Plant-soil systems

Lead researcher

Peter SaleDr Peter Sale

Reader, College of Science, Health and Engineering

View profile, publications and contact details

Salinity management

Our group has undertaken research into the management of saline discharge sites in the north west of Victoria. The approach taken was to evaluate the potential of the halophytic forage grass Distichlis spicata and how it might be managed in low rainfall discharge sites where the land has become very saline.

Our research has shown that once established the Distichlis can be quite productive and supply useful green forage during the dry summer months on abandoned saline discharge land. The difficulty is to establish the grass, by vegetative means, in the warmer months in a dry, saline environment.

Farming systems research

An emerging need in the high rainfall cropping zone in south east Australia is to develop successful crop rotations which prevent weed populations from building up. The move to no-till systems to improve the soil condition has increased the reliance on herbicides, which if not used wisely lead to weed populations that are tolerant to herbicides.

The challenge is to deplete the weed seedbank in cropping soil, with rotations that are profitable. We will be working with farmer groups to develop different cropping systems to archive weed-free status with satisfactory gross margin outcomes.

Climate change and nutrient dynamics

Future changes in climate are expected to have significant impacts on plant productivity and nutrient cycling within a range of cropping systems. Our research investigates the effect of increased atmospheric CO2 on crop production and soil nutrient dynamics in agricultural production systems.

Find out more about our climate change and nutrient dynamics research.

Rhizosphere and phosphorus acquisition

Global phosphorus reserves are finite and will deplete in the medium term. The use of crop species, that can access the soil P pools, would reduce P fertiliser use and improve P-use efficiency. Our recent findings indicate that plant P acquisition from soil P pools depends on crop species, soil type, P fertilizer history and N form.

Find out more about our rhizosphere and phosphorus acquisition research


Phytoremediation is the use of plants to remove contaminants from the soil. We study how plants take up heavy metals from contaminated soils and how agronomic methods enhance hyperaccumulation.

Find out more about our phytoremediation research