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Multi-disciplinary approaches suggest profitable and sustainable farming systems for valley floors at risk of salinity

Barrett-Lennard, E.G., George, R.J., Hamilton, G., Norman, H.C. and Masters, D.G. (2005) Multi-disciplinary approaches suggest profitable and sustainable farming systems for valley floors at risk of salinity. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 45 (11). pp. 1415-1424.

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Australia’s traditional approach to salinity abatement has been to focus primarily on the control of recharge in land not at risk of salinity by incorporating deep-rooted perennial plants (e.g. lucerne, oil mallees and farm trees) into farming systems throughout the landscape. However, in the broad valley floors and sedimentary plains of Australia’s cropping regions (the areas most at risk of salinity), recharge is mainly a 1-dimensional process. Thus, offsite recharge management may have little or no impact on salinity outcomes for the areas at risk. The future of the broad valley floors will be most influenced by the management decisions of landholders in the valley floors.

To be sustainable and profitable, farming systems on valley floors need to (i) target perennial plants to the valley floors and improve soil management to dry the root-zone, decrease recharge and minimise capillary rise, (ii) increase the discharge of groundwater from valley floors using deep drains and stands of perennial plants, (iii) improve surface water management to ameliorate waterlogging, inundation and flooding, and (iv) incorporate better plants and better agronomic methods in the growth of profitable salt tolerant crops and fodder plants.

This paper will illustrate the convergence of new research and development that offers real prospects of low risk, high return farming systems for Australia’s threatened valley floors. We argue that there needs to be a major refocus by farmers, researchers and their funders in the development of profitable sustainable farming systems for valley floors.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2005 CSIRO
Other Information: Conference details: the Salinity Solutions Conference: “Working with Science and Society”. Bendigo, Victoria, 2–5 August 2005
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