Saltbush drought resilient shrub in front line defence against El Nino threat

Anameka Saltbush is able to support farmers in dry times as it can provide key nutrients that improve livestock productivity and health

In the middle of a drought Anameka Saltbush is a living haystack for hungry animals and acts as a high crude protein and sulphur feed source full of essential minerals and antioxidantsImage: ©Damien Smith Photography

Sheep and cattle farmers are planting hundreds of thousands of an elite variety of Oldman Saltbush this winter to supplement feed during dryer conditions heralded by a potential El Nino.

Anameka Saltbush is a specially selected variety of drought-tolerant native shrub, developed over 15 years by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, with partners in government and industry.

It is unique for its higher nutritional value and improved palatability for livestock and its potential to regenerate the topsoil of land that is too saline or infertile.

CSIRO agricultural scientist, Hayley Norman, said that during dry years when there is a shortage of available feed, Anameka saltbush can provide key nutrients that improve livestock productivity and health.

“Anameka Saltbush is a moderate-energy, high crude protein and sulphur feed source that is full of essential minerals and antioxidants,” Dr Hayley Norman added.

“It grows well on most landscapes, and once established, Anameka Saltbush can become a ‘living haystack’ for grazing livestock for more than 20 years if managed correctly.”

“We’re now bringing these benefits to additional regions across the southeast to carry farmers through poor seasons and build their resilience to drought,” Dr Hayley Norman concluded.

Demand is outstripping supply as livestock farmers rush to plant Anameka Saltbush to tether the possible effect of the upcoming El Niniodry weather pattern – Image: CSIRO

CSIRO’s Drought Resilience Mission is driving wider adoption of Anameka Saltbush in drought-prone regions across southeast Australia for the first time.

CSIRO modelling indicates that Anameka shrub systems offer 20% higher economic returns compared to standard saltbushes, particularly in relatively dry years. This reduces exposure to financial risks associated with climate variability or drought.

Other benefits include greater wool and meat production and reduced supplementary feed.

Marcus Hooke, a merino sheep farmer in Booroorban, southern New South Wales, is doubling the number of Anameka Saltbush in his paddocks after its successful establishment last year.

“It’s early days but we believe the benefits of Saltbush will be long-term,” Marcus Hooke added.

“For us, the benefits will be two-fold in providing crucial shelter to lambs to improve their survivability out on the plains during colder months, and for feed to provide energy during dry seasons,” Marcus Hooke concluded.

Anameka, as well as standard Saltbushes, have traditionally been grown in Western Australia (WA) for salinity management.

The additional plantings this season build on six million Anameka Saltbush already planted across 8000 hectares, mostly in WA, since commercial release.

This year marks 325 farmers adopting Anameka saltbush across Australia.

CSIRO’s partners include Tulla Natives, Chatfield’s Tree Nursery, Select Carbon, Meat & Livestock Australia, WA government’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Australian Wool Innovation and several producer groups across Australia.

The program has also received funding from the Australian government’s Future Drought Fund.

Anameka Saltbush is one of many farming system innovations that CSIRO’s Drought Resilience Mission is scaling to help Australia’s agricultural sector adapt and transform through future cycles of drought.

These include current decision-making tools, techniques to improve water use efficiency and facilitating the development of new financial tools to share risks.

Find out how to start planting at Anameka Saltbush and see CSIRO’s Drought Resilience Mission