CRANBROOK farmer Ian Walsh is hoping to enhance his decades-long fight against salinity with the help of funding he received as part of the most recent award of the Great Southern Development Commission (GSDC) medal.
Mr Walsh received the sterling silver medal in June 2019 in recognition of his innovative work reducing the impact of rising salinity on his farm, using salt-tolerant plants to reclaim degraded land.
Along with the medal, he received a $5000 grant from the GSDC to continue his work.
He has put the funding towards a trial of grey saltbush, a potentially useful but previously overlooked species.
Mr Walsh said grey saltbush had been tried 30 years ago but was discarded in favour of other species.
"Saltbush is a pioneer species that draws down salt and allows other species to grow in between the rows," Mr Walsh said.
"I class them as a heap of solar pumps."
Mr Walsh's GSDC Medal grant is supporting the propagation of 4000 grey saltbush seedlings, which will be planted in spring and assessed for their contribution to the productivity of degraded land.
The grey saltbush will be planted with two other varieties in a random mix and will be grazed for the first time in autumn 2022.
"We've only been working on saltbush for 35 years but we have been selectively breeding wheat for thousands of years," Mr Walsh said.
"There is a long way to go."
The 2021 GSDC medal will be awarded to one of three shortlisted nominations on Friday, June 11, at a dinner event, featuring local produce and a showcase of Great Southern wines.
The award was established in 2002 to celebrate innovation and leadership in the management of the Great Southern's natural resources.
Thirteen people have received the honour so far and include scientists, community leaders, environmentalists, educators and farmers.
Recipients of the award receive a sterling silver medal and a $5000 grant for further work in their field.
Each finalist receives a $1000 grant for further work.
The 2021 GSDC medal shortlist:
- Ruhi Ferdowsian worked as a hydrologist in the Great Southern for three decades and was nominated for his many contributions to water knowledge and the fight against salinity. Analytical tools and software developed by Mr Ferdowsian have helped to reduce damage to the landscape from salinity by providing farmers with the knowledge to focus their efforts on effective remediation and improvement.
- Steve and Geraldine Janicke were nominated together. The Janickes are Frankland River-based consultants and educators whose nomination cites achievements in research and education about the region's waterways and catchments. They have walked and canoed through most of the south coast's waterways, gathering knowledge about water quality, physical processes and aquatic ecosystems. Geraldine has a background in aquatic ecology and Steve is experienced in catchment management.
- Bev Lockley is a Katanning business proprietor and small landholder who was nominated for her voluntary work with Katanning Landcare and other groups. Ms Lockley is a keen line dancer who is noted for her drive and energy in environmental works including improvements at Katanning's Piesse Park. With her husband Ron, she applied sustainability principles to their home and property. Ms Lockley committed her business to using only compostable materials and has visited local schools to talk about reducing plastic and waste in the environment.