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4615.0 - Salinity on Australian Farms, 2002  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/12/2002   
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MEDIA RELEASE

December 11, 2002
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
117/2002
New ABS survey shows farmers are combating salinity

Australian farmers have recognised salinity as an important issue and are taking steps to manage and prevent it, according to new survey data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

With data drawn from a sample of 20,000 farmers, the Land Management and Salinity Survey run in May this year is the largest survey of its type ever conducted in Australia. It provides a lot of new information about salinity which affects around two million hectares of Australia's agricultural land.

Survey Director, Bob Harrison, said farmers had responded positively to being asked about salinity and salinity management. "Farmers are the ones closest to the issue and are making daily decisions about what to do with around 60% of the nation's land."

Salinity Management

A key finding was that nearly 30,000 farms have changed land management practices to manage or prevent salinity. The extent of salinity management practices is large:
  • 3.2 million hectares of land sown with crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management
  • 780,000 hectares with trees planted for salinity management
  • 470,000 hectares of land fenced for salinity management
  • 210,000 km of earthworks (levees, banks, drains) for salinity management
  • Over 7,000 irrigators have made changes to irrigation practices for salinity management

The main reasons given for changing land management practices were:
  • Farm sustainability (66% of farmers said this was of high importance)
  • Improved environmental protection (56%)
  • Increased productivity (54%)

The main barriers to change were:
  • lack of financial resources (36% of farmers reporting these as very limiting)
  • lack of time (21%)
Doubts about likely success and lack of information were not barriers to the majority of farmers.

Area showing signs of salinity

Australia has two million hectares of agricultural land and 20,000 farms showing signs of salinity. These respectively represent 0.4% of agricultural land and 14% of farms.

Australia has 800,000 hectares unable to be used for agricultural production because of salinity.

The state with the largest area showing signs of salinity is WA, but WA and Vic have the equal highest percentage of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (1.1%).

Nearly all (97%) of the land showing signs of salinity was on broadacre farms, that is farms chiefly concerned with the production of beef, sheep and grains. In 2000-01 the gross value of production of cereals for grain, pastures and grasses, beef cattle, meat from sheep and wool was $18.3 billion or 55% of total gross value of agricultural production (provision data from ABS cat. no. 7501.0).

Farms without irrigation accounted for 1.8 million hectares or 93% of the area showing signs of salinity.

A higher percentage of farms with turnover greater than $500,000 reported land showing signs of salinity than farms with turnover below this level.

The 21 priority regions identified in the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP regions) accounted for 87% of farms and 66% of the agricultural land showing signs of salinity. The table below shows the area showing signs of salinity within the NAP regions

Percentage of agricultural land showing signs of salinity within the NAP regions(a)

Agricultural land showing signs of salinity within NAP regions as a percentage of the total agricultural land showing signs of salinity in the state/territory
%
NSW/ACT
90
Vic.
94
Qld
62
SA
43
WA
67
Tas
75
NT
100
Total Australia
66

(a) NAP regions are the 21 priority regions identified in the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.

Complete details can be found in the publication Salinity on Australian Farms, June 2002 (cat. no. 4615.0)


SALINITY ON AUSTRALIAN FARMS: NSW/ACT FACTS

Key results:

NSW (including the ACT) had 3,100 farms and 124,000 hectares showing signs of salinity. This represented 7.4% of the state's farms and 0.2% of the state's agricultural land. This compared favourably with other states, with less land in NSW showing signs of salinity than WA, SA and Vic. NSW had 1.1 million hectares of crops, pastures and fodder plants used for salinity management - the largest area of any of the states. It also had 43,000 km of earthworks (levees/banks and drains) for salinity management, the 2nd greatest length of these (after WA).

Number of farms and area showing signs of salinity:

3,100 farms showing signs of salinity.
  • This represented 7.4% of the state's farms
  • NSW had the 4th largest no. of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, Vic, SA, NSW)
  • It was the 5th largest percentage of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, Tas, NSW)
  • 2,300 of the 3,100 farms showing signs of salinity were non-irrigated

124,000 hectares of agricultural land showed signs of salinity.
  • This represented 0.2 % of the state's agricultural land
  • NSW had the 4th largest area of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, NSW)
  • NSW had the 5th largest percentage of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA/Vic, SA, Tas, NSW)
  • 76,000 ha of agricultural land showing signs of salinity was on non-irrigated farms

Area unable to be used for agricultural production because of salinity:

44,000 hectares - representing 36% of land showing signs of salinity in NSW. This also represented 0.1% of the state's total agricultural land.

Salinity management:
  • Of all the states/territories NSW/ACT had the largest area of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management (NSW, Vic, WA, SA). This was 1.1 million ha representing one-third of the Australian total of the area of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management.
  • NSW had 91,000 hectares of trees for salinity management or prevention of salinity. It was the 3rd largest area (WA, Qld, NSW, Vic)
  • 17,000 ha of land was fenced for salinity management or prevention of salinity.
  • NSW has 43,000km of earthworks (levees/banks and drains) for salinity management or prevention of salinity – the 2nd greatest length.


SALINITY ON AUSTRALIAN FARMS: VICTORIAN FACTS

Key results

Victoria had 4,834 farms and 139,000 hectares of agricultural land showing signs of salinity. This represents 13.7% of the state's farms and 1.1% of the state's agricultural land. Victoria had the 2nd highest amount of land showing signs of salinity and the equal highest proportion of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (along with WA). In addition, Victoria had 680,000 hectares of crops, pastures and fodder plants used for salinity management - the second highest area of any of the states (NSW was highest). It also had 40,000 hectares of land fenced from grazing, the 2nd highest area of any of the states (WA was highest). Victoria had 37,000 km of earthworks (levees/banks and drains) for salinity management, the 3rd greatest length of these (WA had the most).

Number of farms and area showing signs of salinity:

4,834 farms showing signs of salinity
  • This representing 13.7% of the state's farms
  • It was the 2nd largest no. of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, Vic, SA, NSW)
  • 3rd largest percentage of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, Tas.)
  • 3,260 of the 4,834 farms showing signs of salinity were non-irrigated

139,000 ha of agricultural land showing signs of salinity
  • This represented 1.1 % of the state's agricultural land
  • Victoria had 3rd largest area of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic., NSW)
  • Equal largest percentage of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA/Vic., SA, Tas.)
  • 90,000 ha of agricultural land showing signs of salinity was on non-irrigated farms

Area unable to be used for agricultural production because of salinity:

60,000 hectares - representing 43.5% of land showing signs of salinity in Victoria. This also represented 0.5% of the state's total agricultural land.

Salinity management:
  • Victoria had 680,000 ha of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management. This represented one-fifth of the area of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management in Australia and the 2nd largest area of these in the states (NSW, Vic., WA, SA)
  • It had 40,000 ha of trees for salinity management or prevention of salinity. This was the 4th largest area (WA, Qld, NSW, Vic.)
  • 40,000 ha of land was fenced for salinity management or prevention of salinity. This was the 2nd largest area (WA, Vic., SA, Qld)
  • Victoria has 37,000 km of earthworks (levees/banks and drains) for salinity management or prevention of salinity – the 3rd greatest length (WA, NSW, Vic)


SALINITY ON AUSTRALIAN FARMS: QUEENSLAND FACTS

Key results:
Queensland had almost 1,000 farms and 107,000 hectares of agricultural land showing signs of salinity. This represented 3.4% of the state's farms and 0.1% of the state's agricultural land. This compared favourably with other states, with only Tasmania and the Northern Territory having less land showing signs of salinity. In addition, Queensland had 126,000 hectares of trees used for salinity management or prevention, the 2nd largest area of any of the states (WA had the largest area).

Number of farms and area showing signs of salinity:

993 farms showing signs of salinity
  • This represented 3.4% of the state's farms
  • Queensland had the 5th largest no. of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, Vic, SA, NSW, Qld)
  • 6th largest percentage of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, Tas, NSW, Qld)
  • 600 of the 993 farms showing signs of salinity were non-irrigated.

107,000 ha of agricultural land showing signs of salinity
  • This represented 0.1% of the state's agricultural land
  • Queensland had the 5th largest area of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, NSW, Qld)
  • 6th largest percentage of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA/Vic, SA, Tas, NSW, Qld)
  • 102,000 ha of agricultural land showing signs of salinity was on non-irrigated farms

Area unable to be used for agricultural production because of salinity:

40,000 hectares - representing 37.4% of land showing signs of salinity. This also represented a negligible percentage of the states total agricultural land (less than 0.01%)

Salinity management:
  • Queensland had 331,000 ha of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management. This was the 5th largest area (NSW, Vic, WA, SA, Qld)
  • It had 126,000 ha of trees for salinity management or prevention of salinity - the 2nd largest area (WA, Qld, NSW, Vic)
  • 27,000 ha of land was fenced for salinity management or prevention of salinity.
  • Queensland had 15,000 km of earthworks (levees/banks and drains) for salinity management or prevention of salinity.


SALINITY ON AUSTRALIAN FARMS: SOUTH AUSTRALIAN FACTS

Key results:

South Australia had 3,328 farms and 350,000 hectares of agricultural land showing signs of salinity. This represented 21.6% of the state's farms and 0.6% of the state's agricultural land. South Australia had the 2nd largest area of land showing signs of salinity (WA had the most) and third greatest percentage of farms showing signs of salinity (behind WA and Vic). It also had 29,000 hectares of land fenced from grazing for salinity management, the 3rd largest area of any of the states (WA having the most).

Number of farms and area showing signs of salinity:

3,328 farms showing signs of salinity
  • This represented 21.6% of the state's farms
  • South Australia had the 3rd largest no. of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, Vic, SA,NSW)
  • 2nd largest percentage of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, Tas.)
  • 2,468 of the 3,328 farms showing signs of salinity were non-irrigated.

350,000 hectares of agricultural land showed signs of salinity.
  • This represented 0.6% of the state's agricultural land
  • It was the 2nd largest area of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, NSW)
  • It was the 3rd largest percentage of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA/Vic, SA, Tas)
  • 324 ha of agricultural land showing signs of salinity was on non-irrigated farms.

Area unable to be used for agricultural production because of salinity:

105,000 hectares - representing 30.1% of land showing signs of salinity. This also represented 0.2% of the state's total agricultural land.

Salinity management:
  • South Australia had 452,000 ha of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management. This was the 4th largest area of these. (NSW, Vic., WA, SA)
  • It had 14,000 ha of trees for salinity management or prevention of salinity - the 3rd smallest area (WA, Qld, NSW, Vic., SA)
  • 29,000 ha of land was fenced for salinity management or prevention of salinity. This was the 3rd largest area (WA, Vic., SA, Qld)
  • South Australia has 13,000 km of earthworks (levees/banks and drains) for salinity management or prevention of salinity. This was the 3rd smallest length (WA, NSW, Vic., Qld, SA)


SALINITY ON AUSTRALIAN FARMS: WESTERN AUSTRALIAN FACTS

Key results:

Western Australia had nearly 7,000 farms and 1.24 million hectares of agricultural land showing signs of salinity. This represented 51.3% of the state's farms and 1.1% of the state's agricultural land. It had the greatest area of land showing signs of salinity of all the states and territories. While Western Australia had the greatest area of salinity, it also had some of the largest responses to salinity including the greatest amounts of trees for salinity management (500,000 hectares), land fenced (352,000 hectares) and earthworks (levees/banks and drains) (98,000 km) for salinity management.
Number of farms and area showing signs of salinity:
6,918 farms showing signs of salinity
  • This represented 51.3% of the state's farms
  • Western Australia had the largest no. of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, Vic, SA)
  • It had the largest percentage of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic.)
  • 6,678 of the 6,918 farms showing signs of salinity were non-irrigated.

1.24 million hectares of agricultural land showing signs of salinity
  • This represented 1.1% of the state's agricultural land
  • Western Australia had the largest area of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic.)
  • It had the equal largest percentage of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA/Vic., SA, Tas.)
  • 1.23 million ha of agricultural land showing signs of salinity was on non-irrigated farms.

Area unable to be used for agricultural production because of salinity

567,000 hectares - representing 45.7% of land showing signs of salinity. This also represented 0.5% of the state's total agricultural land.

Salinity management:
  • Western Australia had the largest area of trees for salinity management or prevention of salinity. This was 500,000 ha representing 64% of the total Australian area of trees used for salinity management.
  • 352,000 ha of land was fenced for salinity management or prevention of salinity. This was the largest area of all states and representing 75% of total Australian land fenced
  • Western Australia has 98,000km of earthworks (levees/banks and drains) for salinity management or prevention of salinity. This was he greatest length of all states and was just below 50% of all earthworks undertaken for salinity management in Australia.
  • The state had 633,000 ha of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management - representing one-fifth of the Australian total of the area of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management, and the 3rd largest area (NSW, Vic, WA, SA).


SALINITY ON AUSTRALIAN FARMS: TASMANIAN FACTS

Key results:

Tasmania had 390 farms and 6,000 hectares of agricultural land showing signs of salinity. This represented 9.1% of the state's farms and 0.3% of the state's agricultural land. This compared favourably with other states, with Tasmania having the 2nd lowest level of land showing signs of salinity (NT was lowest). In addition, Tasmania had 7,000 hectares of crops, pastures and fodder plants used for salinity management and 3,000 km of earthworks (levees/banks and drains) for salinity management.

Number of farms and area showing signs of salinity:

390 farms showing signs of salinity.
  • This represented 9.1% of the state's farms.
  • Tasmania had the 6th largest no. of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, Vic, SA, NSW, Qld, Tas.)
  • It had the 4th largest percentage of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, Tas.)
  • 235 of the 390 farms showing signs of salinity were non-irrigated.

6,000 ha of agricultural land showing signs of salinity.
  • This represented 0.3 % of the state's agricultural land.
  • Tasmania had the 6th largest area of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, NSW, Qld, Tas.)
  • It had the 4th largest percentage of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA/Vic, SA, Tas., NSW)
  • 3,000 ha of agricultural land showing signs of salinity was on non-irrigated farms.

Area unable to be used for agricultural production because of salinity:

2,000 hectares - representing 27% of land showing signs of salinity. This also represented 0.1% of the state's total agricultural land.

Salinity management:
  • Tasmania had 7,000 ha of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management. This was the second smallest area (NSW, Vic, WA, SA, Qld, Tas, NT)
  • 5,000 ha of trees for salinity management or prevention of salinity. This was the 2nd smallest area (WA, Qld, NSW, Vic., SA, Tas., NT)
  • 1,000 ha of land was fenced for salinity management or prevention of salinity - the 2nd smallest area (WA, Qld, NSW, Vic., SA, Tas., NT)
  • Tasmania had 3,000km of earthworks (levees/banks and drains) for salinity management or prevention of salinity. This was the 2nd least length of these. (WA, Qld, NSW, Vic., SA, Tas., NT)


SALINITY ON AUSTRALIAN FARMS: NORTHERN TERRITORY FACTS

Key results:

The Northern Territory had 2,000 hectares of agricultural land showing signs of salinity. This represents 2% of the territory's farms. This compared favourably with other states, with the Northern Territory having the smallest area of land showing signs of salinity of all the states and territories. In addition it had 6,000 hectares of crops, pastures and fodder plants used for salinity management.

Number of farms and area showing signs of salinity:

8 farms showing signs of salinity.
  • This represented 2% of the territory's farms.
  • The territory had the least no. of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, Vic, SA, NSW, Qld, Tas, NT)
  • It had the least percentage of farms showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, Tas, NSW, Qld, Tas, NT)
  • All of farms showing signs of salinity were non-irrigated.

2000 ha of agricultural land showed signs of salinity
  • The Northern Territory had the least area of agricultural land showing signs of salinity (WA, SA, Vic, Tas, NSW, Qld, Tas, NT)
  • All agricultural land showing signs of salinity was on non-irrigated farms.

Area unable to be used for agricultural production because of salinity:

2,000 hectares - representing 97.3% of land showing signs of salinity.

Salinity management
  • Of all the states/territories, NT had the least area (6,000 ha) of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management (WA, SA, Vic, Tas, NSW, Qld, Tas, NT).


SALINITY ON AUSTRALIAN FARMS: NAP REGION FACTS

The National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality identified 21 priority regions (NAP regions) for tackling salinity and improving water quality in some of Australia's worst affected areas (a map of these regions can be found on this site.

The table below shows the area of agricultural land showing signs of salinity within and outside the NAP regions. Overall the NAP regions accounted for 87% of farms and 66% of the agricultural land showing signs of salinity. The coverage of agricultural land showing signs of salinity in the NAP regions varied between the states and territories. NSW and Vic. had upwards of 90% of the agricultural land showing signs of salinity within the NAP regions. Whereas SA (57%), Qld (38%) and WA (33%) had more than a third of the agricultural land showing signs of salinity outside of the NAP regions.

AREA SHOWING SIGNS OF SALINITY, AREA WITHIN AND OUTSIDE OF NAP REGIONS (a)



NAP region
Non-NAP
Total
(NAP and non-NAP)
000 ha
000 ha
000 ha
NSW/ACT
113
* 12
125
Vic.
129
9
138
Qld
67
*40
107
SA
152
*199
351
WA
836
405
1241
Tas
5
1
6
NT
2
*-
2
Total Australia
1,302
667
1,969
%
%
%
NSW/ACT
90
10
100
Vic.
94
6
100
Qld
62
38
100
SA
43
57
100
WA
67
33
100
Tas
75
25
100
NT
100
0
100
Total Australia
66
34
100

(a) NAP regions are the 21 priority regions identified in the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.
* subject to sampling variability between 25-50%


Some summary statistics for the NAP regions are presented below. The NAP regions most affected by salinity was Avon in WA. Specifically the region had:
  • 2,297 farms showing signs of salinity (80% of all farms in the region)
  • 451,000 hectares showing signs of salinity (6% of agricultural land in the region)

LAND SHOWING SIGNS OF SALINITY, BY NAP REGION (a)

NAP Region
Farms with land showing signs of salinity
Proportion of farms in region (b)
Land showing signs of salinity
Proportion of total farm area in region (c)
Salinised land unable to be used for production
Proportion of land showing signs of salinity unable to be used for production in region
(d)
no.
%
'000 ha
%
'000 ha
%
Avocca-Loddon-Campaspe
1,254
27.9
39
1.9
13
33.5
Avon
2,297
79.9
451
5.8
285
63.2
Border Rivers
150
4.3
na
0.2
na
na
Burdekin-Fitzroy
152
3.3
**36
0.1
**20
56.4
Condamine-Balonne-Maranoa
145
2.3
*28
0.2
** 2
7.7
Darwin-Katherine
1
0.4
2
-
2
100.0
Glenelg-Hopkins-Corangamite
1,438
18.7
*31
1.2
10
33.0
Goulburn-Broken
512
9.2
7
0.5
2
23.2
Lachlan-Murrumbidgee
1,477
14.8
*47
0.5
5
11.7
Lockyer-Burnet-Mary
255
3.6
*2
0.1
*1
48.5
Lower Murray
1,658
15.4
111
0.5
56
50.3
Macquarie-Castlereagh
497
8.5
9
0.1
*4
39.4
Midlands
318
15.6
*5
0.4
*1
27.6
Mt. Lofty-Kangaroo Island- Northern Agricultural District
2,001
27.1
*59
1.3
**25
42.5
Murray
306
8.9
*12
0.3
2
18.6
Namoi-Gwydir
277
7.1
*7
0.2
* 1
10.3
Northern Agricultural District
878
55.0
153
2.8
92
60.4
Ord
9
8.6
-
-
-
22.7
South Coast
1,428
61.8
75
2.4
43
57.2
South East
266
10.3
61
3.6
*10
16.9
South West
1,793
38.8
157
5.0
79
50.7
Total NAP
17,131
17.7
1302
0.9
671
51.6
Total non-NAP
2,449
5.6
667
0.2
150
22.5
Total Australia
19,579
13.9
1969
0.4
821
41.7

(a) NAP regions are the 21 priority regions identified in the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.
(b) Farms with land showing signs of salinity as a proportion of total farms in the NAP region/Australia. Source for the denominator is data from the ABS 2001 Agricultural Census.
(c) Land showing signs of salinity as a proportion of total farm area in the NAP region/Australia. Source for the denominator is data from the ABS 2001 Agricultural Census.
(d) Salinised land unable to be used for production as a proportion of land showing signs of salinity.
* subject to sampling variability between 25-50%, ** subject to sampling variability of over 50%


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