Tuesday, June 06, 2006


On May 28, Channel 9's Sunday program ran a controversial article on salinity. The article questioned much existing orthodoxy of what scientists tell us are the problems and solutions to our salinity problem. Although it is less relevant to WA than to the Murray-Darling Basin, I've reproduced much of the article below as it makes interesting reading. In particular, some of you may remember a recent two part ABC Australian Story on Peter Andrews, a NSW farmer with very unorthodox views on managing water on farms. I was able to arrange for Peter to visit the Busselton area in the mid 1990s and his message, while not universally applicable, is nonetheless scientifically sound and, like this article on salinity, deserves greater airing.

May 28, 2006
Reporter : Ross Coulthart
Producer : Nick Farrow

Pyramid Hill farmer Ross Hercott. It's an apocalyptic story of environmental disaster we all know so well. The Murray Darling basin is being poisoned by salt. Adelaide's water supply is threatened, along with some of our most productive farmland — and our beautiful rivers are dying. It's a frightening scenario. But is it true? This week on Sunday, reporter Ross Coulthart takes a look at the real threat posed by salinity — and finds things are going badly wrong in public science.

As Coulthart reveals, some of the claims being used to support calls for billions of dollars to be spent on fixing a "looming salinity crisis" are simply not true. Salinity is a problem. But it seems nowhere as bad as we've been told by environmental groups, government departments and many in the media.

Claims that an area of land twice the size of Tasmania is under threat are false. The reality is a fraction of that. Even top scientists now admit the predictions of a disaster have been exaggerated.
They say this may be because the theory about what causes salinity in non-irrigation areas is flawed.

Worse still, scientists suggest a cheaper and easier solution for salinity problems is being ignored — for very unscientific reasons.

Sunday reporter Ross Coulthart: "It's a disaster for science. It's a disaster for farmers," one former CSIRO scientist tells Sunday.

Taxpayers have now given Government scientists billions of dollars to spend on efforts to understand and tackle salinity. But how solid is the science behind it?


REPORTER ROSS COULTHART: It is an apocalyptic tale that is near Biblical in proportion. Here in Adelaide the people are told their drinking water is being poisoned by salt. Australia's most productive farmland is slowly drowning in a saline flood, the beautiful Murray River is dying. For many in public science, environmental groups and the media, this looming catastrophe has long been an article of almost religious faith. But what if much of this is nothing more than misguided pessimism, or as one eminent scientist describes it: a Gothic horror story?

DR JOHN PASSIOURA, honorary research fellow, CSIRO Plant Industry: Gothic horror stories appeal to people. I don’t think it’s as serious as we came to believe in the late nineties.

ROSS COULTHART: So can you give me a yes or no on whether the river system is dying?

PROFESSOR PETER CULLEN, director, Land and Water Australia: I don’t think the river is dying at the moment

ROSS COULTHART: We’ve already spent billions of dollars on the fix but in this month’s Budget, another half billion dollars was committed to fixing the Murray, salinity levels a major priority. You’ll also hear the evidence suggesting that something is very wrong in public science in Australia. Are we wasting billions of dollars on a dubious fix for salinity?

Picnic on the bed of the Murray

GEORGE WARNE, GM Murray Irrigation: The river is certainly not in crisis with salinity and the stories they’re talking about, the stories of doom and gloom, we think are grossly overstated.

ROSS COULTHART: We were being told that the Murray Darling river system is sick and in danger of dying. Is it?

DR JOHN PASSIOURA: I don’t believe so. If you talk to the people who are in the thriving communities along the Murray they would hotly dispute that.

ROBERT GOURLAY, MD Environmental Research Information Consortium: We are literally pouring this money down the drains they are creating.

ROSS COULTHART: Today you’ll hear how a growing number of scientists and farmers are now disputing the whole theory that supposedly explains how salinity occurs. They believe the orthodox explanation is just plain wrong.

DR BRIAN TUNSTALL, former CSIRO research scientist: It’s a disaster for science. It’s a disaster for farmers.

ROSS COULTHART: And here’s a few things you likely haven’t heard: Tree planting can actually make salinity worse. That, despite panicked claims to the contrary, this natural icon is not under threat of extinction. And the curious link between salinity and this famous art icon, ‘Blue Poles’.

For years we’ve been told that this river system is sick and in danger of dying if nothing’s done to cut the rising levels of salt that our bad land practices are dumping into it. But the river tells a different story. Here near Morgan on the Murray River is where Adelaide takes in its water supply so because of that it’s long been used as a benchmark indicator to measure for the salinity along the entire Murray Darling River system. And what it shows is really quite dramatic. That rather than increasing, salinity levels over the past twenty years have dramatically decreased. In fact they’re back to pre-World War Two levels. So what’s going on? Has the multibillion dollar fix for our river system been driven not by good science but by emotion and politics?

DR JENNIFER MAROHASY, Institute of Public Affairs: We don’t have a salinity crisis. We have an honesty crisis rather than a salinity crisis.

ROSS COULTHART: Gloria Griffiths has been fishing along the Murray River and its tributaries for the last quarter century. She and her Deniliquin Fishing Club colleagues are more than a little amused at the bleak claims that the river system is in crisis, and especially the notion that their beloved Murray Cod is in danger of extinction.

GLORIA GRIFFITHS: Each time you go out you pull in these beautiful cod you can see how healthy they are.

ROSS COULTHART: So what do you think when you read these newspapers from the big cities and they’re all saying the river’s dying and there’s no Murray Cod any more.

GLORIA GRIFFITHS: That they should get out and have a decent look themselves.

ROSS COULTHART: And on cue, Gloria caught us this equally glorious Murray Cod.

GLORIA GRIFFITHS: He looks pretty healthy. Yes actually this is the second one I’ve caught here today

ROSS COULTHART: Let’s put him back in before he gets upset. No-one denies an increase in the river flows would be desirable but as environmental scientist Dr Jennifer Marohasy from the Institute of Public Affairs argues, the notion that we’ve changed the Murray River from a mighty constantly-flowing watercourse to a trickle is challenged by early photos showing the river bed bone dry. Is this a sick river?

DR JENNIFER MAROHASY: No, it’s a bit murky but that’s how it is naturally.

ROSS COULTHART: And as for those who think the river should be returned to its natural state, think again. As Professor Peter Cullen acknowledges, we may now be trying to reduce salt in the river to artificially low levels. Do we know at all what the natural saline level was in the river system before we came along?

PROFESSOR PETER CULLEN: Well I don’t, but my expectation would be that from time to time it was very saline. But we’ve put human communities along that Murray who are taking water for drinking and irrigating and they have therefore pushed to manage and change that river so that it is usable by those communities.

ROSS COULTHART: But aren’t we putting an expectation on that river system that is far beyond what is naturally sustainable?

PROFESSOR PETER CULLEN: We are changing the river beyond what it was naturally. Naturally from time to time there would be no flow and it’d be salty.

ROSS COULTHART: As for the Murray cod, Dr Marohasy believes the grim predictions came about because the scientists who went looking for them were lousy fishermen.

DR JENNIFER MAROHASY: They went out and they surveyed for a couple of years and they apparently spent two million dollars on fishing gear and they concluded that there was no Murray cod in this region. And the fishermen were up in arms. They said: ‘But we’re catching Murray Cod, there’s Murray Cod in the river!’ What I did do was actually look at the commercial harvest for this region for those years and it was actually 26 tonnes of Murray Cod.

ROSS COULTHART: Support for Marohasy’s claims too from Professor Peter Cullen.

PROFESSOR PETER CULLEN: I think one can be confident we will be able to maintain Murray Cod populations.

ROSS COULTHART: Marohasy argues that a similar failure by government scientists lies behind the gloomy predictions that, unless governments commit billions of dollars, the Murray river system faces a salinity catastrophe. She analysed the official data, showing that salt levels had halved over the past 20 years near Morgan here in South Australia and it’s this data that has historically been used as a bench-mark for the river’s salinity health.

DR JENNIFER MAROHASY: They were back at what they were pre-World War Two levels. But everybody, at the same time I was talking to those guys and they were saying ‘yeah, you’re right salt levels have halved’, we had the front page of the CSIRO Land and Water website saying that salt levels ware increasing. But the data actually showed that salt levels had halved.

ROSS COULTHART: The levels of salinity at Morgan show there’s been an appreciable decrease in salinity levels in the entire MD River system over the past 20 years.

WENDY CRAIK, CEO, MDBC: Correct. And why? One, because we’ve been putting into place our salt interception schemes and they’ve been pumping salt out. And secondly, and a really important issue in recent years is the drought.

ROSS COULTHART: So why then, as benchmark salinity levels are the lowest in twenty years was the CSIRO still talking up the so-called ‘rising’ salinity problem on its website?. In June 2003, it said:

VOICEOVER READ: Salt levels are rising in almost all of the Basin’s rivers.

ROSS COULTHART: When these alarming claims were challenged by Marohasy, the CSIRO quietly dropped this sentence from its website. So why would scientists do this? Why make a representation that there is a huge problem when there isn’t?

DR JENNIFER MAROHASY: Maybe they were being driven by some environmental campaigning. And maybe they were concerned about continued funding if they’d fixed the problem.

ROSS COULTHART: For at least 30 years, the official explanation for salinity has been that cutting down trees and other land clearing is making groundwater rise, pushing salt up to root zones or the surface, killing plants. This explanation, called the Rising Regional Groundwater Theory, is used in all the models to predict salinity across Australia. But it’s never been proven. It’s still just a theory. Yet billions of dollars have been spent trying to fix salinity problems using solutions based on it.

Dr Maarten Stapper is a principal research scientist with the CSIRO. It’s a measure of the sensitivity of the debate that he insisted we emphasise he is speaking in a private capacity. For he is one of the dissident scientists who believes there’s something very wrong with the whole rising groundwater theory and the alarming predictions it makes. Are you a believer in the rising groundwater theory as an explanation for salinity?

DR MAARTEN STAPPER, principal research scientist, CSIRO: No. Not a full verdict on that it’s true for every situation.

ROSS COULTHART: Honorary CSIRO Research Fellow Dr John Passioura — who is also speaking in a private capacity — is a true believer in the theory but even he acknowledges it has its problems. That’s the theory that’s very much driven our scientific understanding of salinity for the last 20 or 30 years — right?


ROSS COULTHART: Is it right?

DR JOHN PASSIOURA: I believe the big picture is right. The difficulty is that when you have to start looking at the action on ground, you have to start dealing with the little picture.

ROSS COULTHART: Meanwhile former CSIRO research scientist Dr Brian Tunstall is happy to say he thinks the Rising Groundwater Theory is largely bunkum.

DR BRIAN TUNSTALL: It was never right and if you look at the reviews and if you look at the literature overseas, it’s not right. It’s unique to Australia.

ROSS COULTHART: Why does it matter though?

DR BRIAN TUNSTALL: Because of the wastage of money. Because we’re not fixing the problem. We’re spending money on it and we’re penalising farmers.

ROSS COULTHART: If there are villains in this tale of horror they’re the farmers and especially the irrigators. Popular wisdom has it that irrigation farming is doomed, the irrigators accused of greedily sloshing vast amounts of river water on to their farms, which in turn is washing mountains of salt out of the soil back into the rivers. It’s a perception that Deniliquin irrigation rice farmer Adam Wettenhall says is totally false.

ADAM WETTENHALL, Deniliquin irrigation rice farmer: I’d say to the doomsayers ‘instead of staying inside your ivory towers in Sydney and Melbourne and other cities, come out to the country and have a look.’

ROSS COULTHART: A decade ago the scientists were predicting that what’s happening here in this field today just wouldn’t be possible. This was a salinity hotspot. Back then, the groundwater was just below the surface and in danger of rising and wiping out this area completely with salinity. Ten years on, not only is the watertable now far lower, see for yourself, it’s a bumper harvest. One of the best ever. What did they say was going to happen here?

ADAM WETTENHALL: Basically if nothing was done about it we wouldn’t be here. And the irrigation, the whole irrigation in the area, the bulk of it would have gone under.

ROSS COULTHART: You proved them wrong

ADAM WETTENHALL: Yes definitely.

ROSS COULTHART: Official government predictions using computer modelling based on that Rising Groundwater Theory said that much of the irrigation farmland along the Murray was headed for disaster, as Murray Irrigation’s General Manager George Warne explains.

GEORGE WARNE: We were told that unless we took radical action more than a third of our farmland would basically be under water, that is, under saline water. And even if we took radical action a quarter of our farmland would be highly at risk.


GEORGE WARNE: By now. By 2006, 2010 and certainly by 2020 over 300,000 hectares would be suffering from high watertables.

ROSS COULTHART: That was a disaster being projected

GEORGE WARNE: That is a disaster scenario. And it certainly hasn’t been told out in what’s happened since

ROSS COULTHART: As Adam Wettenhall showed us, on a site near his farm, salinity can kill good farmland. And in irrigation farming, if too much water’s put on the land, salt can rise up to the surface with disastrous results. On their farm, Adam and Rob carefully monitor their water use and groundwater levels. Both feel it’s unfair that irrigators like them are still being demonised for washing salt into the river.

ADAM WETTENHALL: We can recycle every bit of water on the farm we’ve also planted an extensive amount of trees, planted crops like lucerne, deep rooted plants that suck up the water table and virtually treated water that comes onto our farm as liquid gold. We don’t let anything go below the root zone of the plant therefore we are using the water to its maximum ability.

ROSS COULTHART: So how much salt are you washing into the Murray River?

ADAM WETTENHALL: None. No water leaves this farm. What water comes onto this farm stays on this farm and we recycle every little bit.

ROSS COULTHART: From up above, it’s easy to see why the Murray-Darling river basin is this country’s foodbowl. With the irrigation industry’s share of river flows still a hot political issue, Murray Irrigation’s chairman Stewart Ellis, argues the irrigation farmers at least deserve credit for proving the doomsayers wrong on salinity.

STEWART ELLIS, Chairman Murray Irrigation: The predictions as you say are just so far out. The picture they were painting just hasn’t eventuated.

GEORGE WARNE: It hasn’t happened and we have got an area now of less than four farms out of a total of two and a half thousand that are affected by high water tables. It just seems that somewhere the science got it seriously wrong.

ROSS COULTHART: If science got its predictions so badly wrong on the salinity risks in irrigation areas, then what about dry-land salinity, where salt appears on land even though it’s not being flooded with irrigation water? Computer models based on the Rising Groundwater Theory predict that, by 2050, farmland more than twice the area of Tasmania could be wiped out by salinity. It’s scary and expensive. But while salinity is a problem is such extreme pessimism justified? In part two of our story you’ll hear from the dissidents who believe the real explanation for salinity and a possible cheap fix - has been suppressed.

ROBERT GOURLAY: There’s too much at stake in terms of the credibility of public science to admit to a major error in this area of science

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: People just don’t want to talk about those issues. They don’t want to get stirred into thinking that there is another way.

ROSS COULTHART: And yet, as a scientist, you’ve seen it work?


ROSS COULTHART: You’re convinced it works


ROSS COULTHART: Courtesy of this month’s Budget, the Murray Darling Basin Commission has another half a billion dollars of taxpayers? money to spend. Much of it will be going on expensive schemes to stop salt reaching the rivers similar to this one in northern Victoria near Pyramid Hill. This is Pyramid Salt a private company funded with $13 million dollars of taxpayers’ money. Here they pump saline water from underground and harvest the salt it contains, for sale.

Does it make you laugh that people in Sydney are paying six bucks for a 250g box of salt that you blokes are desperate to throw away in this part of the world?

GAVIN PRIVETT, project manager, Pyramid Salt: No it doesn’t make me laugh. Actually, it makes me cry because the in-between guy is getting all the money.

ROSS COULTHART: But it’s only here at all because of an environmental blunder years ago, when attempts to lower the watertable under here ended up poisoning the Murray River.

GAVIN PRIVETT: Initially, what they looked at, they started putting drainage systems and then the problem was they realised they were transferring the problem from one place to another. They put in drainage systems. The next thing it was going into the Murray.

WENDY CRAIK: That’s true and I think that’s a fact of life, that science moves on, that people learn more about systems, learn more about what they should and shouldn’t do.

ROSS COULTHART: So it’s a multi-million dollar patch-up for a past mistake and it’s not a long-term solution for salinity.

GAVIN PRIVETT: You can’t put projects like this all over the place. One, people don’t eat enough salt. It’s a low value commodity. It’s not the answer to the problem. What we’re doing is we’re just intervening and I believe it’s probably as a short-term fix which we’re probably looking to buy some time.

ROSS COULTHART: Nearly 170 years ago, the explorer Major Thomas Mitchell climbed to the top of Pyramid Hill. He proclaimed the then rich farming country here in northern Victoria ‘Australia Felix’ or ‘Blessed Australia,’ perhaps an origin of the expression ‘the Lucky Country’.

He said this is one of the best pieces of land I have ever seen on the face of the earth. So when he got back to Sydney and people read his report they just bolted down here.

After the First World War, the town boomed again. Returning soldiers were given small blocks of land which they cleared, ploughed and swamped with irrigation farming. By the mid-1950s, much of the land was poisoned by salt. The rising watertable was officially thought to be the cause.

ROSS HERCOTT, Pyramid Hill farmer: What I don’t agree with is that the rising water-table causes salinity

ROSS COULTHART: Pyramid Hill farmer Ross Hercott has long campaigned on Australia’s salinity problems. He’s the first to admit not everyone sees eye to eye with him and his radical analysis of the problem. Hercott argues most dryland salinity isn’t caused by rising groundwater at all but by what many current farming practices do to the health of the soil. He’s designed a plough which opens up the ground yet doesn’t turn soil over like conventional ploughs do so it stops the earth becoming hard and compacted. He also believes that the millions of tonnes of acid fertiliser put on Australian farms every year cement the surface soil and increase salinity because the acid in the fertiliser reacts with minerals in the earth and forms much more salt.

Fourteen years ago Hercott was told much of this land was so saline it was near useless. Now the water in this well is fresh enough to drink, all because Hercott believes he stopped using fertiliser and opened up the soil with his special plough.

ROSS COULTHART: When did you first realise you were getting fresh water coming up in the well?

ROSS HERCOTT: Within a couple of years but we had the good stuff in 2002. There you go, you taste the water for yourself

ROSS COULTHART: That’s not bad. Not bad at all. Tests show it’s purer than rainwater. Not so the water coming out of the ground 500 metres away on the farm next door. That’s very salty, extremely salty. How salty is that?

ROSS HERCOTT: Twice as salty as the sea. 59000 ECs.

ROSS COULTHART: Now if the Rising Regional Groundwater Theory is right.

ROSS HERCOTT: This would be the same as that.


ROSS COULTHART: Is Ross Hercott right?

ROBERT GOURLAY: He’s definitely right and he’s done all the right things

ROSS COULTHART: Rob Gourlay is one of a group of scientists who have studied Hercott’s methods. He too believes salt problems can be fixed by getting soil healthy again.

ROBERT GOURLAY: This country has put millions of dollars into salinity by treating the symptoms. They have not looked at the cause. The cause is our soil health. Yet we continue to pump ground water. We continue to put in large draining systems and plant trees and we haven’t addressed the cause. The implications are enormous for our agricultural system and the survival of our regional economies.

ROSS COULTHART: Brian Tunstall is a former CSIRO soil scientist who now works with Gourlay, helping farmers fix salinity problems.

DR BRIAN TUNSTALL: Farmers have realised that there is not a massive groundwater system. That planting trees on the hills is not solving the problem. But they can solve the problem by planting grasses and other vegetation locally so that they get local solutions.

ROSS COULTHART: This is Gulgong in mid-NSW. Colin Seis is getting great results from land he was told was at high risk from salinity. His salt solution — planting his crops in with native grasses. It’s meant he’s one of the few farmers in his district who can plant anything in the current drought.

Now what would be the orthodox explanation for how to fix the salinity problem that you have?

COLIN SEIS: The orthodox thing would be either to plant all this down to trees or plough it up, destroy these native grasses and put lucerne in here.

ROSS COULTHART: And what would that have done?

COLIN SEIS: Made the salinity worse, probably.

ROSS COULTHART: Seis, who was last year’s Conservation Farmer of the Year in NSW, also doesn’t use ploughs but drills his crops in to avoid compacting the soil. He has also not used super phosphate fertiliser for 25 years

COLIN SEIS: I see it as basically growing a plant and then getting addicted to super phosphate almost like a drug. We couldn’t afford the $20-30,000 of super phosphate any longer so we started to look at other ways of doing it. I always had a belief that if we pulled the fertiliser out our native grasses would return. And that’s exactly what happened.

ROSS COULTHART: Right next door to his rye crop is land blighted by salt. Fifteen years ago government scientists suggested he fix it by planting trees. Why is this land sick and that land okay?

COLIN SEIS: The main difference is that we’ve still got our native grasses in there, our native grasslands in there which are managing the water better than here. Whereas the trees have been planted on this side really aren’t doing the job.

ROSS COULTHART: This is the orthodox fix for though, isn’t it, for the groundwater problem?


ROSS COULTHART: If that’s right?


ROSS COULTHART: Clearly planting trees here hasn’t done a thing?

COLIN SEIS: No. It hasn’t

ROSS COULTHART: The grasses add mulch to the soil, build up carbon, allowing it to hold much more water and they help flush out salt. Initial research by scientists from the CSIRO supported Seis’ unconventional approach. But, as he tells it, their bid to get funding for a more intensive study was rejected.

COLIN SEIS: The CSIRO people I remember at the time were astounded that it got knocked back. Almost all of the research work that has been attempted to be done on pasture cropping gets rejected.

ROSS COULTHART: There are a heck of a lot of reputations riding, Colin, on the theory that this problem is caused by rising groundwater?

COLIN SEIS: Yes. But maybe they’re wrong.

ROSS COULTHART: Professor Peter Cullen, a director of the peak research body Land and Water Australia denies that salinity science funding has become politicised.

PROFESSOR PETER CULLEN: I’ve not seen any evidence of that. I mean there’s often people who have contrary views. Sometimes they are wanting to get research funds. Sometimes they might be right. But I haven’t seen any evidence of suppression.

DR JENNIFER MAROHASY: There’s some fantastic scientists and it’s sometimes very hard for them to honestly report their results.

ROSS COULTHART: Remember that painting we showed earlier? For many Queensland farmers this work by Jackson Pollock called ‘Blue Poles’ is about as much use for predicting salinity problems on their land as the work of State Government scientists. It’s a standing joke that ‘Blue Poles’ looks pretty much the same as this official salinity hazard map. That’s why farmers call it ‘Red Poles’. But for them it’s no laughing matter. Farmers have been forced to plant trees — or stopped from clearing land — because of those ominous red blotches. But Brian Tunstall’s research on the ground shows the watertable in these areas is often too far down to be the cause of salinity.

DR BRIAN TUNSTALL: There’s no groundwater system for over a hundred metres down. And yet they have the groundwater model, the Rising Groundwater model producing high levels of salinity.

ROSS COULTHART: And that’s just not true?

DR BRIAN TUNSTALL: Well there’s not any groundwater system there to create it

ROSS COULTHART: And what do they say when you say where’s the groundwater that supposedly causing this salinity?

DR BRIAN TUNSTALL: I’ve never had a response.

ROSS COULTHART: For much of the past two decades we’ve been told the Murray is in crisis. And all of those grim predictions of disaster were based on that one theory, that water tables are rising across whole regions, and that massive tree planting would fix the problem. But the evidence now is that tree planting can sometimes be disastrous

DR JOHN PASSIOURA: Tree planting can be counterproductive. And the reason for that is trees, young trees use more water than what might have been used before. The result of that being there is less runoff of fresh water into the streams.

ROSS COULTHART: Murray Darling Basin Commission boss Wendy Craik now admits many of the predictions of disaster were badly wrong. A decade ago in 1993, the MDBC predicted that dryland salinity was increasing at a rate of 10 to 15 percent per annum. It’s not happening is it?

WENDY CRAIK: Well I think Ross that it’s fair to say that as a result of the consensus of science at the time organisations make, because of that consensus of science, provide the best information they can to decision-makers. That’s life.

ROSS COULTHART: In 2000, Wendy Craik was heading the National Farmers’ Federation. At the height of the salinity hysteria she called for $65 billion to be spent on fixing Australia’s land and water crisis — with a whopping 37 billion to come from taxpayers.

WENDY CRAIK: We were basing our recommendation on the best available information at the time.

ROSS COULTHART: But that information was wrong wasn’t it?

WENDY CRAIK: Subsequently I think we would say, we wouldn’t, I wouldn’t support that particular line.

ROSS COULTHART: Imagine if those billions of dollars had been expended on what you now acknowledge are incorrect models that were talking up the threat of salinity?

WENDY CRAIK: As a taxpayer I am just as happy as you that we didn’t actually do that

ROSS COULTHART: Even inside Australia’s peak science body many are now questioning what causes salinity. CSIRO principal research scientist Maarten Stapper says he too thinks salinity is actually caused by poor soil health. So touchy is the current debate in scientific circles that several scientists we spoke to felt unable to talk publicly. Maarten Stapper did but as a private citizen.

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: But the cause of most of the salinity in the dryland is on land where there’s no rising watertable and it’s caused by the lack of organic carbon and life in the soil.

ROSS COULTHART: If your solution to this problem is right then we’re wasting hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars on trying to fix salinity aren’t we’

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: Yeah. That’s money working on symptoms and not the cause of the problem.

ROSS COULTHART: So when you’ve been saying inside the CSIRO there’s a microbiological explanation for salinity, what do they say?

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: Oh silence. No reaction.

ROSS COULTHART: Do you concede it’s possible you’re wrong?

WENDY CRAIK: What I would concede is it’s possible further information might refine the models but I find it hard to believe that rising groundwater tables are not a major cause of salinity.

ROSS COULTHART: The debate over what causes what we’ve long been told is one of the biggest environmental problems in this country will doubtless rage for many years to come. But while the scientists argue, farmers like Colin Seis are getting on with their own solution. And they’re doing just fine.

How long before conventional science catches up with you?

COLIN SEIS: Probably 50 years. I don’t know. Hopefully, sooner than that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

top [url=http://www.xgambling.org/]casino bonus[/url] hinder the latest [url=http://www.realcazinoz.com/]casino online[/url] manumitted no store perk at the best [url=http://www.baywatchcasino.com/]www.baywatchcasino.com