With Famers We Must Stand

With Famers We Must Stand

Australia’s farmers are facing a major challenge in protecting their soils and conserving them for future generations. Soil conservation is critical for maintaining the health of the land and ensuring that it remains productive for years to come. However, farmers are struggling to get the funding they need to implement effective soil conservation measures.

Soil conservation is a state responsibility in Australia, and by the mid-1900s, most states had introduced soil conservation laws and established soil conservation institutions1. For about 70 years now, Australia has used a variety of technical, institutional, legislative, and strategic tools for soil conservation2. During the first 50 of those years, the soil conservation effort remained relatively unchanged. In the past 20 years, the discipline has changed substantially1.

The Australian government has invested over $1.1 billion in the National Landcare Program to protect Australia’s water, soil, plants and animals and support their productive and sustainable use3. The final round of the Smart Farms Small Grants provided $13.80 million in funding for soil extension activity grants worth between $100,000 to $250,000 per activity for up to two years3. Almost $30 million in grant funding has been awarded to farmers and land managers across Australia to make it easier for them to measure the amount of carbon in their soils3.

The Environment Restoration Fund builds on the Government’s $1.1 billion investment in the National Landcare Program by providing additional funding for projects that help protect Australia’s waterways, coasts and oceans; reduce waste and increase recycling; and support communities to tackle litter.

The National Soil Strategy, released in May 2021 is Australia’s first national policy on soil. It sets out how Australia will value, manage and improve its soil for the next 20 years. The Strategy prioritises soil health, empowers soil innovation and stewards, and strengthens soil knowledge and capability3.

Biochar is proposed as a soil amendment in environments with low carbon sequestration capacity and previously depleted soils (especially in the Tropics)2. Effects of banded biochar application on dry land wheat production and fertiliser use in 4 experiments in Western Australia and South Australia suggest that biochar has the potential to reduce fertiliser requirement while crop productivity is maintained4. Biochar-soil interaction: The stability of biochar applied to soil depends on several factors including specific properties of the biochar type, mineralogical composition of soil and other soil properties5.

It is important that we stand with Australian farmers as they seek to protect their soils and ask for better funding for soil conservation efforts. We must recognize the importance of soil conservation and support our farmers in their efforts to maintain healthy soils.