New soil management resources build technical capacity| Posted Nov 14,2023
As farmers better understand the importance of sustainable soil management for their productivity and profitability, they need advice, technical assistance and expertise from their local grower groups.
The Soil CRC’s ‘Building technical capacity’ project set out to increase the soil technical capacity and capability of grower groups, Landcare groups and natural resource management organisations, both within and outside of the Soil CRC.
Co-funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the project was led by Soil CRC Soil Knowledge Broker, Felicity Harrop, in her previous role with Soil CRC Participant, the North Central Catchment Management Authority.
Felicity said the project leveraged the significant skills, expertise and collaborative partnerships within the Soil CRC to deliver a range of useful workshops and webinars for the project’s participants.
“We established three communities of practice (CoPs) across Australia, each one made up of 10 participants representing different groups,” Felicity explained.
“The three CoPs covered Western Australia in the west; South Australia, Victoria, and Southern NSW in the south; and Northern NSW and Queensland in the north.”
Of the 30 groups that were represented, half were farmer groups, and the other half were natural resource management organisations. Nineteen of the participants were from groups outside of the Soil CRC.
“An analysis of the participants’ existing soil science knowledge, information sources, skills and confidence, was used to help each group develop their own capacity building plan,” Felicity said.
These plans addressed the gaps and needs of the individuals within their group and the CoPs as a whole. They reflected the existing knowledge bases of individual participants, the needs and priorities of the groups they work for, the delivery needs of the projects they’re responsible for, and the soil and farming systems issues of the region.
Participant George Truman, from North West Local Land Services, said it was a great project to be involved in, particularly at a time when the National Soil Strategy was in development.
“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,” Mr Truman said.
Building technical capacity for improved soil management webinar series
“As part of the project, we created a series of soil management webinars to address some of the knowledge gaps and needs identified by the CoPs,” Felicity said.
These webinars are now available online, and will soon be supported by a series of online fact sheets, which allows the Soil CRC to share this valuable resource with a broader audience.
The webinars cover key soil health topics and were generously delivered by soil experts from the Soil CRC’s participant organisations and research partners:
- Demystifying soil organic matter – Professor Richard Bell, Murdoch University
- Soil characterisation in Western Australia – Professor Richard Bell, Murdoch University
- Soil characterisation using a soil pit (NSW) – Abigail Jenkins, NSW Department of Primary Industries (now with Soil Science Australia)
- Soil pits and data (Queensland) – Dr Andrew Biggs, Resources Queensland
- Soil characterisation and data (South Australia) – Brian Hughes, PIRSA
- Soil data resources in Victoria – David Rees and Rebecca Mitchell, Agriculture Victoria
- Adoptability techniques and practices for soil management – Dr Vaughan Higgins, University of Tasmania
- Surveying on-farm practices – Dr Hanabeth Luke, Southern Cross University
- Digital soil mapping, visualisations and data integration – Dr Michael Roach, University of Tasmania
- Soil biology overview – Dr Justine Cox, NSW Department of Primary Industries
- Soil water repellence (Western Australia) – Professor Richard Bell, Murdoch University
- Understanding the mechanisms of soil microbial function – Cameron Copeland, Soil CRC and Southern Cross University
- Soil carbon management and methodologies – Dr Susan Orgill, NSW Department of Primary Industries (now with Select Carbon)
- Managing soil constraints – Dr Ehsan Tavakkoli, NSW Department of Primary Industries (now with University of Adelaide)
- Evaluating soil functional resilience to compaction and drought – Dr Mehran Rezaei Rashti, Griffith University
- Soil compaction: identification and management – Professor Richard Bell, Murdoch University.
“Mr Truman told us he shared the webinars with colleagues and used knowledge gained from the project and contacts to improve on-ground delivery and extension projects,” Felicity said.
Additional soil health resources are listed in each webinar recording.