A report on the land capability of irrigated agriculture in the Swan Valley produced by the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) identifies opportunities and constraints to agricultural production in the area.
The Review of land capability assessment for the Swan Valley was prepared to assist the Department of Planning with its review of the Swan Valley Planning Act (1995).
DAFWA research officer Angela Stuart-Street said the report used the high quality agricultural land approach, which combined land and water mapping to provide a complete picture of the capability for intensive agricultural production.
Ms Stuart-Sreet said the review covered 7000 hectares of land extending from Guildford north east to where the Swan River emerges from the Darling Scarp.
“It confirmed that terraces next to the river and the plain to the west of the railway and south from Haddrill Road, contained the best soils and the largest volumes of water suitable for irrigated agriculture. Not surprisingly, this is where most of the irrigated crops are,” she said.
“The soils on the foot slopes of the Darling Scarp also rated highly. Although water supplies are more limited in this location, it has not constrained significant plantings of wine grapes.”
Ms Stuart-Street said the report showed areas east of the railway had better capability for irrigated agriculture than implied by mapping of the capability for table grapes in 1990.
Conclusions of the review:
- Because of changes in land and crop management techniques and a drying rainfall pattern, areas formerly classified as unsuited for agriculture are now showing improved capability.
- Water availability is the major limiting factor for intensive agriculture in the Swan Valley. Water is currently over-allocated and there is no additional water available for licensing. Declining rainfall compounds this issue. There may need to be a review of allocation limits in the future.
- Any new water requirements will need to be sourced from the trade or transfer of existing water licences either from within the Swan Valley area or from external areas where permitted by groundwater subarea boundaries. Producers need to follow best practice to ensure irrigation efficiency is optimum for the water available to them.
- There is no shortage of small lots in the Swan Valley for agriculture.
- Agricultural producers in the Swan Valley have a big advantage over other areas because of its proximity to Perth markets and opportunities for value-adding agricultural produce.
- What makes a ‘viable’ lot size depends on a property’s location, the type of crop and the business model itself – there is no definitive answer.
- Smaller lots generally limit a producer’s overall versatility and capacity to adapt to meet changing market demands. They limit the type of agricultural enterprise in the Swan Valley.
- An emerging issue for producers may be the impact of a drying climate. This issue may present opportunities as well as challenges.
Source: Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA)