Digging into soil health
07 June 2016
Maintaining soil health is one of the many keys to sustainable and profitable agriculture.
Knowing your soils can help you to understand the nutrient requirements for crops and pastures, water storage and drainage capabilities and resilience and recovery from adverse climatic events. Soils should be managed with careful consideration for their individual characteristics, landscapes and climate.
The best way to understand your soils is to dig a hole and observe the physical characteristics.
Look at layers of soil, different colours, textures and structures. What do the plants tell us? Looking at where the roots are growing in the soil may provide an indication of physical or chemical impediments. You can perform some basic assessments and then obtain further information via a laboratory soil test.
Following are some useful online sites with information that will help you to gain a better understanding of your soils:
Online soil mapping database eSPADE
eSPADE is a Google Maps-based information system, that allows easy, no-cost, map-based access to soil and land information from across NSW including: soil profiles; soil and land resources mapping; land systems mapping; details on soil and landscape characteristics, qualities, limitations, hazards and capabilities; and state-wide mapping of soil fertility: www.environment.nsw.gov.au/eSpadeWebApp/
The data accessible through eSPADE is sourced mainly from the NSW Soil and Land Information System (SALIS). SALIS contains physical and chemical data from more than 70,000 points across NSW, of which about two thirds are publicly available.
Soil landscape series
This series provides paired soil landscape maps and reports. The maps show the distribution of soil landscapes and summarises the attributes, soils and limitations of each soil landscape. The report explains the mapping system used, describes each soil landscape in detail and gives laboratory data for all soil materials www.environment.nsw.gov.au/soils/soilmaps.htm
NSW Soil Knowledge Network
The NSW Soil Knowledge Network is an independent group of soil specialists who are passionate about soil and the land. The group have released a series of videos that are practical but also promote just how precious this natural resource is: www.nswskn.com
All the Dirt
All the Dirt is a quarterly newsletter about all things soil. The newsletter includes articles on soils projects, research with land management implications, updates on new publications and web resources and upcoming events from field days to international conferences: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/about-us/publications/publications/all-the-dirt
The LandSmart app provides information about smart land management practices on rural properties to help land managers look after their land sustainably and responsibly. Topics include soil, groundcover, pest animals, weeds, native vegetation, conservation, farm biosecurity and other information on being a responsible rural landholder. Developed by Greater Sydney Local Land Services, it is now available as a free app.
Media contact: Sari Glover, 02 6118 7710