Looking to the future

Predictive modelling from Richard George and colleagues from CSIRO and Murdoch University indicates that by 2020 in catchments like the Avon River Basin, farmers will be cleverly adopting a mixture of forage perennials and a wide variety of farm forestry systems in a matrix of conventionally farmed paddocks.

Probably 80 per cent of current cropping will remain, with a matrix of commercial woody shrubs nearby. Pastures will change to include large areas based on salt-land systems and grazing forage species like tagasaste and other shrubs that become common on less arable or deep and permeable sites.

This takes into account that the 30 per cent of the landscape predicted to be lost to salinity will be unevenly distributed and will have significant impact on some farms, rural communities and natural assets.

Saline aquaculture will also become common as new industries and market opportunities see farmers develop new ways to use saline water.

There are also options being developed to decrease the amount of water that reaches the watertable (recharge). This includes working on the contour, adopting new tillage practice and planting higher-water-use crops.