-grazing species is recommended for a much wider suite of saline sites where grazing may be a suitable land use, but other considerations lead to a rehabilitation plan with trees or other non-grazing species as a major component of the revegetation mix. Occasional grazing may be part of this solution, but only at times and at grazing pressures that do not threaten the other benefits being sought (eg. erosion control, timber production or simply visual amenity).

The sites most likely to suit fencing and exclusion from grazing (highly salty and waterlogged) are suited to the growth of samphire (Halosarcia species of which there are several that all go by the common name samphire) though other highly waterlogging and salt-tolerant plants may be present (eg. curly ryegrass and cotula). Revegetation of this class of land is gradual and episodic, and occurs naturally if grazing is excluded. Germination on bare areas can be improved by disc pitting or creating furrows to trap seed and moisture. Samphire is not suited to grazing as the salt concentrations in the forage can reach concentrations of 40% and there are likely to be other, anti-nutritional factors.

The objective behind this Saltland Solution may be a combination of revegetation to decrease soil erosion, mitigate the severity of flash flooding and to increase amenity values. These sites have no current commercial value, either before or after this Saltland Solution is put in place. Future commercial value is also unlikely, although carbon fixation/sequestration and production of glycine betaine (samphire is high in this) are potential industries for the future.

Within sites that are fenced and have grazing excluded to allow samphire to prosper, other species may colonise, including stands of trees on any sandy rises especially Casuarina obesa.

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History

This option has had little systematic research, at least partly because there is no chance of any financial return on an investment in this solution.

In the 1960’s, there was some research undertaken on samphire by Clive Malcolm in the Western Australian Department of Agriculture, who studied the effects of temperature, salinity and seed scarification on samphire germination. At this time samphire was considered a possibility for saltland grazing systems. The WA Department of Agriculture produced a Farmnote on samphire in 1988 but this has been withdrawn because grazing of samphire is no longer recommended. However the Farmnote does contain useful information for farmers who may want to encourage samphire establishment.

There has also been some research regarding the ecology of samphires on highly saline mine dumps and on the margins of salt lakes.

A Google search on Halosarcia yields mostly botanical information, including distribution and identification. A similar search on samphire yields a broader array of information, but with a considerable focus on the edible (human food) aspects of the plant.

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Identifying Samphire

Samphire is the common name for a wide ranging group of succulent shrubs, which in Australia is represented by six genera within the family Chenopodiaceae. The Chenopodiaceae family also includes the saltbushes (Atriplex species) and the Rhagodia species that are common saltland plants, though none are as salt and waterlogging tolerant as the samphires.

Figure 1.1 shows the SALTdeck card for Samphire. SALTdeck was produced to assist with the identification of the 50 most common saltland species. These can be viewed on this website.

Samphire is a perennial shrub that may have a spreading or erect habit and can be up to one metre high. Branches consist of succulent, compressed stem segments that are hairless, jointed and range from green to reddish-purple. The flowers and seeds are hidden between the fleshy segments and the seeds may be black or brown, smooth or rough depending on the species. Seeds mature in summer but the seed heads may not dry off till autumn.

Figure 1.1 - SALTdeck card showing the photo and text sides of samphire species.

Detailed identification down to individual species is very difficult without botanical training, but to help with the process, there is a website with an artificial key to the individual samphire species.

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