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Many adverse situations in Western Australian agriculture have arisen because in the past we cleared native perennial vegetation below safe ecological limits in order to grow annual crops and pasture. In retrospect, we did not fully understand the functioning of the native ecosystems concerned and thus did not foresee the long-term consequences. Research into the survival techniques of native species provides important lessons for future farming. By understanding the behaviour of plants and soils we can maximise their use in a sustainable way. Knowledge of the water acquisition and storage strategies of native plants in seasonally dry areas may be critically important to reducing the impact of farming practices on land degradation and associated threats to biodiversity. Longer term applications of the research described in this bulletin may be the development of agricultural systems more in tune with native soils, leading to improvements in water-use efficiency, reduced recharge and salinity, and more economic and sustainable agriculture. Research has demonstrated that soil and landscape formation in Western Australia has been largely driven by the recently advanced ‘phytotarium concept’ (Verboom & Pate 2006a). We define this concept as the system whereby major plant species and their microbial associates bioengineer the soil profiles in which they occur to their own advantage so that they can monopolise water and nutrients. This not only supports their own survival but also determines the direction of ecosystem evolution in their particular geographical and climatic region.
Number of Pages
Sawkins, D, Verboom, W H, and Pate, J S. (2011), Native vegetation in Western Australia is actively involved with soil formation. Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, Perth. Bulletin 4823.
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