This World Soil Day is putting the spotlight on what can be done to address some curly issues with soil that are estimated to cost Australia more than $1 billion per year in lost production.
Soils contribute approximately $63 billion per year to Australia’s economy through agricultural production and directly contribute to a $100 billion Australian agricultural sector by 2030.
This year’s soils day is called “Halt soil salinisation, boost soil productivity”. It aims to increase awareness about the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Ensuring that soil is in good condition is critical to maintaining ongoing sustainable production of food and fibre, as well as helping to provide ecosystem services such as maintaining landscape stability and function by improving soil carbon and minimising loss of nutrients into waterways.
Healthy Land and Water works with landholders and communities across South East Queensland to improve the knowledge and skills of farmers of local soil health issues and promote improved soil and nutrient management practices.
We deliver a range of activities including workshops, field days, on-farm soil testing and demonstration sites and tailored information, to build the capacity of land managers to adopt land management practices that protect and improve the condition of soil and vegetation which increases their capacity to adapt to significant climate change.
The dirt on soils
Soil is largely a non-renewable resource, which can degrade rapidly. Despite having 5.2% of global land area, Australia’s soils are estimated to store just 3.5% of the total global stocks of soil organic carbon.
In South East Queensland, a range of factors threaten agricultural production including increasing declining soil health, decreasing soil carbon levels, increasing soil acidification, soil erosion, salinity, weeds and pest animals, pathogens and disease along with the loss and fragmentation of agricultural land to urban and industrial development:
Decreasing soil carbon levels: Soil carbon storage is a vital ecosystem service as carbon gives soil its water-retention capacity, its structure and its fertility. Increasing soil organic matter and soil carbon levels can play a critical role in capturing and storing greenhouse gas emissions.
Soil erosion: Where soil particles are detached due to loss of groundcover, concentrated water, with loss of valuable topsoil and associated increased sediment and nutrient loads affecting production, water quality and ecosystem health.
Increasing soil acidification: Soil acidification is a process where the soil pH decreases over time, which can lead to a dramatic decline in crop and pasture production.
Soil salinity: Soil salinity is the concentrations of salts found in soils. Excess salt, which is usually caused by removal of deep-rooted vegetation, reduces a plant’s ability to extract water from the soil, affecting yield and plant establishment and growth.
Weeds and pest animals: Weeds disrupt soil functions by invading and replacing desirable pastures and crops and pest animals physically disturb soils, which can also lead to erosion.
Pathogens and disease: Most organisms found in soil are not harmful, however some pathogenic organisms can cause disease in humans.
Soil is an important contributor to environmental health, biodiversity, ecosystems services, human wellbeing, and food and fibre production. A well-balanced ecosystem has a key role in functions such as soil health, water quality, pest management and salinity control. Maintaining good vegetation cover helps keep soils healthy, as roots help bind the soil together, maximising infiltration and limiting run-off and preventing erosion, as well as building organic matter for healthy biological functions and plant growth.
Each year, World Soils Day is used to generate interest and help increase interest in soil health and encouraging governments, organisations, communities and individuals around the world to commit to proactively improving soil health.
Learn more about Healthy Land and Water’s:
These programs are supported by Healthy Land and Water, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.