Benedictines plan to head off salinity with trees

27 Jul, 1999 10:56 PM
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THE tree planting program on the Benedictine community's 9500-hectare farming enterprise at New Norcia is gathering pace, with 55,000 trees to be planted this year in an effort to add to the property's extensive remnant bushland. Half of the property is remnant bushland, with the rest a mixed farming enterprise comprising canola, wheat and lupin cropping and livestock grazing. With all the water that has poured down the Moore River East so far this year, potential troublespots prone to waterlogging and seepage have been highlighted and the race is now on to get good stands of trees established in these areas to prevent salinity from taking hold. Benedictine community farm manager Keith Hunt said the 55,000 trees to be planted this year would all be hand planted, with the help of volunteer landcare groups and sporting and social clubs from around the region. "We have planted all of the trees in our program by hand and, while it is a bit more labour intensive, the results so far have been very good," he said. "In the early days, we lost some trees but, since we started ripping and mounding the areas, it has been a lot more effective." Mr Hunt said the first priority in any landcare projects undertaken on the property was isolating the areas to be planted through fencing to ensure the young trees didn't have the added burden of grazing from livestock and native animals. The 55,000 trees going in this year are part of a Natural Heritage Trust project. Mr Hunt has also been preparing to instigate a sandalwood program on some of the areas planted to trees by running trials and collecting sandalwood seeds from remnant stands on the property. "We have been experimenting with seeding sandalwood among the trees to see what will happen," he said. "I have been collecting the nuts from local sandalwood trees and they will eventually provide the seedstock for the program." So far, results had been mixed. The sandalwood is a parasite, which prospers by sending out runners that attach themselves to the roots of neighbouring plants and extract the nutrients it needs from these hosts. These runners had proved too much of a strain for some varieties of host plant at New Norcia, however Mr Hunt was confident the program would eventually be a success.

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