A well–managed landscape provides high quality, essential ecosystem services to farmers and the Australian community. These services include food and fibre, clean air, fresh water, and biodiversity protection. Good soils management is needed to improve the resilience of landscapes to climate change, and to deliver high quality ecosystem services. Recognising these values, the Australian Government, through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, is investing in improving soil and land management through research, development and extension, improving soils management through on–ground activities and improved data and information collection.
Research, development and extension
The Stocktake of Australia’s investment in soils research, development and extension –is snapshot for 2010–11, which identified that Australia spent around $124 million on soils RD&E. There are about 40 organisations undertaking soils RD&E, and at least 13 Australian government or related organisations provide funds) for soils work.
Development of a national soils research, development and extension strategy
The Stocktake is being used to help develop a national, cross sector soils RD&E strategy under the National Primary Industries RD&E framework.The soils RD&E strategy will explore opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and help to coordinate consideration of current and future soils RD&E needs across sectors. For more information see Strategic approaches to soils research, development and extension.
The DAFF portfolio’s rural research and development corporations provided $24 million of the estimated $124 million spent on soils RD&E in Australia in 2010–11.
DAFF’s Soil Carbon Research Program is investigating soil carbon and its sequestration in Australia. DAFF’s Filling the Research Gap and Action on the Ground programs are providing support for research into, and implementation of, abatement technologies and management practices to improve soil carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector whilst enhancing sustainable agricultural practices.
DAFF also contributes to soil RD&E by sponsoring conferences including:
- 19th World Congress of Soil Science
- 5th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture
- 3rd Sustainable Phosphorus Summit
- 5th Joint SSA and NZSSS Soil Science Conference
- Australian Soil Information Symposium
Improving soils data and information
DAFF’s Sustainable Resource Management Division (SRM) provides resources ($2.4 million over four years) for the Australian Collaborative Land Evaluation Program (ACLEP), an initiative jointly funded by CSIRO to improve the collection, management and dissemination of nationally consistent data and information on soil and land resources.
The Stocktake of Australia’s investment in soils research, development and extension also looked at the information currently available on soils in Australia. Appendix 5 of the stocktake - the National soil information base – provides an overview of soils mapping, information about soil profile data and a soils archive PDF [1 MB].
Improving soils management
DAFF, through Caring for our Country is investing in projects ($442 million approved by November 2011) to improve farmers’ land management practices by reducing soil loss through wind and water erosion, building soil carbon, reducing soil acidification risk and encouraging the protection of biodiversity assets.
Monitoring land management practices
On farm practice change is monitored through the biennial Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), which surveys 33 000 of Australia’s 135 000 agricultural businesses (farmers), and where available, the ABS’ 1995–96 and 2000–01 agricultural censuses (which surveyed all agricultural businesses). For more information about why land management practices are important and national and state/territory monitoring results, see monitoring land management practices.
Monitoring soil resource condition
Prepared by CSIRO in association with state/territory agencies, the recently released report “National Soil Condition Monitoring: Objectives, Design, Protocols, Governance and Reporting” provides recommendations on the objectives, design, protocols and suggested governance arrangements for long term (20 year) monitoring of changes in soil pH and soil carbon through time.
DAFF is also funding ABARES ($2.8 million over four years) to work with state/territory agencies and CSIRO to develop a national capability to monitor ground cover in the rangelands to help improve the sustainability and productivity of the grazing industry. These projects will help us understand whether changing land management practices is helping to improve soil condition.
For more soils information see:
15 Nov 2012