Managing soil is vital to sustainability
By Luke Hartsuyker, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister
Since taking up responsibility for natural resource management in my role as Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister just a few short months ago, I have been consistently struck by the breadth and importance of the issues being addressed.
Soil resource management—one of the themes of this edition of Landcare in Focus—is no exception. Healthy, well managed soil is a vital part of the sustainability and productivity of our agricultural sector and the natural environment.
So it’s essential that we make the right investments in the future of our soil. Effective solutions to the challenges we face are best delivered in partnership with volunteers, farmers, land managers and key stakeholders and based on leading global expertise.
Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Luke Hartsuyker.
That’s why the Australian Government’s investment in soil health and good soil management includes over $800 million in projects delivered by locals to improve soil and biodiversity management on Australian farms since 2008.
And it includes approximately $85 million from the National Landcare Programme to support Landcare projects aimed at building healthy soils for agriculture, increasing farm profitability and increasing farmers’ resilience to climate variability.
Of this, $1.5 million has been provided to CSIRO to investigate the role new technologies and data could have in improving on-farm decision making and increasing productivity for farmers. Through the Australian Collaborative Land Evaluation Program, we are now working with CSIRO to improve national soil information through approaches such as SoilMapp for iPad.
$139 million has also been provided for the Carbon Farming Futures Programme to deliver research, on-farm trials and communication activities that support emissions reduction at the farmgate. This includes $14.3 million for soil carbon research.
While current soil management practices are effective, more needs to be done and we join our farmers in recognising the importance of looking at new and better ways to manage and understand our soils.
I was proud to launch the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas recently, an international collaboration facilitated by the European Commission as part of the 2015 United Nations International Year of Soils.
The Soil Atlas is an initiative that promotes the sharing of knowledge and expertise on a global scale. It aims to raise awareness of the vital role of soil organisms in sustaining life on our planet.
The Soil Atlas includes a collection of photos, maps, charts, statistics and information that scientists, educators, policy-makers and non-specialists alike can use to understand the diversity and importance of life below ground.
The Atlas is already the talk of the international scientific community, as it is part of the globally coordinated effort to improve and conserve soil, protect biodiversity, and address ongoing global food security.
I congratulate all those who worked so hard to bring the Atlas to life, and I look forward to seeing those benefits passed onto our farmers, their families, our regional communities and Australian agriculture as a whole.