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Central Ranges

Sustainable-production:  Soil health for sustainable production

Medium Priority

What is this issue

Management of soil health (i.e. nutrition, fertility, biology) affecting production capacity and susceptibility to additional soil degradation processes.

Impacts of the issue

  • Affects the profitability and sustainability of production.
  • Poor soil health can lead to on site degradative processes such as soil acidity, erosion, compaction, and sodicity as well as off-site impacts on adjacent lands, watercourses and groundwater systems 


  • Landholder knowledge
  • Land management decisions
  • Existing soil type
  • Water quality
  • Irrigation efficiency
  • Service provider knowledge
  • Denial of the issue
  • Cost of remediation


  • Lack of understanding
  • Lack of ability to respond due to water availability i.e. cost
  • Soil type understanding and how to manage (specific site management)
  • Poor commodity prices
  • Priority of salinity vs other issues
  • Service provider willingness to investigate/address

Climate impacts and adaptation needs

  • Increasing pressure on water resources and potential decreases in water quality under low flow scenarios increases the risk to soil health
  • Addressing existing barriers to soil health management will improve adaptive capacity
  • Temperature impacts on soil microbiology
  • Intense storms/fire leaching/removing nutrients & biota
  • Temperature impacts on soil processes

Who plays a role

  • Agriculture and Water Industries
  • Community groups
  • Federal Government
  • Murray-Darling Basin Authority
  • Research and development providers
  • State Government
  • Water providers - CIT and RIT
  • Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources
  • Natural Resources SAMDB
  • Primary Industries and Regions SA

Strategies and Actions

Build landholder capacity in soil health management

  • Support on-farm monitoring by landholders to increase water use efficiency, including real-time solute monitoring to guide landholder decision-making
  • Develop decision-support tools to assist management decisions
  • Raise awareness of soil health issues through landholder extension and distribution of information
  • Promote integrated pest and disease management to reduce indirect impacts on soil fertility
  • Provide online training courses in managing soil health
  • Provide extension through individual farm technical support to facilitate sustainable farming practices and participation in networks and learning groups
  • Work with agronomists and consultants to deliver information on best management practice
  • Support farming groups and networking opportunities to increase knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer learning such as on-site demonstrations
  • Provide demonstration sites for Research and Development extension

Support research and development on new practices to improve soil health

  • Support research and industry partnerships to add value to existing information and investment
  • Support research and development into practices to increase organic matter and improve soil structure and fertility
  • Support research and development on new root stocks
  • Undertake research into carbon-nitrogen cycling in soil to maintain soil health under future climates