New saltbush lines set for release in 2014

Sheep farmers could soon have access to newer, tastier saltbush varieties, to help improve returns on their less productive, saline land.
The Future Farm Industries CRC and the CSIRO were trialling 12 genotypes and has them growing at 15 trial sites across Australia, including Anemeka Farms in Tammin.
The lines were originally selected in 2001 from seed collected from native stands of old man saltbush, with the aim to find lines that were tastier, more easily digested and produced greater biomass.
CSIRO scientist Hayley Norman has been working on the project.
She said improving the digestibility of saltbush for sheep by just 10 per cent, could be three times more profitable than increasing biomass production.
“This was according to whole farm economic modelling, based on the WA central Wheatbelt,” Hayley Norman said.
“We’ve now undertaken four years of field grazing, pen feeding and lab experiments using sheep grazed on these trial sites to determine just how palatable and digestible these new saltbush lines are.
“To our surprise, sheep grazing on the sites showed similar likes and dislikes.
“From this information we’ve been able to choose the best eight genotypes and are about to feed them to sheep to confirm the digestibility figures.
“Using all this information, we will choose several genotypes for commercial release next year.”
Natural resource management group Wheatbelt NRM has been working closely with the Future Farm Industries CRC, with the help of funding from the Australian government’s Caring for our Country program.
The group’s project manager Georgie Troup said software was now available to farmers, giving them advice on what to do with saline land.
She said farmers had already accessed the online resource.
“Australia’s leading agricultural advisors have developed a brilliant resource called Saltland Genie which offers specific salt land solutions,” Georgie Troup said.
“It includes economic modelling, local case studies and all the information you need to gain productivity from your site.”
Bencubbin farmer Rob Grylls has been involved in the project using Saltland Genie.
Some of the software program’s recommendations for his sites included mixed saltbush plantings with inter-row, medic pasture.
“I think it is a useful tool to research what best to grow in different situations,” Rob Grylls said.
“We used the program to work out what shrubs, perennial grasses and pastures to grow on different sites depending on the severity of salinity and its position in the landscape.”
Rob Grylls said he used the information to plant out two five-hectare sites, which will eventually be used to run sheep this Autumn.
The software can be found at www.saltlandgenie.org.au