Innovating Farming Systems with Anameka Saltbush

Australian Gardening

Tulla Natives nursery is supplying CSIRO's Anameka Saltbush to the southeast.

A Sustainable, Nutritious Solution for Drought Prone Regions

Australia’s southeastern farmers are preparing for a potential El Nino, a phenomenon known to bring drier conditions, by planting Anameka Saltbush, a novel variety of the native Oldman Saltbush. This development comes as a vital intervention for the agriculture sector, known to bear the brunt of adverse weather events. The elite variety of this drought-resilient shrub offers a silver lining to farmers navigating through tough times and enhances their resilience to drought.

Taming the Dry Times

The Anameka Saltbush, a product of 15 years of meticulous research and development by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, along with government and industry partners, has been making waves in the agriculture sector for its distinctive qualities. Its higher nutritional value, improved palatability for livestock, and potential to restore infertile or excessively saline land sets it apart.

According to Hayley Norman, a CSIRO agricultural scientist, the Anameka Saltbush offers significant nutritional benefits, especially during the dry years when feed shortage becomes a common issue. As she points out, the plant acts as a “living haystack” that can last for over two decades if managed well, providing livestock with a steady source of moderate energy, high crude protein and sulphur feed rich in essential minerals and antioxidants.

Spreading the Benefits of Anameka Saltbush

The initiative to proliferate Anameka Saltbush across southeast Australia is part of CSIRO’s Drought Resilience Mission. By spreading this drought-tolerant shrub to regions where it was previously absent, the mission aims to help farmers endure the poor seasons and build their resilience to drought.

Research from CSIRO reveals that the Anameka shrub systems can offer 20% higher economic returns than their standard counterparts, particularly during relatively dry years. This remarkable feature is invaluable for farmers as it helps reduce financial risks associated with drought or climate variability.

Anameka Saltbush – A Boon for Livestock Farming

The benefits of this remarkable shrub go beyond the farmers’ financial security. Livestock farmers can look forward to greater wool and meat production and reduced dependency on supplementary feed.

Marcus Hooke, a merino sheep farmer from southern New South Wales, shares his positive experience with the plant. After seeing the success of the Anameka Saltbush, he plans to double the number in his paddocks. Mr. Hooke highlights the plant’s dual benefits – providing crucial shelter for lambs during colder months and acting as a feed source during dry seasons.

A Greener Future with Anameka Saltbush

While Anameka and other Saltbushes have been traditionally grown in Western Australia for salinity management, the goal now is to broaden the reach of these plants. With over six million Anameka Saltbush already planted across 8000 hectares, predominantly in Western Australia, the efforts to extend this initiative to the southeast are gaining momentum.

In 2023, 325 farmers embraced the Anameka Saltbush, showing promise for its wider adoption. Backed by significant partners like Tulla Natives, Chatfield’s Tree Nursery, Select Carbon, Meat & Livestock Australia, and the Australian government’s Future Drought Fund, among others, this initiative could transform the Australian agricultural sector.

CSIRO’s Drought Resilience Mission: Adapting and Transforming Australian Agriculture

The Anameka Saltbush is one of the many farming system innovations that CSIRO’s Drought Resilience Mission is promoting to help Australia’s agricultural sector adapt to and transform through future drought cycles. The mission’s strategy includes new decision-making tools, improved water use efficiency techniques, and developing financial tools to share risks. The adoption of the Anameka Saltbush thus aligns with a broader goal of shaping a resilient, sustainable future for Australia’s farming community.

Image credit: CSIRO Tulla Natives nursery is supplying CSIRO’s Anameka Saltbush to the southeast.