Soil knowledge builds farmer capability

Soil Science Australia – April 2023 

Soil Science Australia is training soil professionals to help farmers build soil performance. 

Soil Science Australia recently held Registered Soil Practitioner training in Tasmania. The training is key to helping Australia deliver on its National Soil Strategy, the first in the world, and helping farmers connect with soil science’. 

The training brought together Regional Soil Coordinators from across Australia, along with soil professionals looking to learn from soil scientists and experts. The Regional Soil Coordinators are part of a Smart Soils Community of Practice connecting farmers and advisors with soil science to improve their soil and farm performance.  

In Australia, soils are a precious and valuable resource, delivering $63 billion per year directly to agricultural production (Jackson et al. 2018).. Better management of soils allows farmers to improve this vital resource, address soil issues and build overall soil health. 

The Registered Soil Practitioner training includes both online and field training. Allowing participants to connect with and learn from soil scientists and experts located across Australia. The Tasmania training was hosted by the Soil Science Australia Tasmania Branch at the University of Tasmania Teaching Farm and lead by Assoc Prof Richard Doyle CPSS. Participants had access to a variety of soil pits to improve their practical knowledge and skills of soil field analysis and interpretation. Soil sampling design and planning is crucial to effective soil testing and analysis in order to measure and interpret for optimum soil management and production. 

 “Soils and land are at crucial and sensitive interface and we can have a big effect on them.” said Dr Richard Doyle. “If we compact our soils or cause structural damage we’ll impact water infiltration into that soil environment and that will effect the soil biology, the health of our crops and also the health of our rivers and streams because you will effect the amount of run-off as opposed to infiltration into our soils”  

“The Registered Soil Practitioner Training is very important” said Cameron Leckie, Regional Soil Coordinator for Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales. “It fills a gap in the education and training of people who are taking soil samples and providing advice to landholders on the results of those tests. The biggest errors that happen in soil testing is what happens in the field, and so if we can reduce or eliminate that, it’s a great first step to get more consistent and accurate results. And then understanding also, that it’s not just the top 10cm of soil that is important, it’s the whole soil system. Putting test results into context within the whole system will help landholders and managers make better decisions into how they manage their land.” 

“The training allows us soil professionals to get a refresher and hear from experts in the area that have been with farmers more regularly and our getting that up to date information so you can build your own skills while also knowing what’s going on, on the ground” said Belinda Nielsen, Regional Soil Coordinator for Tasmania. “I think it would be great for anyone who is interacting with soils and landholders on a regular basis – anyone who works with soils and the land to better manage it”. 

Along with the training, Soil Science Australia is developing a Registered Soil Practitioner Accreditation for soil professionals. “If you have that accreditation, someone can have confidence in what you can do. Confidence that you know how to take soil samples and that you can give really good, accurate recommendations based on those samples.” says Dr Salirian Claff, Accreditation Manager SSA. “We want to make sure that farmers in particular are getting the right advice.” 

“Understanding our soils better not only helps us farm better, but also provides us with the tools necessary to look after the landscape” says Tim Thompson. 

Soil helps to grow our food and sustain our way of life, however this precious resource also faces degradation. Improving the advice provided to farmers and connecting them with soil science through the Smart Soils Community of Practice and the Registered Soil Practitioner Training and Accreditation, will help improve soil health, and manage this precious resource for future generations. There’s opportunity to improve soil health, by strengthening soil knowledge and capability – the key focus of the programs and one of the main goals of the National Soil Strategy.

 

References: 

Jackson, T., K. Zammit, and S. Hatfield-Dodds. 2018. Snapshot of Australian Agriculture. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra. 

Further information: 

  • Registered Soil Practitioner Training and Accreditation – the Registered Soil Practitioner training and accreditation ensures 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. 
  • Soil Science Australia is the national soil science body and a not-for-profit professional incorporated association for soil scientists and people interested in the responsible management of Australia’s soil resources. 
  • National Soil Strategy – The National Soil Strategy aims to make sure our soils are valued, managed sustainably and improved so that they continue to contribute to agricultural productivity, environmental sustainability and economic growth 
  • Smart Soils Community of Practice – creates a bridge between soil science and practical on-the-ground application of soil sampling, soil data collection and interpretation and soil management to improve soil health. Land managers and farmers are encouraged to get in touch with their local Regional Soil Coordinator. 

Media/interview enquiries: 

Soil Science Australia Federal Office: 0476 450 321 or [email protected] 

Acknowledgements: 

Both the Smart Soils Community of Practice and Registered Soil Practitioner program have been funded by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as part of the National Soil Strategy. 

Soil Science expertise was delivered by Assoc Prof Luke Mosley CPSS, Felicity Harrop, Luke Taylor, Dennis Baker CPSS, Assoc Prof Richard Doyle CPSS, and Dr Marcus Hardie.  

Many thanks to the SSA Tasmanian Branch and the University of Tasmania for hosting the field training at the UTAS Farm in Cambridge.