FloraSearch - Developing broadscale commercial revegetation industries in low rainfall regions of southern Australia
The removal of native vegetation and development of annual agricultural systems in the 250-650 mm rainfall zone of southern Australia has led to widespread dryland salinity and salinisation of waterways. Restoration of deep-rooted perennial vegetation can make a significant contribution to correcting this problem. The scale of perennial plant cover necessary to control salinity is very large and it is not feasible to rely solely on revegetation for biodiversity to restore hydrological equilibrium in the landscape. Consequently, development of a mosaic of land uses including tree crops driven by large-scale industrial markets, agricultural systems utilising annual and herbaceous perennial crops, and biodiversity resources is proposed. New agroforestry designs include short-cycle woody coppice and phase crops based on belts or plantations suited to local hydrological systems. FloraSearch endeavours to select and develop woody perennial species suited to the concept of developing commercially viable industries that can also meet natural resource management goals.
The FloraSearch project was initiated in 2002 to provide the national focus to the development of broad scale woody crops for southern Australia. The FloraSearch study area contains the dryland wheat-sheep zone of southern Australia bounded by the low rainfall limit of cropping and the 650mm rainfall isohyet, and extending north to the upper extent of annual, winter dominated rainfall region. Potential products are reviewed and taxa from southern Australia have been selected, sampled and tested for suitability for ongoing development as new crops. The FloraSearch project focuses on selecting species that can be developed to supply feedstock for the large-scale markets of wood, fodder and energy products.