Swan Valley land capability review, Western Australia

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Agriculture is an integral component of the economic, social and cultural landscape in the Swan Valley of Western Australia. To support planning goals for the region, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development reviewed and updated previous soil and land capability studies of the Swan Valley and combined this with groundwater data, showing the potential for irrigated agriculture. The report was published in 2016.

Why we did this report

The Review of land capability assessment for the Swan Valley was completed in 2016 in response to a request from the intergovernmental working group that reports to the Swan Valley Planning Committee. The working group wanted updated information on land capability for irrigated agriculture in the Swan Valley policy area.

What we did

We reviewed and updated previous soil surveys and land capability studies in the Swan Valley area dating back to 1955. We used the high quality agricultural land methodology, which combines land and water data to provide a comprehensive picture of the capability for intensive agricultural production.

For this report, we:

  • improved the original soil mapping and added some new mapping
  • updated map unit descriptions
  • provided new capability maps for 5 types of irrigated agriculture: table grapes, wine grapes, stone fruit and nuts, market gardens and irrigated pastures
  • created a map showing potential for irrigated agriculture
  • provided a new land use analysis
  • provided a new lot-size analysis.

What we found

  • New technology and management for irrigation and crop nutrition have improved production on soils with low water-holding and nutrient-holding capacity in the Swan Valley. This has increased the land capability for irrigated crops.
  • Groundwater levels in the Swan Valley have been declining over the 10 years. This decline is thought to be caused by the current high level of water use, and declining rainfall resulting in reduced recharge of the aquifers.
  • There is a large proportion of small lots in the Swan Valley – more than 70% of the area has lots of less than 6 hectares.

What the results mean

  • The major limitation for intensive agriculture in the Swan Valley is availability of adequate amounts of good quality water for irrigation.
  • There is opportunity to increase water use efficiency for increased production.
  • Agricultural producers in the Swan Valley have a big advantage over other areas:
    • proximity to Perth markets
    • on-site sales to the large tourist population
    • opportunities for value-adding agricultural produce
    • good main road access
    • tourist access by a navigable waterway from Perth
    • it is a 'shop front' for the Western Australian wine industry.
  • Opportunities for expansion, versatility of enterprises and capacity to adapt to new markets is limited by the small average lot size and high land costs resulting from competition from non-agricultural land uses and proximity to Perth.

Contact information

Angela Stuart-Street
+61 (0)8 9780 6124