June 14, 2013
Transformation of a salt-scalded landscape into a productive superfine wool operation has drawn farmers, scientists and agribusiness consultants to a woolshed near Murrumbateman to see the success story delivered by John and Robyn Ive. SoilsforLife organised the field day and its chairman and prominent advocate for soil health, Michael Jeffery, said Australian governments’ policies should give priority support to land managers and to protection of agricultural and natural resources. Major-General Jeffery also supports the application of targeted research to provide specific solutions to market requirements and areas of need. NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) hydrologist, David Mitchell, said the transformation of ‘Talaheni’, the Ives’ 250-hectare Yass River property, showed that appropriate land use and ground works can address the effects of salt in local landscapes. “As John confirmed in his presentation and on-site tour, climate is a major driver of salt movements in the landscape,” Dr Mitchell said. “Guest presenter and DPI hydrologist, Tony Bernardi, supported this premise with 10 years of recorded data which vividly illustrated how salt movements were minimised in drought to peak during extremes of wet weather. “Our research supports many of the Ives’ initiatives with the use of ground cover to minimise overland flows and strategic tree-plantings to reduce recharge, which in turn minimises both overland and subsurface flows to help manage the salt stores. “On-ground actions to reduce salt movement, planting perennials or earthwork for instance, should be based on the hydrological aspects of the individual site.” Dr Mitchell said that while science has delivered a good understanding of salt in the Australian landscape, the connection between ground and surface water to salt reserves is still being fully explored. “We’re improving our understanding of how groundwater and surface flows are affected by landscape, land use and climate, to give clearer, more consistent advice to land managers,” he said. “We are particularly interested in further exploring the effects on dryland salinity and catchment water yield and quality and modelling to simulate future effects of rain and drought.” Dr Mitchell said results of hydrological studies will help prioritise future investment in natural resource management and allow better management of geographically targeted areas.