Level of Confidence in fence and volunteer pasture

1.     Farmer experiences
There are few case studies with details of the fence and volunteer pasture solution on farm. An SGSL analysis on a NSW farm with significant saltland pasture determined the impact on whole farm profit. As an aside, the report commented “Some saline sites on Farm B have not been sown to saltland pasture. The landholder has managed these sites using a planned grazing process. Grass species are allowed to colonise bare areas during the periods free of stock. Results from this grazing management approach show, in paddocks previously with significant areas of scalding, bare ground has been revegetated and species diversity has improved to a level equal to elsewhere on the property. In particular, these areas now contain more species of native perennial grasses than are present on other areas of the farm.”

Following the positive experiences with the SGSL initiative, it is likely that many more farmers will adopt this low cost, low risk approach to saltland revegetation.

2.     Research
There have been no dedicated research projects to examine the fence and volunteer pasture option. However, the SGSL research clearly showed that the control plots (volunteer pasture) produced about 60% of the sown saltland pastures.

Subsequent economic analysis confirmed that in many situations, the lower cost more than made up for the lower production, producing a better economic return.

3.     Risks and challenges
The main ‘risks’ associated with ‘fence and volunteer pasture’ are: (a) the fact that the volunteer pasture that establishes will likely be less productive and/or less nutritious, and maybe less profitable than if a ‘proper’ saltland pasture was established, and (b) that the volunteer pasture will include significant weeds such as spiny rush; if this is the case, and weed control is needed, then the cost of the option will be increased.

4.     Future prospects
The conclusion from the SGSL initiative was that there are almost no situations where ‘fence and volunteer pasture’ is not a viable option for saltland – something always grows! In some situations, other options will be more profitable, or may better meet the farmer’s objectives, but these can be implemented later if the volunteer pasture does not meet expectations.

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