Article by Michael Grebert, BMRG Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator
14 December 2022
On December 13th, At the Queensland and Northern Territory RALF Teleconference, Troy Clarkson, Director, Soil information Section DAFF, delivered a presentation on the National Soil Strategy (NSS) and Data. The NSS 2021-2041 outlines a national approach to address challenges facing Australian soils.
Background: Globally, soil and soil health, is essential to maintaining a habitable earth. Soil is home to more than 25 per cent of our planet’s biodiversity and the source of 95 per cent of the world’s food. Unfortunately, an estimated 33% of global soils are degraded, and being lost at rates that exceed replacement.
Australia is no exception. Soil provides essential ecosystem services that support and contribute to Australia’s economic, environmental, and social wellbeing, including food and fibre production, water storage, filtration and nutrient cycling, and carbon storage.
Australia’s soils that are very old and typically low in organic matter and nutrients. They and are also susceptible to erosion, particularly from an increasing frequency of adverse weather events on the back of a changing climate. Furthermore, there is increasing pressure to produce more food and fibre from this limited resource. Population pressures also pose major challenges for the successful management of our fragile soil.
The National Soil Strategy (NSS) will support Australia’s domestic and international commitments towards a more sustainable future, such as the Australian agriculture sector’s goal of being a $100 billion industry by 2030, and the Australian Government’s priority of building resilience in our communities and adapting to a changing climate.
Collaboration is a key feature in the development of the National Soil Strategy, It has been developed by the Australian Government, State and Territory governments, the National Soils Advocate and the soil community to secure and protect Australia’s soil for the future.
As a starting point, a better picture of Australia’s soils is essential.
According to Troy Clarkson, The soil information problem that the NSS seeks to address is that:
- Australia’s soil data is largely inconsistent, incomplete, inaccessible and not interoperable.
- There’s a lack of nationally consistent, timely and accessible soil data to support development and management decisions at national, regional and local levels.
Effective use of soil information will play a key role in Australia’s ability to deal with climate mitigation adaption and resilience, food security, sustainable development, agricultural productivity, environmental protection, traceability and market access.
Australia’s first National Soil Action plan will be submitted to the Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 2023. According to DAFF, “The Action Plan will ensure a nationally coordinated and locally adaptive approach to managing soil sustainably” National Soil Strategy – DAFF (agriculture.gov.au).
The NSS was released in 2021 with three goals:
- prioritize soil health
- Empower soil innovation and stewards
- Strengthen soil knowledge and capability
The measures implemented to meet the three goals include:
- Data gathering and processing through the National Soil Information Framework programs.
Data products and tools for end users
Historical soil data review
Purchasing private soil data to be shared publicly
Land Management Classification System (DAFF)
Australian National Soil Information System (ANSIS) (CSIRO)
The department is working with CSIRO to improve the quality, quantity and accessibility of Australia’s soil data. The CSIRO is leading the design and development of the Australian National soil information system ANSIS to redevelop the national soil information infrastructure.
A nationally consistent data source will improve the understanding of national soil state and trends, provide a strong evidence base for decision makers, and contribute soil data to modelling, mapping and other applications. The ANSIS project is a collaboration between governments, but industry, farmer cooperatives, research and development corporations, universities and other stakeholders.
- National Soil Science, Incentives and Extension programs
Pilot Soil Monitoring Incentive Program (SMIP) (Southern Cross University)
Enhancing Soil Education and Expertise Grant (Soil Science Australia)
Soil Sciences Challenge (Awarded to universities and research delivery partners)
- Soil Policy
The National Action Plan Working Group (NAPWG) and the National Soil Strategy Implementation Steering Committee (NSSISC) will develop soil policy.
As part of Soil Policy, there will be opportunities for land managers to use soil test data for Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) carbon projects.
There will also be more than 200 soil extension activities nationwide through the Regional Landcare Program’s Smart Farms Small Grants soil extension activities, and the Smart Farms Building Landcare Community and Capacity – National Community of Practice.
The National Community of Practice run by Soil Science Australia will also provide a National Soil Science Coordinator, and Regional Soil Coordinators.
The BMRG NRM area’s Regional Soil Coordinator is Regional Soil Coordinator | SQNNSW Innovation Hub
He has provided an important update on the Soil Monitoring and Incentives Program SMIP as summarized below:
The Pilot Soil Monitoring and Incentives Program SMIP (Pilot Soils Program – Southern Cross University (scu.edu.au)) and the Historical Soil Data Capture Payments Program that formed part of the National Soil Package. DAFF has recently decided to end these programs. The Historical program has already been ended and will not accept further applications.
The Pilot Soil Monitoring Program is also being ended. Applications (via link above) will close 23 December 2022 with soil samples having to be collected no later than 28 February 2023. EAL is encouraging any landholders interested in the program to register as soon as possible prior to the closing date.
DAFF is currently looking at future programs/options but at this stage there is no information available on this.
For further information, Call 1800 900 090