Western Australia’s contribution to soil science research and land management is on show this week at the national Soil Science Australia conference in Darwin.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is well represented on the program, speaking to the conference theme ‘Our Soil: Spirit of a Nation’.
DPIRD principal research scientist Tim Overheu provided an overview of the implementation of the WA Soil Health Strategy to support the sustainable management of the State’s agricultural land.
“The implementation plan aims to maintain and increase ground cover to reduce soil degradation risk and explore opportunities for soil carbon sequestration to support the State’s net carbon neutral by 2050 target,” he said.
“This is to be achieved by improving land management through the adoption of innovations, such as market driven sustainable agricultural practices and agroforestry, alongside measurement, monitoring and support for stakeholders.”
DPIRD presentations covered production research, such as soil re-engineering, liming, deep tillage and overcoming production constraints, including soil acidity, compaction, water repellence and nutrient decline.
The department is also focused on Agricultural Resource Management and Assessment for sustainable horticulture development in northern WA.
In grains production areas, department soil science and crop nutrition manager Chris Gazey has worked on the use of lime to address soil acidification for more than 30 years.
Mr Gazey told the conference a recent analysis of more than 40,000 soil samples from the Avon River Basin found pH levels had improved in recent years to above target levels in surface and subsurface layers.
“There has been measurable improvement in soil condition from the application of lime to ameliorate acidic soil, with 70 per cent of WA farms applying lime in 2021 – substantially above the national average of 38 per cent,” he said.
“This detailed work has been further supported by industry collaboration with Precision SoilTech data indicating regions making good progress and those that require ongoing attention.
“This research builds on work over the past three decades to understand the impact of acidification, develop amelioration strategies and promote practice change.”
Over the six-day gathering, DPIRD presentations and posters, together with the launch of a SoilsWest Soil Quality eBook, featured R&D outcomes covering biosecurity, biodiversity, horticulture, viticulture, soil biology, novel data science techniques, and monitoring resource condition under the Soil and Land Conservation Act.
Nationally, soil research in Australia is a collaborative effort involving various research institutions, universities, government agencies, and industry stakeholders.
The conference provides a unique opportunity for soil scientists from this diverse discipline to share learnings and cultivate opportunities to optimise the productive potential of our land, while conserving this important resource for future generations.
Megan Broad/Jodie Thomson, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937