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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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INTRODUCTION

The publication Salinity on Australian Farms 2002 presents the first results of the Land Management and Salinity Survey which was conducted in May 2002 as a supplement to the 2001 Agricultural Census. Additional results from the survey will be made available at a later date with details to be advised in the ABS Release Advice. The additional results will include further information and analysis. Some Agricultural Census results have been included in this publication to provide contextual and other information, and Agricultural Census information is clearly identified where it is used.

The 2002 Land Management and Salinity Survey was mainly targeted at the reference population of farm establishments which answered yes to either or both questions in the 2001 Agricultural Census regarding having land affected by salinity or using salinity management strategies. The survey results in this publication are based on a sample of approximately 20,000 farms establishments and the results have been weighted to cover the full reference population.

Salinity naturally occurs in Australia, but the clearing of native vegetation and use of water for irrigated agriculture, domestic and other uses has caused the salt stored beneath the ground to surface in many areas. This has affected agricultural production and damaged civil infrastructure, such as roads.

Salinity is divided into two types, dryland and irrigated. Dryland salinity is far more widespread but, in both types of salinity, it is water imbalances that are the fundamental cause of salinisation. Primarily to address the issue of dryland salinity, the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments have adopted the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP). The NAP has identified 21 high priority regions and data for these regions are reported in this publication. A map of these regions can be found here.

The 2002 Land Management and Salinity Survey collected information from farmers on the extent of land showing signs of salinity as well as the strategies used by farmers to manage and prevent salinity. Farmer assessments of the extent of salinity may differ from assessments made by scientific means, but are an indication of the level of salinity occurring on farms that can be provided rapidly and cost-effectively. The 2002 Land Management and Salinity Survey also has the advantage that farm management activities can be assessed in the context of economic and other information collected by the ABS and other agencies.

It is important to note that the 2002 Land Management and Salinity Survey provides information for agricultural land as defined for the ABS agricultural collections (see explanatory notes). Agricultural land defined in this way occupies approximately 460 million hectares, representing 60% of land use in Australia, but salinity and salinity management also occur on non-agricultural land. Non-agricultural land was out of scope for the 2002 Land Management and Salinity Survey.

Several of the strategies used to manage salinity as reported in this publication are also used by farmers for other reasons. For example, pastures are sown with lucerne, or trees planted, for reasons other than salinity. The results presented in this publication only refer to the activities specifically identified for salinity management by farmers. The activity may have more than one purpose and is only reported where it was wholly or partly for salinity management.


MAIN FINDINGS

  • A little under 20,000 farms and 2 million hectares of agricultural land were reported by farmers as showing signs of salinity.
  • Nearly 30,000 farms have implemented salinity management practices.
  • Of the agricultural land showing signs of salinity, 800,000 hectares is unable to be used for agricultural production.
  • The state most affected by salinity is Western Australia, with 7,000 farms and 1.2 million hectares showing signs of salinity.
  • Farms within the regions identified in the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP regions), account for 17,000 farms or 87% of farms showing signs of salinity and 1.3 million hectares or 66% of the area showing signs of salinity. The NAP region most affected by salinity was Avon (WA) with 2,297 farms and 450,000 hectares showing signs of salinity.
  • Non-irrigated farms accounted for 1.8 million hectares or 93% of the agricultural land showing signs of salinity.
  • Farms primarily involved with the production of beef cattle, sheep and grains accounted for 16,000 or 82% of the farms showing signs of salinity and 1.9 million hectares or 97% of the agricultural land showing signs of salinity.
  • The most common salinity management practices employed were:
        • Crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management, 3.2 million hectares
        • Trees for salinity management, 776,000 hectares
        • Earthworks (levees, banks and drains) for salinity management, 208,000 km
        • Fencing for salinity management, with 466,000 hectares fenced
  • Just over 7,000 irrigated farms had made changes to irrigation practices for salinity management purposes.
  • The main motivations for implementation of salinity management practices were for:
        • Farm sustainability (66% of farmers implementing change saying this was of high importance)
        • Environmental protection (56%)
        • Increase or maintain agricultural production (54% )
  • The main reported barriers to changing land management practices were lack of financial resources and lack of time (35% and 21% of all farmers reporting these as very limiting, respectively). Lack of information or doubts about likely success were not considered by a majority of farmers to be barriers to change (in each case 52% of all farmers reported these as not a factor).


Comparisons with other data

The results from the Land Management and Salinity Survey show a lower level of saline land than other sources (see table 5). Factors most likely to be contributing to differences are the different concepts, assessment methods and coverage used in each study. The ABS survey covered agricultural land as it is defined for ABS agricultural collections, which covers about 60% of Australian land, and collected information on all salinity (not just dryland salinity as in the other studies). In addition, in the ABS survey it was farmers who identified the land showing signs of salinity. While farmers' perceptions of the area will differ from scientific assessments, they are more or less consistent with the other studies, in terms of the relative area affected by salinity in each state and territory. In all studies, WA is the state most affected by salinity and NT, ACT and Tas. are the least affected.

The National Land and Water Resources Audit (NLWRA) 2001 used information on water table height to estimate the risk of land becoming saline affected. The area at risk of salinity is not equivalent to the area showing signs of salinity, but the two are correlated. The Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) 1999 estimate is based on expert assessments of the area affected by salinity, and includes non-agricultural land.


Fact sheets
Facts sheets for the states and territories as well as one for the NAP regions can be found in the media release.

Map of NAP Regions

Download map of NAP regions

If you do not have reader software...
salinity7_eps.pdf

SUMMARY TABLES
1 LAND SHOWING SIGNS OF SALINITY, SUMMARY BY STATE

State
Farms with land showing signs of salinity Farms with land showing signs of salinity
Proportion of total farms in State
(a)
Land showing signs of salinity
Proportion of total farm area in State
(b)
Salinised land unable to be used for production
Proportion of land showing signs of salinity (c)
Proportion of total farm area in State
(d)
no.
%
'000 ha
%
'000 ha
%
%
NSW/ACT
3108
7.4
124
0.20
44
35.6
0.1
Vic.
4834
13.7
139
1.1
60
43.5
0.5
Qld
993
3.4
107
0.1
40
37.4
-
SA
3328
21.6
*350
0.6
105
30.1
0.2
WA
6918
51.3
1241
1.1
567
45.7
0.5
Tas.
390
9.1
6
0.3
2
27.2
0.1
NT
8
2.0
2
-
2
97.3
-
Total Australia
19579
13.9
1969
0.4
821
41.7
0.2

(a) Farms with land showing signs of salinity as a proportion of total farms in the State/Territory/Australia. Source for the denominator is data from the ABS 2001 Agricultural Census.
(b) Land showing signs of salinity as a proportion of total farm land in the State/Territory/Australia. Source for the denominator is data from the ABS 2001 Agricultural Census.
(c) Salinised land unable to be used for production as a proportion of land showing signs of salinity.
(d) Salinised land unable to be used for production as a proportion of total farm land in the State/Territory/Australia. Source for the denominator is data from the ABS 2001 Agricultural Census.
* subject to sampling variability between 25-50%

2 SALINITY MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES, SUMMARY BY STATE(a)

State
Crops, pastures and fodder plants
Trees
Land fenced from grazing
Earthworks
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 km
NSW/ACT
1096
91
17
43
Vic.
*680
40
40
37
Qld
331
126
*267
15
SA
452
14
29
*13
WA
633
500
352
98
Tas.
*7
5
1
*3
NT
*6
-
-
-
Total Australia
3205
776
466
207959.12

(a) Any land management practice undertaken wholly or partly for the management or prevention of salinity.
* subject to sampling variability between 25-50%

3 REASONS FOR CHANGING LAND MANAGEMENT PRACTICES, AUSTRALIA (a)

Reason
Not a reason
Low importance
Medium importance
High importance
Total
%
%
%
%
%
Increased productivity
18.6
6.7
20.5
54.2
100
Increased land value
28.8
15.4
27.7
28.1
100
Improved risk management
33.2
12.1
25.8
28.9
100
Farm sustainability
13.5
*3.9
16.3
66.3
100
Improved environment protection
12.6
5.1
26.8
55.6
100

(a) Farms managing for salinity and/or with land showing signs of salinity that have changed land management practices because of salinity or to prevent salinity
* subject to sampling variability between 25-50%

4 BARRIERS TO CHANGING LAND MANAGEMENT PRACTICES, AUSTRALIA(a)

Barrier
Not a factor
Not very limiting
Limiting
Very limiting
Total
%
%
%
%
%
Lack of financial resources
23.8
7.9
32.8
35.5
100
Lack of time
29.7
13.4
36.1
20.8
100
Insufficient or inadequate information
52.1
24.8
17.4
5.8
100
Doubts about likely success
51.8
23.1
18.3
6.8
100
Age or poor health
70.6
12.5
10.3
6.6
100

(a) Farms managing for salinity and/or with land showing signs of salinity.

5 AREA AFFECTED BY SALINITY, COMPARISON OF SURVEY RESULTS WITH OTHER ESTIMATES

State
PMSEIC 1999
NLWRA 2001
ABS 2002
Area of salinity affected land (a)
Area at risk of salinity (b)
Area showing signs of salinity (c)
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
NSW/ACT
120
181
124
Vic.
120
670
138
Qld
10
n.a.
106
SA
402
390
350
WA
1802
4363
1241
Tas.
20
54
6
NT
0
0
2
Total Australia
2476
5658
1969

(a) As determined by experts.
(b) As estimated from water table heights.
(c) As reported by farmers.

6 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 NAP Region
(d)
no.
%
'000 ha
%
'000 ha
%
Avocca-Loddon-Campaspe
1254
27.9
39
1.9
13
33.5
Avon
2297
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
1438
18.7
*31
1.2
10
33.0
Goulburn-Broken
512
9.2
7
0.5
2
23.2
Lachlan-Murrumbidgee
1477
14.8
*47
0.5
5
11.7
Lockyer-Burnet-Mary
255
3.6
*2
0.1
*1
48.5
Lower Murray
1658
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
2001
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
1428
61.8
75
2.4
43
57.2
South East
266
10.3
61
3.6
*10
16.9
South West
1793
38.8
157
5.0
79
50.7
Total NAP
17131
17.7
1302
0.9
671
51.6
Total non-NAP
2449
5.6
667
0.2
150
22.5
Total Australia
19579
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%

7 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
1302
667
1969
%
%
%
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%


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