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Soils in the spotlight on world soils day

Attendees at a soils and pasture workshop

Stop soil erosion, save our future! That is the message from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations as they prepare to celebrate World Soils Day on 5 December.

“Healthy soils are the foundation of safe and sustainable production of food and fibre” said Andy Taylor from South East Local Land Services.

The theme for World Soils Day may sound alarmist, but when you look at the statistics you realise just how important soils are to our very survival.

  • 95% of our food comes from the soil
  • it can take up to 1000 years to produce 2-3cm of new top soil
  • every 5 seconds the equivalent of a football field of soil is eroded globally
  • approximately 33% of our global soils are degraded.

Erosion is identified as the number one threat to our soils. Soil erosion can occur at all scales from the hill tops, to the paddocks, to minor gullies, in major creeks and rivers and our coastal shores. It can be caused by wind, water and tides, animal tracking and poor land management decisions.

“Ultimately it is the soil’s ability to support plants that is the critical factor affecting the rate of erosion” said Andy.

“These environments are managed by people so it is us who have the biggest say on the health of these soils.

“So when we consider the impact of a growing population and the human activities that follow, it’s not hard to see how we put our soils at risk”.

In Australia our soils are often threatened by the urban sprawl and agricultural practices. Soils are a finite resource and the pressure we put them under is not sustainable, especially if we are to meet the needs and make the most of the opportunities provided by a growing population.

But there are beacons of hope. Various community organisations, governments and industry have got a spotlight on our soils and are looking at ways to innovate agricultural practices, raise awareness of soil degradation and work together to protect one of our most valuable assets.

South East Local Land Services run a number of projects and programs aimed at educating land managers and communities about how to manage land to prevent erosion and deal with existing erosion problems.

The Prograze program is a good example of this. Prograze teaches producers how to identify and manage different pasture types on their property with the aim of maintaining ground cover, which prevents erosion. Grazing management is the critical component of maintaining groundcover.

The Rural Landscape Program is a collaboration with WaterNSW which aims at improving grazing management practices and protecting waterways from the impacts of stock, both of which can prevent soil degradation and improve production on a property. The program also works with landholders to treat severe gully erosion that can’t be stopped by excluding livestock alone.

South East Local Land Services is hosting a workshop “Looking at soils on the Braidwood granites” on Tuesday 10th December to help put soils in the spotlight and share knowledge and information about the soils in their area.

To find out more about soil erosion, one of the projects or programs or the upcoming workshop contact Andy Taylor at the Braidwood Local Land Services office on 4852 2594.

ENDS

Media contact: Dave Michael, South East Local Land Services, 0418 513 880