Oh no, not another soil survey! Why this one is important

Soils are important for food production and environmental sustainability so take the Vic Hub’s Regional Soil Coordinator’s soil survey
Soils are important for food production and environmental sustainability so take the Vic Hub’s Regional Soil Coordinator’s soil survey
Peter Fisher inside Vic Hub Soil Co-ord LR
Dr Peter Fisher

By Dr Peter Fisher

Victoria Soil Coordinator, Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption & Innovation Hub

 

As a farmer or someone working in the agriculture sector, you probably don’t need to be reminded how important soils are for food production and environmental sustainability.

Did you know more than 40% of living organisms in terrestrial ecosystems are directly associated with soils? 1 And that globally, soils are estimated to store 1,500 billion tonnes of organic matter compared with 560 billion tonnes in vegetation2, while it’s estimated the average amount of organic carbon in the top 30cm of Australian soils is 29.7 tonnes per hectare 3.

Recent climate extremes of drought and flood have only increased the impact of declining soil functioning, but anecdotal evidence suggests soils in a healthy condition cope better and recover faster from extreme climate impacts.

The federal government understands how important soil health is, and has made considerable investment in the research and extension of improved soil practices. The 2023/24 federal budget included $302 million over five years for climate-smart, sustainable agriculture under the Natural Heritage Trust – $36m of which is allocated specifically for improved soil health, while a further $158m has been set aside for “impactful, on-ground, climate-smart, sustainable agriculture projects”.

The Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) have supported the national network of Regional Soil Coordinators (of which I am one), to undertake a survey to provide evidence on which soil issues farmers have sufficient information and where greater support is needed, or what farming systems and technologies require more research before they can be economically applied on-farm.

The survey is anonymous and simple to complete; all questions are multichoice, with the option to add more information if required. The survey will ask (a) how severe you believe soil issues (such as acidity, compaction or erosion) are on your farm, (b) whether you use soil practices (such as liming, no-till, gypsum, organic amendments, deep ripping), (c) your opinion on which of these practices requires more extension and/or research, and (d) a little information about your farm (such as the size and type of enterprise).

It is important as many farmers as possible complete this survey so we can provide to DAFF and other funding organisations a true picture of what farmers want in future soil extension and research investment. If you could provide 15 minutes of your time to support this survey it would be greatly appreciated.

We would also like to get the opinions of non-farmers working in agricultural industries, so if you’re a consultant, NRM worker, or extension and research scientist working in the ag sector, please also complete the survey about the region you work in.

 

The survey can be accessed via this link: https://tinyurl.com/soilgaps or using the QR code below.

 

 

eDM Dec23 QR codeSummary: what it is and why it matters

DAFF provides considerable investment for soil research and extension, including $215m for the package to implement the National Soil Strategy, which began in July 2021, and more recently the $36 million, which began in July 2023. This included the continuation of the eight Regional Soil Coordinators attached to each of the Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs.

Governments aim to target their investment to best position land managers to make more informed evidence based decisions and to fill key research gaps. To support government-funded soil programs and identify future priorities, the Regional Soil Coordinators are undertaking a national survey to identify priorities and inform future investment opportunities.

The results of this survey will be provided to DAFF to support their evidence-based planning for future investment. If you want to be part of prioritising soil extension and research investment, please complete the anonymous, 15-minute simple survey.

 

Soils are important for food production and environmental sustainability so take the Vic Hub’s Regional Soil Coordinator’s soil survey

 

 

References

1 Decaëns, T., Jiménez, J.J., Gioia, C., Measey, G.J., Lavelle, P. 2006. The values of soil animals for conservation biology. European Journal of Soil Biology, 42 S23–S38.

2 European Commission. Directorate General for the Environment., 2011. Soil: the hidden part of the climate cycle. Publications Office, LU.

3 Rossel, R., Webster, R., Bui, E., Baldock, J. (2014) CSIRO Land and Water. Baseline map of organic carbon in Australian soil to support national carbon accounting and monitoring under climate change. Glob. Chang. Biol., 20 pp. 2953-2970