Low wool prices have reduced the profitability of producing wool from clover-based annual pastures in the south-western woo/belt. The heavy reliance on one commodity is economically unsustainable for many farmers. But we should also consider how ecologically sustainable the practice is.
Shallow-rooted annual pastures contribute to widespread salinity in the area, annual legumes are acidifying the soils and making them water repellent, and bare, detached soils from heavy grazing cause sheet and rill erosion during autumn storms. In addition, stock are degrading remnant vegetation and destroying the soil's structure.
To counteract this degradation, the woo/belt needs more perennial pastures and deep rooting crops, fodder shrubs and trees. Only then can it become sustainable in both economic and conservation terms.
This can be achieved because the area has a reliable rainfall, a long growing season and includes fertile soils, making it suitable for several profitable industries.
Some farmers are already combining cropping, horticulture, sheep and cattle (grazing mixed annual and perennial pastures), timber and wood pulp production. This reduces their reliance on a single market as well as reducing land degradation. In time, intensive farming and diversification may increase the number of people in rural communities in the area.
McFarlane, Don and George, Richard
"How sustainable is grazing sheep on annual pastures in the woolbelt?,"
Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Series 4: Vol. 35
, Article 6.
Available at: http://researchlibrary.agric.wa.gov.au/journal_agriculture4/vol35/iss1/6