Dryland salinity is the build-up of salt in surface soil in non-irrigated areas, usually because of rising groundwater tables. Groundwater seeps to the surface, bringing salt with it. As the soil surface dries out, salt is left behind.
Your soil is a valuable asset which, if well managed, can increase the productivity and value of your land. Recognising and managing dryland salinity not only helps protect water quality across the catchments, but also helps to maximise productivity and economic returns on your farm.
Dryland salinity is a problem for farmers because salt makes it harder for plants to extract water from soil. The result is loss of pasture and groundcover, and eventually soil erosion, which affects the productivity and sustainability of your farm.
In the last 40 years, the area in drinking water catchments affected by dryland salinity has increased rapidly. One of the major causes has been removing deep-rooted perennial vegetation and replacing it with shallow-rooted pastures and crops, raising the water table and bringing salt to the surface.
The effects of dryland salinity include:
- loss of groundcover and pasture production
- salt deposits on the soil surface
- increased soil erosion
- tree death
- increased salt concentrations in dams and creeks
Look for the tell-tale signs - crystal clear dam water, bare patches of ground with a white surface crust (salt scalds) and invasion by salt tolerant plants such as Couch, sea Barley Grass and Buck's Horn Plantain.
It is important to get advice from the relevant authorities before treating your soil.
What you can do
- Manage saline areas and salt scalds.
- Promote plant growth and use plant species to maximise soil water use.
- Revegetate hills, ridge tops and other recharge areas.