Working lucerne into a profitable system

Salinity has become WA's biggest land baron, claiming more than $700 million worth of land. It also threatens to move into utilities, with 20 per cent of WA's highways, 18 per cent of roads and 24 per cent of railways under threat, while 34 rural towns nervously watch salinity encroach.

PERENNIALS, PARTICULARLY lucerne, are at the forefront of an all-out effort to restore one million hectares of saline land across WA and SA, while maintaining profitable production.

Extensive lucerne establishment and partner cropping are among the key management strategies being developed through the 'Salinity Management with Plants' program. The WA Department of Agriculture is leading the research program. All the projects aim to maximise plant water use and reduce leaks into the watertable while keeping tabs on the costs associated with various management strategies.

Partner cropping means 'win-win'

Lucerne, for example, can be a costly option because it is slow to establish and usually means forgoing a grain cash crop. The research is aimed at offsetting these costs through partner-cropping systems, which allow growers to harvest a grain crop over a lucerne stand.

Trials also experimented with lime applications to achieve better lucerne establishment and growth on the acidic soils.

Program 4 Contact: Mr Richard O'Donnell 08 9690 2000