Can you tackle salinity on one farm? Yes. You can make a difference.

Christchurch Grammar School students and teachers planting trees at Southern Brook, Northam, WA

David Pannell disagrees with the widely held opinion that salinity can be addressed only on a regional or catchment-wide scale.

The University of WA Principal Research Fellow, Agriculture and Resource Economics, believes that in many cases salinity problems actually originate on the property where they appeal* and that arresting those problems does not depend on the integrated catchment approach, as is generally believed.

Part of the basis for what is an interesting and important argument lies in the fact that an estimated 30-50 per cent of WA's agricultural land lies above local hydrological systems.

A local system is one where the water recharge and discharge sites are both within a relatively small distance, e.g. within 3 kilometres, compared to a regional aquifer, where they might be separated by tens of kilometres.

That being the case, there is a fair chance water is entering and leaving the soil on the same farm, and that a salinity problem caused by the aquifer actually originated on-site.

"The importance of this conclusion is that individual farmers should not feel unable to act against salinity if they cannot get cooperation from their neighbours," Professor Pannell said.

Jay Matta, hydrologist from Agriculture Western Australia's Catchment Hydrology Group, agrees that if farmers did address the problems on their individual properties, it would make a difference. "In many instances, individual on-farm treatment of a salinity problem is by far the most effective option, and often the only one."

For more information contact Professor David Pannell on 08 9844 8659 or email david.

Further details of this study are available at

(See pl9 'Seme findings fran a vtole-farm. approach' — Ed.)