Level of Confidence in Dense saltbush plantings

1.     Farmer experiences
Among the very large bank of farmer stories and case studies associated with dense saltbush plantings, the following comment is typical:
The saltbush paddocks have become a very valuable part of our farming system. They maintain the condition of stock, providing green feed in autumn when it is most valuable. Also the ability of saltbush to cope with extended dry periods is one of its great strengths. In dry years the saltbush has proved its worth, effectively drought-proofing the sheep enterprise on the farm.

2.     Research
Research into saltbush for saline sites was active from the 1950s to the early 1990s. It fell from favour when research showed that all of the weight gain from sheep on a saltbush diet was in fact extra water taken in because of the high salt levels. The resurgence followed when saltbush and understorey was shown to be a much more productive and profitable option.

3.     Risks and challenges
Farmers and researchers are confident about both the strengths (persistence, out of season feed, water use, amenity) and weaknesses (high cost, low production, poor nutritive value) of dense saltbush plantings. The main risks are financial (costs will exceed benefits) if nursery raised seedlings are used, and poor establishment if direct seeded.

4.     Future prospects
Future prospects for this saltland solution are limited to the most severely saline sites that will support a pasture or where a high value is attached to amenity. At lower salinity levels saltbush & understorey (Saltland Solution 4) will give better results.

Prospects would improve if direct seeding (ie low cost establishment) could be extended to a wider range of soils.

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