Atriplex halimus L. (Mediterranean saltbush)
DSIR, P.O. Box 228, Alexandra
Riverside, Hakataramea, RD Kurow.
As an essential ingredient in the development of the South Island’s dry hill country, shrubs have a vital role in the amelioration of extreme climatic effects, gully erosion control and in the provision of stock forage. Trials have been conducted in the South Island over the past 20 years, culminating in the establishment of farm scale planting of Atriplex halimus (Mediterranean saltbush) on “Riverside” (Mike Brosnan), Hakataramea Valley Farm in 1985. Some 20+ha of saltbush “forage banks” now exist on this property. The selection of Atriplex species adapted to the dry, cold hill country in the South Island is briefly described together with establishment and grazing management techniques appropriate to farm scale plantings of forage banks. These have been developed on exposed, sunny faces which, in the past, were low priority areas for pastoral development. The climatic adaptability, the preferred soil types and nutrient status, the management and the conservation values of Atriplex halimus as a forage plant are discussed. This is directed at stimulating further integration of forage banks into farming systems appropriate to semi-arid conditions. Planting normally unproductive dryland sites with forage shrubs, in combination with other drought tolerant pasture plants, is seen as an important step in the development of successful farming strategy suited to these environments. The positive and practical results realized to date at Riverside need to be developed on other South Island dryland properties as a means of expanding shrub forage bank plantings over a wider range of climate and soil types in New Zealand.
Keywords Atriplex halimus, Mediterranean saltbush, forage banks, nutrition, grazing and economic analyses, semi-arid climate.Michael Brosnan