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Drip drink device keeps trees alive
Dustin McCreery with his tree planter. Picture: Kate Raston

A simple but clever way to plant trees during the frustratingly dry winters has helped in the survival of thousands of seedlings in the Wheatbelt.

Dustin McCreery from Chatfield's Tree Nursery in Tammin has introduced a device to help keep trees alive during dry times.

With the addition of a water cart and pipe hooked up to a tree planting machine, the seedlings are given a litre of water in the rip line during planting.

"Over the past couple of years, we've noticed farmers are losing confidence about planting trees because of the dry seasons," Mr McCreery said.

"This device helps to remove some of that risk, because the water is going where the tree needs it below the root zone, rather than on top."

The water cart holds about 1000 litres and a hose is used to inject water into the rip line as the tree is being planted.

Mr McCreery said the technique had been used before in the northern Wheatbelt with success.

He said the dry years had dropped demand for seedlings from farmers by about 30 per cent.

"The upside is that landholders become more reliant on their marginal country for sheep feed, so they invest in more fodder shrubs, and our sales for those have jumped by 40 per cent," he said.

"The economic pressure on farming has certainly made people think twice about planting trees, but we're seeing more diversification to cope with the dry seasons."

Natural resource management group Wheatbelt NRM has worked with farmers in helping them plant more than 450,000 trees, saltbush and fodder shrubs this year.

Funding for the planting of these trees has been in part through the Australian government's Caring for our Country program.

Wheatbelt NRM program manager for sustainable agriculture, Dr Guy Boggs, said farmers were faced with "a horrendous June with nil rainfall, but trees that were ordered still needed to be planted".

"While many farmers haven't had the cash to invest in planting trees, it's during these dry times we've needed them most," he said.

"This is generally when we see massive wind erosion events and trees help to stabilise the soil and act as a wind break."

Dr Boggs said pouring water down the rip line during planting had helped increase the survival rate of many of the trees planted this year.

"While we've had good rain in September in parts of the Wheatbelt, that hasn't been the case for all communities," he said. "We can see how this idea will be used in coming years, as the unpredictable nature of our climate continues."