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Southern Fleurieu

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 

Causes

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

Barriers

  • 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 versus 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
  • Intense storms/fire leaching/removing nutrients & biota
  • Temperature impacts on soil processes

Who plays a role

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

Strategies and Actions

Build landholder capacity in soil health management

  • Support on-farm monitoring by landholders, including real-time solute monitoring to guide landholder decision-making (to increase water use efficiency)
  • 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 (facilitate contacts, sustainable farming practices, create 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 e.g. Mallee Sustainable Farming, on-site examples, 'Locals teaching locals'
  • Provide demonstration sites for R&D and extension (e.g. New Horizon Precision Ag)

Support research and development on new practices to improve soil health

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