Soil Day a re­minder to look af­ter food source

It has an im­pact on all of our lives, ev­ery day

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - Front Page -

IT WAS World Soil Day this week, prompt­ing the DPI’s di­rec­tor of soils to en­cour­age peo­ple to re­con­sider the soil be­neath their feet.

“More than 95% of the food we eat de­pends on healthy soils,” said Warwick Dougherty. “So soils re­search plays a vi­tal role in en­sur­ing the state’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor con­tin­ues to thrive and meet our food pro­duc­tion de­mands.

“Soils im­pact our lives ev­ery day in New South Wales – from the food we eat and the grass we play sport on, to stor­ing car­bon from the at­mos­phere and fil­ter­ing wa­ter to pro­vide clean wa­ter­ways.”

Dr Dougherty said the DPI Soils Unit was one of the largest soils re­search groups in the coun­try, com­pris­ing 50 staff, and work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively with a di­verse range of part­ners and pro­duc­ers in grains, fi­bre, graz­ing and hor­ti­cul­ture.

“We’ve got a world-class team of re­searchers with di­verse ex­per­tise, which col­lab­o­rates to im­prove crop and pas­ture agron­omy and live­stock pro­duc­tion for New South Wales farm­ers,” he said.

“Each year, we un­der­take ev­ery­thing from ad­vanced lab­o­ra­tory stud­ies, through to field tri­als in farmer’s pad­docks.”

En­gag­ing in­dus­try in soils R&D was also crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of his team’s work, Dr Dougherty said.

“A re­cent project com­pleted in part­ner­ship with the Grains Re­search & De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion col­lated crop nu­tri­ent re­sponses from more than 5700 his­tor­i­cal tri­als, to en­sure that ad­vis­ers and farm­ers had the abil­ity to make the best pos­si­ble fer­tiliser man­age­ment de­ci­sions,” he said.

“It sim­ply wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble to achieve such a scale and qual­ity of re­search with­out these col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts with in­dus­try.

“With a need to dou­ble global food pro­duc­tion by 2050, wise use and man­age­ment of soils is

❝of Wise use soils is ab­so­lutely vi­tal to all of our fu­tures. — Warwick Dougherty

ab­so­lutely vi­tal to all of our fu­tures.”

DPI se­nior re­search sci­en­tist Lukas Van Zwi­eten said soils on the North Coast needed “care­ful and ac­tive man­age­ment to en­sure pro­duc­tiv­ity is main­tained, and that qual­ity is sus­tained for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of farm­ers”.

“While many of our soils have rel­a­tively high or­ganic car­bon which can sup­port an ac­tive bi­o­log­i­cal com­mu­nity, soil health re­mains a con­cern for many pro­duc­ers,” Dr Van Zwi­eten said.

“Nu­tri­ents, in par­tic­u­lar phos­pho­rus, are lim­ited in the red fer­ral­sol soils which are val­ued for hor­ti­cul­tural pro­duc­tion.

“These soils are also prone to acid­i­fi­ca­tion, a process which can lower pro­duc­tiv­ity, but which can be man­aged though strate­gic ap­pli­ca­tion of lime.

“Maintaining ground cover is im­por­tant to min­imise ero­sion and loss of top soil, but also to main­tain soil struc­ture to re­duce com­paction.

“The re­gion’s pop­u­lar­ity also puts pres­sure on our valu­able soil re­sources through com­pe­ti­tion from ur­ban de­vel­op­ment.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

HEALTHY: Look­ing af­ter soil is cru­cial to our fu­ture health, ac­cord­ing to the DPI.

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