Building soil knowledge in grower groups

| Posted Sep 06,2021

This recently completed Soil CRC project has successfully increased the soil knowledge and technical capacity in grower groups, Landcare groups and NRM organisations, both within and outside the Soil CRC.

From a survey that canvassed knowledge at the beginning and end of the two year Building Capacity Project, all participants expressed an increase in overall soil related knowledge.

  • 88% of respondents said they increased their soil knowledge from “moderate” to “a lot” due to participating in the project.
  • 76% of respondents said they had increased their knowledge and understanding of adoptability techniques and practices for improved soil management.
  • The majority of participants said they benefitted from the connections they made with fellow participants.
  • More than half of the participants have indicated they would like to be part of future activities.

Over the two years of the project, three communities of practice (CoPs) were established across Australia, each one made up of 10 participants from groups in areas of common interest. The three CoPs covered West (WA), South (SA, Vic, Tas and Southern NSW) and North (Northern NSW and Qld).

Each of the three CoPs developed a capacity building plan that best addressed the gaps and needs of the individuals within each CoP and the CoP as a whole. These plans reflected the existing knowledge of individual participants, the needs and priorities of the groups for whom they work, the delivery needs of the projects that they are responsible for (i.e. Smart Farms projects), and the soil and farming systems issues of the region.

The original intent was to run a series of face-to-face workshops in each region, drawing upon the technical expertise of Soil CRC scientists to help participants increase their soil technical knowledge. Due to COVID restrictions, the activities of the project shifted from face-to-face workshops to online events. While not ideal, the online versions still achieved their purpose.

Through taking part in workshops and webinars, participants have been able to network with a great deal of leading researchers. These connections proved fruitful as participants were able access further information and resources to build their capacity for improved soil management. This supported the delivery of their own organisations’ soil management projects.

The extensive networks established by these communities has enabled them to share their knowledge and promote adoption of improved soil management practices in the broader farming community.

One participant shared, “I include a report about the Soil CRC in each newsletter, share on social media and sometimes highlight webinars in emails. The information provided through the Soil CRC CoP has given me the language and literacy to dig into the topic more deeply (no pun intended!) and engage with landholders in informal conversations about soil health”.

One participant has now invested in equipment to monitor biological activity in the soil and another has linked with a Soil CRC researcher to collaborate on a soil management project.  

One of the participants said, “the benefit was linking with others on similar issues and extending network opportunities.”

Another participant said, “it was a great program and certainly timely to have been involved with the new National Soil Strategy. There seems to be a great focus and interest in soils so now I’m better provided with tools, resources and people to contact in the future”.

An online platform was developed to share the resources from the workshops and link to additional resources online. Participants contributed to these resources and have also linked their own organisation’s resources to the platform.

Of the 30 groups that were represented in the program, 15 were farmer groups and 15 were NRM organisations. Nineteen of the participants were from outside of the Soil CRC, thus helping the CRC to extend its impact more broadly.

This project was co-funded by the Australian Government through the Building Landcare Community and Capacity component of the Smart Farms Program. A proposal has been put to the Government to support a second phase of this project, to enable other participants to take part and build their soil technical skills.

Project: Building Technical Capacity

Project Leader: Felicity Harrop, North Central NRM


North West Local Land Services

Northern Slopes Landcare Association

North Coast Local Land Services

Central West Local Land Services

Northern Grower Alliance

Burnett Catchment Care Association

Central Highlands Regional Resources Use Planning Cooperative (CHRRUP)

Hunter Local Land Services

Burdekin Productivity Services

Herbert Cane Productivity Services

Perth NRM

South West Catchments Council NRM

WA Hemp Growers’ Co-op Ltd (HempGro)

South Coast NRM

Northern Agricultural Catchments Council NRM

Morawa Farm Improvement Group

Southern Dirt

The Gillamii Centre

West Midlands Group

Wheatbelt NRM

Upper Hopkins Land Management Group

Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board

Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board

Ag Excellence Alliance (Northern & Yorke Landscape Board)

Holbrook Landcare Network

Riverine Plains

Farmlink Research

Central West Farming Systems

Southern Farming Systems

Birchip Cropping Group