SaltCap

Saltland with Saltbush and Sandfires bushes in forground

SaltCap

Overview
The “SaltCap” project ran from October 2011 to June 2013, and aimed to improve farmers' capacity to make informed decisions about what to plant and where in these challenging saltland environments. The project targeted farmers located within the areas of Wongan-Ballidu, Bruce Rock, Trayning and surrounding Shires, as these areas were identified as high risk areas for the spread of salinity. This project received funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country Program.
Delivery Organisation
Wheatbelt NRM
Contact

Dr Guy Boggs

Program Manager – Sustainable Agriculture

Phone: (08) 9670 3112

Mobile: 0434 976 124

Email: gboggs@wheatbeltnrm.org.au

SaltCap is a decision support tool developed by the Future Farm Industries (FFI) CRC, which provides farmers with a source of information to enable them to make informed decisions on the management of saltland. SaltCap is focused on first understanding the principles that govern saltland capability to then make the best decisions on which plants will work in the saline landscape for greatest production and financial gain. The decision support tool has been publicly available through the Saltland Genie website, but there has been limited evaluation of the use of the tool. This project provided useful evaluation information to the FFI CRC on the use of the tool.

Achievements

 

The SaltCap tool can provide site specific recommendations, which the farmer may not normally consider. During the project, 22 farmers implemented SaltCap recommendations, and of these farmers, 100% will use the tool again to assist them in making management decisions – which illustrates a direct relationship between the use of the tool and its ability to provide useful recommendations. 

 

The project offered participating farmers the opportunity to establish their sites using a cost-sharing of seedling cost. The project subsidised the cost of the seedlings. The seedling subsidy program was a great success. It enabled the project to achieve a greater area of land under improved management practices, and it also meant that the farmer contribution to the project was greater than in other revegetation projects, where the seedling cost is 100% covered by the project. There was no negative feedback from farmers about the subsidised seedlings, and it is hoped that by entering into a cost-sharing arrangement with the farmer for seedlings, then it will ensure that NRM activities begin to be included in the farm budget in future years. 

 

The practices adopted included: 

  • Planting deep-rooted perennial salt tolerant forage shrubs,
  • Improved annual pastures with moderate salt tolerance,
  • Perennial pastures

 

Significant investment is made in new decision support tools for farmers and yet adoption rates are very low. This project found that by directly linking the funding provided through this project to the on-ground application of decision support tool recommendations there was a greater appreciation of the value the tool could be provide to on-ground decision making. 

Farmers were made aware of current salinity management practices and the SaltCap tool through direct participation in the project from the workshop, workshop extension, 3 field days and indirectly through media releases. Of the 19 surveyed farmers who participated in the project 72% were not aware of the current salinity management practices and the SaltCap tool. 

 

Of the farmers that have participated in the direction extension activities of the project, 100% gained a moderate (27%) increase in knowledge and skills in salinity management practices.

 

Of this 100%;

  • 22% gained knowledge of the costs associated with the management practice
  • 66% gained knowledge of the benefits of the management practice 
  • 44% gained increased technical knowledge 
  • 66% gained knowledge of how the management practice fits within the farming system

 

Farmers using the SaltCap decision support tool provided positive feedback about the usefulness of the tool in assisting land management change decisions:

Comments included:

 

“Terrific programme that deals with waterlogging and water and wind erosion” Darryl Richards, farmer.

“It made unproductive areas productive and improved soil health” Joel Lancaster, farmer. 

 

72% of surveyed farmers indicated that they were previously unaware of the SaltCap tool. 100% of surveyed farmers who used the SaltCap tool found the tool useful, and 100% of surveyed farmers will use the SaltCap tool again to assist them in making management decisions. 

 

Additional information can be found on the Saltland Genie website:

http://www.saltlandgenie.org.au/