Salinity ‘urgent’ problem

URGENT attention must be directed toward recovering around two million hectares of South West agricultural land affected by salinity, according to the Grains Research & Development Corporation.

GRDC chairman Grant Latta said a recent tour of the region helped him realise there was no quick fix solutions.

“As with any challenge, you need to identify the problem and then develop measurable

solution,” Mr Latta said.

Estimates put the cost of rectifying the Australia-wide problem between $700 million and $10,000 million.

This year was the first year that the WA government started treating the problem seriously although they still only budgeted for about $50 million to be spent.

New WA National Party

president Rick Beatty said more work had to be done by the Government to address the

salinity problem.

Former Department of Conservation and Land Management executive director Syd Shea who has just been appointed chairman and executive director of the Oil Mallee Company of Australia said the wheatbelt was desperate for a solution.

“The wheatbelt of WA is crying out for commercially viable tree crops to soak up the excess water that is causing saline water tables to rise, destroying millions of hectares of productive farmland,” Dr Shea said.

The GRDC invests almost $4 million a year in R&D to develop productive solutions to salinity and is a core partner in the National Dryland Salinity Program.

More broadly, the GRDC invests about $23 million a year in projects to protect and enhance the environment, including those associated with soil and water management.

A program known as A Million Hectares For The Future focuses on the development of environmental buffers and management systems needed to stop salinity across one million hectares.

Mr Latta said the project acknowledged that groundwater recharge was a major driver of salinity and that few farmers understood the amount of recharge their farms produced.

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