Soil Day a reminder to look after food source
It has an impact on all of our lives, every day
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.”
HEALTHY: Looking after soil is crucial to our future health, according to the DPI.