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Potential of new Australian oldman saltbush varieties to fill ruminant feed gaps in arid and saline areas of Pakistan

This one-year scoping study aims to improve the livelihoods of smallholders in arid and saline areas of Pakistan by introducing the elite old man saltbush germplasm from Australia, a drought and salt-tolerant perennial shrub that can be used to feed small ruminants.
Many people in Pakistan's irrigated, rain fed and semi-arid areas produce small ruminants. Like much of southern Australia, the pattern and scarcity of rainfall limits ruminant production, leading to nutrient gaps from late summer to early winter. Salinity and shallow water tables threaten agriculture in Pakistan where salinity affects 25% of irrigated land. Drought and salt-tolerant perennial shrubs such as saltbush (Atriplex spp.) can use land and water resources that are too saline or arid for most crops and forages. Saltbushes can complement poor-quality crop residues in livestock diets. Previous ACIAR research demonstrated that several Atriplex species can persist in saline soils in Pakistan.
Australian researchers have improved the feeding value, palatability and growth of old man saltbush (Atriplex nummularia). CSIRO released the first cultivar from a cohort of elite material (Anameka) in 2014, which producers across southern Australia have successfully adopted. The CSIRO genotypes have much higher energy values and grow faster than standard saltbush, and sheep prefer it.
This project will assess the outcomes of previous saltbush introductions, investigate how farmers can use saltbush, and identify researchers and NGOs in Pakistan who could partner in saltbush evaluation and extension activities. The project will investigate how women can lead saltbush propagation, and link Australian saltbush seed, propagation and machinery businesses with their Pakistani counterparts.