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Science
COSTING THE EARTH
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Costing the Earth tells stories which touch all our lives, looking at man's effect on the environment and at how the environment reacts. It questions accepted truths, challenges the people in charge and reports on progress towards improving the world we live in.
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 1 April
PRESENTER
MIRIAM O'REILLY
Miriam O'Reilly
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Thursday 1 April  2004
Carolyn Ives and her dog
Carolyn Ives checks the family farm for salt intrusion

The Salt That Ate Australia

From the depths of the bush to the heart of the city Australia is facing up to a relentless enemy- salt.

Adelaide’s infrastructure is being ravaged by high levels of salt in the groundwater. Rails, pipelines, roads and concrete are being consumed and corroded. It is estimated that by 2050 Adelaide’s water will not be fit to drink.

Meanwhile vast swathes of Australia’s most productive farmland are being devoured by rising salt levels. The introduction of European crops with shallower root systems that couldn’t reach the water table led to the need for artificial irrigation and a slow rise of water levels. But this water brought with it ancient salt stores which are gradually caking into salt pans of unproductive land. 13.7 million hectares of farmland are threatened by 2050- more than the current total area devoted to wheat, Australia’s biggest crop.

It’s rapidly becoming the prime concern of Australia’s growers, biologists and crop scientists. Can they develop salt-tolerant wheat, can they find new clean sources of water for their vineyards or should they accept their fate and find fresh ways to live on a salty island?

In the first of a new series of ‘Costing the Earth’ Miriam O’Reilly asks if Australians can avoid environmental catastrophe.
Ed Schilds and Miriam O'Reilly
Ed Schild explains how salt could damage his vineyards in the Barossa Valley

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