Soil scientists gather from around the country

| Posted Jul 08,2021

Michael Crawford, Catherine Allan, Nanthi Bolan and Lukas Van Zwieten

For those who live and breathe soil research, the 2021 Joint Conference of Soil Science Australia and the New Zealand Society of Soil Science in Cairns was the place to be last week.

The National Soil Science Australia and New Zealand Conference – Soils, Investing In Our Future was a welcome return to a face-to-face conference after it was postponed last year.

However, the ever-changing COVID restrictions across the country meant that some delegates arrived and promptly had to return home, while others who had planned to be there were unable to attend in person. But as it was a hybrid event, the show went on.

The first session of the week was headed by Soil CRC Patron and National Soils Advocate, the Hon Penny Wensley, who spoke of her role as an independent advocate for soil health in the public sphere. 

There was keen interest from all those at the conference to hear more detail about the National Soil Strategy from Troy Clarkson and Karina Richards from Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. They gave a clear overview of the strategy and interim action plan, outlining the challenges and opportunities ahead as the strategy is rolled out over the next four years and beyond. There was a feeling of excitement amongst the delegates that the importance of soil is being recognised in government policy.

As a silver sponsor, the Soil CRC hosted the welcome drinks on Sunday night and had a presence at the conference in a number of ways. Our booth proved to be a great meeting place for Soil CRC researchers, students and Program Leaders as well as those who were interested in finding out more about the Soil CRC. There was a growing understanding of the contribution that the Soil CRC is making to soil research across different disciplines.

The Soil CRC held a session with CEO Dr Michael Crawford and our four research Program Leaders outlining the research underway in each of their programs. It was a great opportunity to share our vision of how the Soil CRC will contribute to implementing the National Soil Strategy as well as the exciting research that is coming out of the Soil CRC. It was very well attended with some great discussions.

The last keynote speaker for the week was Matthew Evans – farmer and former chef from the SBS TV show The Gourmet Farmer. He spoke about his new book Soil, highlighting that soil is our most precious resource and it’s under threat, but nobody is listening.

Across the week, there were plenty of fantastic presentations from both Australia and New Zealand. Soil CRC projects were well represented through presentations including those by Ehsan Tavakkoli, Rebecca Mitchell, Marcus Hardie, Kirsty Yeates, Mick Rose and Chloe Lai. It was Chole Lai from the University of Southern Queensland who took out first place in the individual soil judging competition. A fantastic effort, congratulations!  

Congratulations to the Organising Committee and to Soil Science Australia and the New Zealand Society of Soil Science for organising such a wonderful event, putting soil research and adoption front and centre.