Fence and volunteer pasture in a nutshell

 The original ‘principles’ for saltland management that were developed in the 1950s by Clive Malcolm were: fence the site; cultivate to create niches for the seeds; and sow appropriate species of plants. These principles are an extension of those used in traditional agriculture and reflect the general desire by agronomists for ‘improvement’.

The Sustainable Grazing on Saline Land (SGSL) initiative explored the consequences of by-passing all but the first of these principles. The costs are minimal (fencing only) and the risk of ‘failure’ is almost zero. Across the SGSL sites, the general conclusion was that this ‘fence and volunteer pasture’ option could produce about 60% of that achieved from a fully ‘improved’ saltland pasture.

The objective is to protect saltland from overgrazing, and to bring it back into productive use without the cost and risk associated with sowing a saltland pasture. This does not preclude the opportunity to sow a saltland pasture at a later stage if the pasture that volunteers is disappointing.

Fence and volunteer pasture is a viable option in all of saltland situations except for the most severely affected saltland (saline and waterlogged) where Saltland Solution 1 –Fence and exclude from grazing. It is particularly suited to:

  • farms where the saltland areas are too small to make a contribution to the farm feed supply;
  • climatic zones where perennials rather than annuals are likely to volunteer;
  • sites where the risk of failure with sown saltland pasture is thought to be high;
  • sites where available funds allow fencing but not pasture improvement;
  • sites where the farmer does not have the time or skills to establish and manage a saltland pasture.

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