Coorong District Council response measures to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Residents who are experiencing financial hardship may seek assistance from Coorong District Council by entering into a long-term payment arrangement. Information is available on our Financial Hardship page.

For more COVID-19 information please click here.

Dismiss alert

Saltland Pasture Redemption Project

1 Messina Strips Gypsum Road Sept 2017

Messina strips - Gypsum Road Cook Plains 2017

To jump straight to information about dryland salinity please click here.

To jump straight to information about salt tolerant pastures please click here.

To learn more about the Saltland Pasture Redemption Project keep reading

Saltland Pasture Redemption Project

The Saltland Pasture Redemption Group and Project was initiated by the Coorong Tatiara Local Action Plan and Coomandook Ag Bureau to investigate the application of new developments in the productive use of saline land across the Coorong Tatiara. This included testing the suitability of new salt tolerant legume species Messina and complimentary salt tolerant pastures in broadacre farming systems. This project followed on from the Dryland Salinity Information Sessions held across the Coorong District Council area.

In 2016, three sites were established at Meningie East, Coomandook, and Cooke Plains.

Key issues that farmers wanted to investigate were:

1.  Does Messina grow in the environment?

2.  Can it be productive either as a stand alone species or as part of a pasture mix?

Robust discussion occurred at our Spring 2017 Farm Walk. Producers, Agronomists, NRM & PIRSA Staff, and SARDI Reps were interested in addressing more saltland management questions in regard to establishment, regeneration, and management going forward.

Please click here to access the;

2018 Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Bulletin, and the

Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Bulletin 13th September 2017

With funding support from the National Landcare Program - Smart Farms Program, and Australian Government Initiative the next stage of the Saltland Pasture Redemption Project began in August 2019.

Planning sessions were held in late 2018 and early 2019 with participating landholders, agronomists, seed merchants, and Natural Resources SA Murray Darling Basin and South East to establish 8 demonstration sites to tackle the following saltland agronomy challenges;

  • Staggered seeding of salt tolerant legume Messina after several rainfall events (to test effect of rainfall flushing the topsoil)
  • Use of groundcovers to test reduced salinity evapo-concentration over the summer period
  • Use of mounds and mechanical intervention to enhance establishment (microclimates)
  • Establishment of new varieties in existing salt tolerant pasture stands
  • Demonstration on a range of soil types

To read the Final Report summarising the findings of the Saltland Pasture Redemption Project please click here ‘Saltland Pasture Redemption – Tips and Tools for Identifying and dealing with Saline Soils’

To read a record of the Saltland Pasture Redemption Project activities from 2017 to present day please click here to access the TECHNICAL NOTE Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Activities 2017-2020

2 Saltland Pasture Redemption Report page 1 3 Coomandook Saltland Pasture Redemption Report page 1

For a summary of the outcomes from this project please read on.

1. Use of groundcovers to test reduced salinity evapo-concentration over the summer period

Throughout the life of the project, the areas where successful establishment of pastures on saline soils occurred were

those where there was evidence of groundcover (green or dead plant material) or areas where the surface was slightly elevated.

We observed retaining some level of groundcover over the summer period may assist in shading the area and reducing the evapo-concentration of salts in the soil over the summer period.

In 2019-20 three sites were monitored to see if groundcover over the summer period provided any benefit to reduce the evapo-concentration / soil wicking of salt to assist in providing a less saline growing environment. Soil samples were taken on the 30th of January 2020 prior to a rainfall event.

The results can be found in the report ‘Saltland Pasture Redemption – Tips and Tools for Identifying and dealing with Saline Soils’ where it can be seen that the groundcover appeared to reduce the soil surface salinity levels across all sites both at the soil surface further down the profile emphasising the importance of trying to retain groundcover to reduce the level of salt scalding.

4 Impact of groundcover on soil surface salinity

2. Staggered seeding of salt tolerant legume Messina after several rainfall events (to test effect of rainfall flushing the topsoil)

The time of sowing is critical in trying to remediate saline country. To improve the chances of plant germination, a ‘flush’ is thought to be required. In 2017-2018 this ‘flush’ wasn’t received and there was poor germination across all sites. In 2019, exceptional germinations were observed on hostile, saline soils. The late time of sowing paired with the salts being flushed through the soil was thought to be the key difference driving this success.

Rainfall records against sowing times were monitored across the 8 project sites and compared with soil moisture probe data at Moorlands and Coomandook.

5 Coomandook soil moisture probe graph

Being able to graphically correlate the soil moisture probe data to what we were observing on project sites was encouraging, and supported the hypothesis that soil flushing was indeed important to improve the outcome of seeding salt tolerant pastures.

This was further supported by the Moorlands soil moisture probe data where the 2018 and 2019 data can be
compared. There was very little change in soil moisture levels from the 25-May to 25-June
2018, with the 50cm zone actually drying out further. This is in contrast to 2019 where there was an
increase in the soil water through the profile down to 50cms.

3. Use of mounds and mechanical intervention to enhance establishment (microclimates)

Throughout the project, different seeding techniques were used with varying success. The common method of seeding into the furrow and then providing a furrow with the press wheel was found to be detrimental to establishment of pastures in saline soil as the press wheel tended to create soil surface sealing impacting on germination. Those seeds that weren’t placed in the base of the furrow rather on the sides of the furrow were those that germinated more effectively (and were more likely to survive).

6 Paddock roughly worked 1

Paddocks that were very roughly worked were those that appeared to have improved establishment

Mounding of a site at Coomandook in 2019 did not appear to improve establishment, however the time of sowing was very delayed at this site and may have required more rainfall to flush the salts out of the mounded area. This site will continue to be monitored as future opportunities allow.

In 2019, a paddock at Cooke Plains that had been impacted by salt since 2013 was deep ripped to 400mm in a series of strips to see if cracking open the soil or reducing a hard pan layer had an impact on the soil salinity levels and establishment of pasture species. A mixture of crop and pasture species was then sown 11th June 2019 across the site.

The ripping was very successful in improving the pasture production and overall health of the plants. Establishment of the small seeds in the mix was reduced (thought to be due to seeding depth on the soft ripped area). Ripping was also effective in decreasing the salinity levels in the treated area, both at the surface, and at the 10-30cm layer.

Soil Test Results Cooke Plains 2019

4. Establishment of new varieties in existing salt tolerant pasture stands

There is a wide range of tolerance of different crop and pasture species to soil salinity. The recently released salt tolerant legume Neptune Messina is adapted to winter-waterlogged areas where soil salinity in the top 10cms is 8-30 dS/m ECe in summer-early autumn (https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/neptune)

9 Seedling Messina Left: Seedling Messina

10 Relative tolerance of crops and pastures to soil salinity

Above: Relative tolerance of crops and pastures to soil salinity (Hermann, 1995)

Farmer demonstrations from 2017-2019 largely focused on the new salt tolerant (and waterlogging tolerant) pasture legume Neptune Messina. It was assessed in different soil types and situations as both a stand-alone salt tolerant pasture, and as part of a saltland pasture mix where it’s role was to add protein to the feed mix and to provide nitrogen to the system (all seed was inoculated with the salt tolerant Rhizobium strain for Messina).

Feed quality samples were taken from the Cooke Plains 2 site in 2017. This testing found that the Messina was comparable in feed quality to other legume species, however farmer experience has been that in larger paddocks with a mixture of soil types and pasture species the Messina can remain largely ungrazed, but still provide valuable groundcover. In the absence of other feed sources, the stock will graze it.

Nodulation of the root system of Neptune Messina  was still evident in 2019 in a four-year old stand showing the ability of the rhizobia to survive in the hostile soils in the district.

11 Nodulation of Messina Left: Nodulation of Messina

The persistence of the Messina and Rhizobia over four years has shown the role that the Messina is likely to play in saltland pastures;

- As part of a diverse species mix (as opposed to a monoculture)

- As part of a mixed salt tolerant pasture sward providing maximum levels of groundcover and water extraction across the saline area

- Providing the vital role of a salt tolerant legume (other than Balansa or Persian Clover) to provide nitrogen fixation in a salt tolerant pasture mix.

This information is explained more fully in the report ‘Saltland Pasture Redemption – Tips and Tools for Identifying and dealing with Saline Soils’.

5. Demonstration on a range of soil types

As the water table below the surface rises, it brings with it dissolved salts to the root zone of crops, pastures, and native vegetation and potentially the soil surface. The first areas affected are often the low-lying areas within paddocks.

There appears to be two main processes occurring across the region leading to soil salinity;

  • Discharge - where the water table intercepts with the ground surface creating an area that becomes waterlogged over a period of time
  • Capillary action (‘wicking‘) - where evaporation at the soil surface draws the water up through the soil. Capillary action is strongly influenced by soil type with water moving most easily through clay soils and less so through sandy soils making clay soils with a similar water table level more prone to salinity scalding.

Throughout the life of the project, various observations have been made by farmers around those areas that become saline over recent years.

These include;

  • Annual Ryegrass (ARG) appearing in low lying areas.
  • High biomass production in the year prior to dryland salinity appearing.
  • Rapid increase in soil salinity level.

12 Annual Ryegrass in a waterlogged area Left: Annual Ryegrass in a waterlogged area

Saltland tolerant pasture establishment was undertaken on a range of soil types as part of this project. The key differences between soil types in terms of saline sites was that the salt ‘wicked up’ to the surface more readily under clay / heavy soils than sandy / light soils. However during this project it was the level of soil salinity and growing season rainfall, regardless of soil type, that were the limiting factors that determined the success or failure of seedling germination.

14 Variations in soil salinity across Coomandook site 2018

To read the Final Report summarising the findings of the Saltland Pasture Redemption Project please click here ‘Saltland Pasture Redemption – Tips and Tools for Identifying and dealing with Saline Soils’

To read a record of the Saltland Pasture Redemption Project activities from 2017 to present day please click here to access the TECHNICAL NOTE Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Activities 2017-2020

Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Events, Tour Booklets and Presentations

Several events were held over the life of the Saltland Pasture Redemption Project visiting demonstration sites and promoting project outcomes. Some of these Tours, Farm Walks and Workshops were held in conjunction with other projects to bring maximum value to participating land managers.

Please find a summary of events and supporting information below.

The Coorong Tatiara Local Action Plan look forward to more information sharing opportunities in the future.

Sandy Soils and Saltland Pasture Redemption Tour
Wednesday 2nd of October 2019

This tour was held on Wednesday the 2nd of October between 2pm and 6pm.

Covered on this day was:

- Deep ripping salinity affected ground

- Shot gun pasture/crop mixes on saline ground

- Fourth year regenerating Messina

- Salinity tolerance of crop & pasture seedlings in the Waite Plant Accelerator.

To access the Flyer, Program and Tour Booklet please click here.

15 Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Tour Flyer

Dryland Salinity and Hydrogeology Update & Local Salinity Trends
Thursday 28th of March

The information covered at this update had a particular focus on the Coomandook, Cooke Plains, and Meningie East localities.

Covered during the session was; a history of dryland salinity, hydrogeology update, overview of the Saltland Pasture Redemption Project, and a discussion as a group around where to from here.

Please click on the links below to access the presentations, and 'where to from here' discussion outcomes.

1. A Local History of Dryland Salinity with Graham Gates - Coorong Tatiara Local Action Plan

2. Groundwater Monitoring Update with Chris Henschke - Rural Solutions(1280 kb)

3. Hydrogeology Update and Mythbusting with Steve Barnett - Department for Environment and W(3640 kb)

Fact Sheet - Lower Lakes and Dryland Salinity

4. Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Update with Felicity Turner - Coorong Tatiara LAP

5. New Perennial Legume Pasture - Tedera with Robert Christie - Seednet

Tedera Fact Sheet

Where to from here discussion outcomes

16 Dryland Salinity and Hydrogeology Update Flyer 2019

17 Steve Barnett DEW presenting on regional hydrogeology

Above: Steve Barnett from the Department for Environment and Water presenting on regional hydrogeology

Meningie East / Field - Crop & Pasture Walk

This tour was held on Thursday the 27th of September 2018 touring sites around Meninge East & Field. To access the Tour Booklet and additional handouts from this and the associated Coomandook Tour please click on the links that can be found below.

TOUR BOOKLET Meningie East Field Crop & Pasture Walk 27th September 2017(8123 kb)

Groundwater Trends Coomandook_Meningie(773 kb)

18 Meningie East Field Crop and Pasture Walk 2018

Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Site Tour & Local Salinity Trends 2018

This tour was held on Wednesday the 19th of September 2018 touring sites around Coomandook and Cooke Plains. To access the Tour Booklet and additional handouts from this Tour please click on the links below.

TOUR BOOKLET Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Site Tour 19th September 2018(9345 kb)

Lanza Tedera herbaceous drought tolerant perennial pasture legume for mediterranean environments

Trends in Dryland Salinity across SA(267 kb)

Summary of treatments applied on Gypsum Road Demonstration Site - Paul Ruchs Landmark(3770 kb)

19 Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Site Tour 2018

Planning Forum was held in March 2018 with participating landholders, agronomists,  seed merchants, and Natural Resources SA Murray Darling Basin and South East. The outcomes and outlines of site plans for 2018 are contained in the report below. Relevant data from the 2017 season in contained in the presentation below.

PLANNING FORUM REPORT Saltland Redemption Project March 20th 2018(1391 kb)

Saltland Pasture Redemption Update Presentation 20th March 2018(966 kb)

Below: Tomohawk Bale Shredder used to spread mulch at Cooke Plains

20 Tomohawk Bale Sheredder used to spread mulch at Cooke Plains

Please click here to access the;

2018 Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Bulletin, and the

2017 Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Bulletin

Saltland Pasture Redemption Site Tour 2017

The first Saltland Pasture Redemption Site Tour was held on Wednesday the 20th of September 2017 with approximately 60 landholders, agronomists, NRM, PIRSA and SARDI staff in attendance. It was a terrific opportunity for a cross fertilisation of ideas.

With funding secured to run this project over another season several ideas were discussed about what aspects of saltland pasture and messina establishment we should look at next such as;

Seeding Messina into established Puccinellia pasture   

Timed seeding of Messina after several rainfall events

Use of ground covers to stop salinity concentration such as; Plastic / Organic mulch / Groundcover

Messina palatability

Messina response to nutrients and trace elements

Use of raised seed beds or mounds

Comparing innoculated vs un-innoculated Messina

Your idea?

21 Saltland Pasture Redemption Project Site Tour Flyer 2017

Below is a range of information from the day including; the tour booklet, various papers and fact sheets, and presentations from SARDI and Natural Resources SA Murray Darling Basin.

Tour Booklet - Saltland Redemption Farm Walk 20th September 2017(15929 kb)

PRESENTATIONS

After lunch presentations were given by;

Ross Ballard - SARDI Rhizobiologist, and David Peck - member of the SARDI Pasture Group

Messina - a new annual legume for saltland pastures(4209 kb)

Tony Randall - Natural Resources SA Murray Darling Basin, Land & Water Management Team Co-ordinator

Mallee Seeps in the SA Murray Darling Basin NRM Region(1737 kb)

MESSINA

Find here more information about 'Messina' the recently released Salt and Waterlogging Tolerant Pasture Legume.For more information see Seednet Messina Fact Sheet.

Please click here to access a paper by Ross Ballard and David Peck of SARDI 'Messina establishment and management.'

Elders - Heritage Seeds - White Saline Pasture Demonstration at Coomandook - click here.

SOIL TESTING FOR SALINITY

Measuring salinity Understanding the numbers(233 kb)

Soil Salinity Sampling Fact Sheet(87 kb)

Soil Salinity ECe crop and pasture tolerance chart(91 kb)

FEED TEST RESULTS

Messina Feed Test 07.09.2017(87 kb)

Scimitar Burr Medic Feed Test 07.09.2017(81 kb)

For more Saltland Pasture information and Fact Sheets that were produced to cover conditions in our region please click this link to return to our Saltland Pastures web page by clicking here.

For more information on this project please contact tstrugnell@coorong.sa.gov.au

22 NLP2 logo

23 Smart Farms statement

24 Natural Resources South East logo 25 Natural Resources SAMDB logo