Dryland Salinity

Dryland salinity refers to all soils in non-irrigated areas that have become saline as a result of clearing for agriculture resulting in a rising watertable that draws ancient salt deposits the surface and subsurface. It is a major cause of land degradation and remains a threat to 2.8 – 4.5 million hectares of highly productive low-lying or valley soils in WA. Problematic salinity is determined by electrical conductivity (1:5) water extract. A reading of less than 0.15 will not affect plant growth.

Solutions and Preventions

• Reduce the watertable by planting deep rooted salt-tolerant plants in mild to moderately affected areas; and
• Minimise further land clearing especially near waterways.

It is possible to reclaim salt affected land but it can take many years to achieve.

Further Reading

Agriculture Victoria. 2009. ‘Saltbush for Saline Land.’ http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/farm-management/soil-and-water/salinity/saltbush-for-saline-land

Apal Agricultural Laboratory. Undated. Soil Test Interpretation Guide. http://www.apal.com.au/images/uploads/resources/Soil_Test_Interpretation_Guide_1.pdf

Bartle, J. et al. 2002. ‘Acacia species as large-scale crop plants in the Western Australian Wheatbelt.’ Conservation Science Western Australia. 4(3) 96-108. https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/images/documents/about/science/cswa/articles/76.pdf

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD). 2017. ‘Dryland Salinity in Western Australia.’ https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/soil-salinity/dryland-salinity-western-australia-0

Forest Products Commission Western Australia. Accessed 26/04/2018. ‘Tree farming.’  http://www.fpc.wa.gov.au/farm-forestry

Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). Accessed 26/04/2018. ‘Fish farming floated for saline dams.’ https://grdc.com.au/resources-and-publications/groundcover/ground-cover-issue-60/fish-farming-floated-for-saline-farms

GRDC. 2016. ‘DAW717 – Soil and surface water management for profitable crops and pastures on waterlogged and saline land.’ https://grdc.com.au/research/reports/report?id=399

Short, R. and McConnell, C. 2001. Extent and impacts of dryland salinity. Department of Agriculture and Food (WA). https://researchlibrary.agric.wa.gov.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com.au/&httpsredir=1&article=1352&context=rmtr

Wheatbelt NRM. 2013. Agroforestry Options for the Wheatbelt. https://www.wheatbeltnrm.org.au/sites/default/files/knowledge_hub/documents/Agroforestry_Options_for_the_Wheatbelt.pdf