Growing salt-tolerant plants will fix land damaged due to European farming strategies, WA farmer says

Tucked away in a tree plantation south-east of Perth, a saltwater greenhouse that could be one among a form is growing salty plants for progressive eating places. 

“I do not know anybody in Australia who’s carried out it,” Katanning farmer and proprietor of Moojepin Foods, David Thompson mentioned of the saltwater hydroponic system.

He put in the system in 2020 — 4 years after beginning the business — to develop new species of salt-tolerant plants for meals.

Mr Thompson started amassing saltbush, which grows naturally on his salt-damaged farm.

Salt is a plague in low-lying regional areas, rising up from the groundwater after greater than a century of land clearing for farming.

But for these plants, the water isn’t salty sufficient.

“We’re about 20 per cent seawater. We’d slightly be 50 per cent,” Mr Thompson mentioned.

“I believe it might give the plants extra flavour.”

Salty salad provides kick to meals

The greenhouse grows quite a lot of native and abroad species of salt-tolerant plants for eating places around the nation.

The plants give a salty kick to seafood, tacos, salads and meat dishes.

Pumpkin in a sour dough batter and saltbush dukkah with macadamias and fermented pumpkin powder on a plate.
Fremantle’s Young George restaurant serves pumpkin in a sourdough batter with saltbush dukkah.(Supplied)

“Saltbush is extraordinarily versatile,” Young George restaurant chef and proprietor Melissa Palinkas mentioned.

In addition to the greenhouse, Mr Thompson farms hardier saltbush species on his salt-damaged farmland.

Some of the species are identified to the Indigenous folks within the area and regarded cultural property.

Salt bush in a salad on a table with many plates on display.
The salty plants had been showcased this 12 months at a global commerce mission in WA.(ABC Great Southern: Angus Mackintosh)

Mr Thompson mentioned he discovered the edible species by tasting the plants on his farm.

“Salinity is an issue that is arisen due to European farming strategies, and we have now to discover a resolution to fixing the land,” he mentioned.

Crisis due to agricultural land clearing

Dryland salinity is spreading yearly throughout regional Australia, killing crops and native bush as extra salt rises from the bottom.

In WA alone, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) estimated that $519 million of farming manufacturing was misplaced to salt injury yearly, with greater than 2 million hectares of land nonetheless below risk.

A farmland with dying plants covered with salt under a blue sky.
Dr George says researchers have spent a long time experimenting with saltbush as a manner to fight rising salinity.(Supplied: DPIRD)

DPIRD principal analysis scientist Richard George mentioned the issue was introduced about by agricultural land clearing.

Dr George mentioned researchers had spent a long time experimenting with saltbush as a manner to fight rising salinity.

In 2015, DPIRD and the CSIRO recognized an edible species appropriate for livestock grazing and remediating saline land, with thousands and thousands of seedlings now planted around Australia annually.

“That response is able to being adopted in all probability throughout 30 per cent to half of the Wheatbelt salinity.”

A man wearing a cap and a red shirt kneels next to a saltbush in a field under a blue sky.
Mr Thompson says he discovered the edible species by tasting the plants on his farm.(ABC Great Southern: Angus Mackintosh)

Dr George supported Mr Thompson’s plan to domesticate extra saltbush for human consumption.

“I believe this can be a manner ahead. We’ve simply bought to do it slowly,” Mr Thompson mentioned.

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