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National Dryland Salinity Program focuses on how saline land can become productive.



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HAMISH ROBERTSON: There is good news this week for woolgrowers whose land has been affected by salinity. Not only are they the farmers most likely to remain productive but they will also benefit from a $9 million funding project being announced tomorrow. Under the initiative to be launched at the National Dryland Salinity Program conference in Perth, researchers will investigate the ways that graziers can make use of their salinised land.

 

David Weber reports.

 

DAVID WEBER: The conference is being held in Western Australia, the state with more than 70 per cent of the country’s reported salinity. But while previous conferences have focused on the extent of the problem, this one is looking at how farmers can continue working in a more saline environment. The coordinator of the Productive use of Saline Land Program, Dr Warren Mason, has been travelling around WA looking at some of the affected areas.

 

WARREN MASON: Farmers can do quite a lot with their saline land. It is a matter of turning the corner from thinking about it as a lost cause to thinking about it as a productive resource. There are quite a lot of things that will grow and there are quite a lot of things that can be used for grazing, and it is simply a matter of changing your management so that the saline land becomes part of your grazing operation.

 

DAVID WEBER: The kinds of grasses that animals feed on, I mean, that can grow in a saline environment, no worries?

 

WARREN MASON: You usually need some things that are pretty tough like saltbush. And what we are finding now is if you get those established then quite a lot of other things grow in between the saltbush.

 

DAVID WEBER: He says the prospects are best for sheep farmers and there are hopes for cattle farmers too. But Dr Mason says there is not much to offer to those who have lost crop land. He says there is currently little in the way of solutions for those without livestock.

 

Dr Richard Price is the National Manager of the Dryland Salinity Program. He says farmers will have to look at moving into some of the newer industries appropriate for saline environments.

 

RICHARD PRICE: Some of the other industries that are beginning to emerge are in the aquaculture area, primarily using some of the salty water from saline systems for developing fish industries, and also seaweed industries is another one that is beginning to emerge—supplying the Japanese seaweed market.

 

HAMISH ROBERTSON: That report was compiled by David Weber.