Soil health options to provide long term soil fertility

26 June 2006

As the land assets of the Avon Catchment are generally managed by agricultural land uses, an improved knowledge of soil condition and the development of management strategies to improve soil condition through appropriate agricultural management is an important focus of the Avon Catchment Council Soil Health Project.

The project, which was funded in January 2006, is a collaborative effort between the Avon Catchment Council, The University of Western Australia, the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia and PlanFarm. It has received State and Australian government funding as part of the ACC Investment Plan. The project addresses the win:win scenario, where improved management (through monitoring of the resource and increased understanding of the impacts of different management options) can lead to improved productivity and improved soil health .

The areas undertaking soil condition monitoring as part of the project during 2006 include the GreenHills/Mortlock catchment, the Gabby Quoi Quoi catchment and the FACEY group in Wickepin. This information will be used to benchmark aspects of soil health with the long-term aim of developing methods to monitor aspects of soil health related to productivity and ecosystem maintenance, at various scales.

Specifically, the project will support the development and testing of a comprehensive soil fertility assessment process at the farm and catchment scale, which can be linked to other soil management issues such as soil pH. The methods used will utilise the existing soils information to help determine the extent of soil fertility rates in soils used for agriculture, and will employ systems based methodology to look at multiple benefits of managing soil fertility to increase the efficiency of fertilser use (reduce usage), increase sustainable crop and pasture production on a range of soil types and help identify and manage associated soil degradation issues, such as structure decline and pH.

Soil health workshops will be promoted and conducted in August and December in 2006 and landholders with an interest in soil health are invited to attend (details will be promoted locally prior to workshops).

For further information on this project please contact Daniel Murphy (University of Western Australia; dmurphy@cyllene.uwa.edu.au; 6488 7083) or Frances Hoyle (Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia; fhoyle@agric.wa.gov.au; 6488 7345).

Media Contact: Rochelle Pyle, ACC Marketing & Communications Manager 9690 2250