Western Australian studies are confirming findings from the south-east of the country regarding the water-use benefits of growing lucerne. (See details in Mopping up groundwater...this page.)
At Katanning, a five-year project aimed at salt reduction is being conducted by Agriculture Western Australia and CSIRO Plant Industry with support from growers through the GRDC.
Summer growth key
Comparing the results of three years of trial work with lucerne and annual pastures like subclover, CSIRO scientist Phil Ward said both pastures used the water as fast as possible during winter and early spring.
"But in the second and third years, when the annual died off at the start of summer, lucerne continued to grow and use water deeper in the subsoil.
"The lucerne got an extra 40 mm of water out of the clay, which would normally go into the groundwater and contribute to salinity," said Dr Ward.
The scientists are continuing studies to see whether there are any adverse effects on cropping. They are devising an economic test to compare lucerne with other pastures and rotational crops like lupins.
Program 3.4.3 Contact: Dr Phil Ward 08 9333 6616