Rainfall could cause signs of salinity

FARMERS in the Macalister Irrigation District (MID) are being urged to look out for signs of salinity on their land after three years of consistently high rainfall.

Agriculture Victoria South-East Irrigation Regional Manager, Sarah Killury, said high rainfall over the past three years, including flood and storm activity, had caused the groundwater table to rise to its highest recorded level since records started in 1996.

“The 2021 calendar year was our wettest year in the MID since 1978 based on East Sale Bureau of Meteorology data, with 2020 and 2022 also recording higher than average rainfall,” she said.

“These high rainfall years have resulted in areas of waterlogged soils across the region. Removing excess water from paddocks is critical to managing the ongoing salinity risk.”

Ms Killury said Southern Rural Water’s salinity interception bores were currently operating continuously to manage groundwater levels as much as possible in target areas across the catchment.

“When the soil profile dries out and groundwater levels fall, salt may be left behind and if left unmanaged, it can impact future production capacity within low-lying areas,” she said.

“We’re encouraging farmers to be on the lookout for the tell-tale signs of salinity as the soil dries out.

Soil cracking and white patches of salt on the soil surfacE
Soil cracking and white patches of salt on the soil surface are the tell-tale signs of saline-affected land.

“Signs include a change in pasture species along check banks, indications of poor pasture or crop growth and tip burning of leaves, and the formation of a white crust over bare ground,” she said.

Ms Killury said salinity management strategies include leaching or flushing salts from the root zone of plants, using drainage options for flood irrigation to ensure water flows on and off paddocks as quickly as possible (appropriate to crop and soil type), and using fresh water to irrigate.

“In the long-term, the increased salinity risk highlights the importance of programs that improve water-use efficiency of on-farm irrigation, both now and into the future,” she said.

“Irrigation efficiency reduces recharge to shallow groundwater systems, reducing the risk of soil and groundwater salinisation.”

Further information on salinity management or flood and storm recovery is available on the Agriculture Victoria website.

For free salinity advice and water salinity testing, contact the Agriculture Victoria Irrigation Team in Maffra on 0428 387 869.

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