Project Update: Building Technical Capacity

Posted Feb 05,2020

Project: Building Technical Capacity for improved soil management

Project Leader: Felicity HarropNorth Central Catchment Management Authority

The Soil CRC has been funded by the Australian Government through the Building Landcare Community and Capacity component of the Smart Farms Program to deliver a project that increases soil technical capacity and capability in grower groups, Landcare groups and NRM organisations, both within and outside of the CRC.

Over two years, the project will build the technical capacity of these groups to deliver soil health information to farmers. It does this by leveraging the significant skills, expertise and collaborative partnerships within the Soil CRC.

Three communities of practice (CoPs) have been established across Australia, each one comprising 10 participants from groups in areas of common interest. The three CoPs cover the West – WA; South – SA, Vic, Tas and Southern NSW and North – Northern NSW and Qld.

Project Update

Of the 30 groups that are represented, 15 are farmer groups and 15 are NRM organisations. Nineteen of the participants are from groups outside of the Soil CRC. We have conducted a baseline analysis of the existing soil science knowledge, skills and confidence of the participants and where they currently source knowledge on soil science practice and trends.

Each of the three CoPs are in the process of developing a capacity building plan that best addresses the gaps and needs of the individuals within each CoP and the CoP as a whole. These plans will reflect the existing knowledge bases 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. 

We held inaugural workshops for each of the CoPs in November and December 2019. This provided the opportunity for the participants to meet each other, discuss the baseline data collected and identify key learning objectives and activities for the group’s future workshops and capacity building plan. Soil CRC participants Dr Richard Doyle (University of Tasmania), Melissa Cann (Agriculture Victoria), Dr Richard Bell (Murdoch University), Abigail Jenkins (NSW DPI) and Maryam Esfandbod (Griffith University) provided technical support at the workshops.

Nationally, the top five issues that need addressing were identified as:

  • Low/declining soil organic carbon levels in topsoils
  • Ground cover maintenance e.g., due aridity, low fertility etc
  • Declining nutrient status of soils
  • Low/declining biological activity in topsoils
  • Soil acidity (low pH) undermining productive capacity

The top five learning needs identified were:

  • The use of new technologies for soil management e.g. in soil sensing, drone or satellite-based land assessment, cheap and rapid in-field soil testing
  • Soil management decision support tools e.g., for irrigation, fertilisation, drainage and other input management
  • Understanding and managing herbicide use, fate and plantback periods
  • The benefits of applying soil biological soil amendments
  • Defining and measuring soil constraints

Next Steps

The groups will finalise their capacity building plan and attend the second Community of Practice region workshops, the national Community of Practice workshop and the Soil CRC Participants Conference in March and April.

Participants

  • North West Local Land Services – NSW
  • Northern Slopes Landcare Association – NSW
  • North Coast Local Land Services – NSW
  • Central West Local Land Services – NSW
  • Northern Grower Alliance – Qld
  • Burnett Catchment Care Association – Qld
  • Central Highlands Regional Resources Use Planning Cooperative Limited – Qld
  • Hunter Local Land Services – NSW
  • Burdekin Productivity Services – Qld
  • Herbert Cane Productivity Services – Qld
  • Upper Hopkins Land Management Group – Vic
  • Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin – SA
  • Eyre Peninsula NRM – SA
  • Northern and Yorke NRM region – SA
  • Holbrook Landcare Network – NSW
  • Riverine Plains Inc – Vic/NSW
  • FarmLink Research – NSW
  • Central West Farming Systems – NSW
  • Southern Farming Systems – Vic
  • Birchip Cropping Group – Vic
  • Perth NRM – WA
  • South West Catchments Council – WA
  • WA Hemp Growers’ Co-op (HempGro) – WA
  • South Coast NRM – WA
  • Northern Agricultural Catchments Council NRM – WA
  • Morawa Farm Improvement Group – WA
  • Southern Dirt – WA
  • The Gillamii Centre – WA
  • West Midlands Group Incorporated – WA
  • Wheatbelt Natural Resource Management – WA