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Soil improvement relies on people

By SQNNSW Innovation Hub Regional Soil Coordinator Cameron Leckie

Australia’s soils are, on the whole, in poor condition and deteriorating. That was the conclusion of the 2021 State of the Environment report. To address this very concerning issue, the first ever National Soil Strategy is being implemented. Part of the Strategy includes the creation of Regional Soil Coordinator positions, funded by the National Landcare Program. I have the good fortune of being the Regional Soil Coordinator for Southern Queensland and Northern NSW (SQNNSW), working out of the University of Southern Queensland’s SQNNSW Innovation Hub

Increasing the skills and knowledge of the wide range of people working with soils, from farmers to agronomists and soil field and laboratory technicians will be a key part of improving the condition of our soil. To identify the gaps in soil capacity and capability across the region, I am developing a Regional Soil Improvement Plan that will identify priorities and barriers to the adoption of soil best management practices. The Plan will be provided to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and used to inform future programs with the ultimate aim of improving soil health. If you are interested in providing input into this Plan, please contact me at cameron.leckie@usq.edu.au.

Another program that will help improve the quality of soil advice being provided to land managers is the brand new Registered Soil Practitioner (RSP) training and accreditation program, run by Soil Science Australia. The RSP program ensures that soil practitioners can implement fit for purpose soil sampling and interpretation to improve the quality of soil data, reduce soil input and management costs and improve soil productivity. The program is aimed at specialists who provide advice to landholders including agronomists, farm advisors, agricultural consultants and extension officers. You can register your interest in the RSP program here.

The challenge, as I see it, is to regenerate Australia’s soils for healthy, productive landscapes and people. This will be a long journey but incredibly important not only for the sustainability of our agricultural industries, but the wellbeing of regional and rural areas, and for a functioning environment that can deal with climatic extremes. Ultimately, it all starts with the soil!

Keep up to date with the SQNNSW Innovation Hub by subscribing to our monthly newsletter, visiting us online, or following us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Eventbrite. You can also follow Cameron on Twitter, at @GrowSoilAU.