Saltland legumes in a nutshell

Clovers and medics underpin most Australian improved pastures on non-saline land with their significant contribution to animal nutrition and nitrogen fixation. The development of a robust salt-tolerant legume is something of a holy grail for graziers with saltland and for researchers.

However, legumes are less salt-tolerant than grasses, apparently due to their relative inability to prevent the uptake of the toxic salts. As a general guide, the most common legume species for saltland are (ranked from most to least salt tolerant) burr medic, lucerne, strawberry clover and balansa clover. However this ranking is only meaningful when set alongside waterlogging tolerance, which will often eliminate lucerne and burr medic from the choices. Melilotus species, which have higher levels of salt and waterlogging tolerance, are presently limited by the lack of available salt tolerant symbiotic rhizobia.

If legumes were available for a wide range of saline/waterlogged situations, then the economics of saltland pastures would receive a considerable boost. 

In almost all saltland pasture situations, the critical productive component will be the salt- tolerant grass or shrub.  Legumes are often included in the seeding mix in the hope that the levels of salinity and waterlogging in parts of the saltland area will be low enough to allow them to establish and make a significant contribution.

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