Saving Soil in the Burnett Mary
What is soil and why is it important?
Soil is the uppermost part of the earth that is affected by the weathering of mineral components, erosion, and deposition, it consists of inorganic and organic matter. Importantly, it forms the natural medium for the growth of land-based vegetation as well as its nutrients and water. Soil is not all regolith, the upper proportion differs from lower material as having, high accumulation of organic matter, roots, soil organisms, and characteristic horizontal weathering, this is what we define as soil.
Soil provides many ecosystem services that sustain humanity e.g., food and fibre, water storage and purification, medicines, cultural aspects, sinks for waste, natural ecosystems, and animal ecology. The loss of soil is a serious environmental issue. Erosion is a natural process but is exacerbated by practices such as land clearing, cultivation, and overgrazing. At risk is the topmost fertile layer of soil where plant nutrients and soil microorganisms reside which are critical to soil health. We need to protect our soil because it is a non-renewable resource, its formation takes longer than a human lifetime, losing 1cm of soil could take 200-400 years to reform.
The following resources provide education and instruction on soil conservation concepts, techniques, and strategies to understand your soil to prevent and remediate erosion. For generations of productive land use, we need to implement sustainable soil management practices.
Erosion prevention is a much better option than remediation.
Gully erosion video series: ideas and tools to monitor, manage and remediate gully erosion
These short videos were developed by BMRG in collaboration with the Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA). The videos feature soil conservation experts, John Day and Geoff Titmarsh, along with Land Management Officers from FBA and BMRG. In the five-part series, these experts explain simple best practice management solutions to prevent and heal erosion on Queensland soils. Each video in the series builds on principles, ideas and tools to monitor, manage and remediate gully erosion.
- Video 1: Factors that influence gully erosion: Outlines drivers of erosion and potential site characteristics relevant to performing remediation on eroded areas. BMRG developed an animation, embedded within this video, to demonstrate erosive processes and principal solutions to increase infiltration.
- Video 2: Property planning for gully erosion prevention: Best practice property planning principles are presented with animations and examples from different land types to assist land managers in avoiding erosion issues caused by poor infrastructure planning on-farm.
- Video 3: Assessing the size of your catchment for erosion control: Structures such as contour and diversion banks, used to disperse water and decrease velocity, must be designed with the catchment size in mind. Tools to estimate water velocity and volume are taught during this video.
- Video 4: Gully erosion solutions for your property (low input methods): Low input gully erosion rehabilitation techniques including grazing land management, whoa boys, deep ripping and stick rake lines on the contour, porous check dams as well as fertilising, seeding, and mulching the affected area to stabilise the erosion. A key message is that prevention is always better than rehabilitation.
- Video 5: Gully erosion solutions for your property (high input methods): High input gully erosion rehabilitation techniques including diversion banks, contour banks, drop structures, rock chutes, dam by-washes and level banks.
Quick Information Guides to Soil Conservation
If you don’t have a lot of time to read through soil conservation books but want options to recover degraded land and prevent further degradation, use these quick information guides as a go-to for principles to prevent erosion and for restoration ideas. These information sheets introduce core principles and build on each concept as the series progresses. They are digestible overviews of principles and soil conservation concepts that are explained in more detail in the BMRG short videos series and in established publications such as the Gully Erosion, Options for Prevention and Rehabilitation, Experiences from the Burnett & Mary River Catchments, Queensland.
- The Core Principles for Soil conservation
The first information sheet introduces why it is important to save soil, core principles for soil conservation, and highlights that erosion prevention is easier than trying to fix it later. Types of water erosion and where they occur on your landscape are also defined.
- Principle 1: Groundcover
This information sheet covers why groundcover is your best defence against erosion. Some preventive measures, goals, actions, and benefits of doing so. Also, some strategies to monitor groundcover levels and to estimate the speed water enters the soil.
- Principle 2: Controlling Water Flow
This information sheet covers some techniques to improve soil infiltration potential by reducing the speed of runoff. We introduce concepts to slow runoff flow and intercept structures you can easily construct yourself to control water flow, reduce erosion and maximise rainfall entering the soil profile.
- Principle 3: Infrastructure Planning
You can reduce erosion potential when planning to put in new infrastructure. This sheet provides information on the issues created by poorly placed infrastructure and why it is important to consider how water moves across your landscape to prevent erosion. Infrastructure best practices and strategies to minimise erosion using tracks and roads, whoa-boys, and watering points are highlighted.
- Principle 4: Remediation techniques
Lastly, if erosion is insitu then this information sheet introduces some remediation techniques – soil conservation structures and engineering to assist you to choose appropriate methods for restoration. The methods are broken down into low, medium and high inputs that refer to the volume and velocity of water flow the structure will need to control.
Gully Erosion: Experiences from the Burnett and Mary River Catchments, Queensland
BMRG has prepared a comprehensive manual on gully erosion. It presents theory on gully erosion and detailed options for its prevention and rehabilitation of gullies. This is a user’s guide providing instructions on designs and methods to consider, facilitated by pictures and diagrams of engineered works. The manual can be utilised when working with contractors to visualise concepts.
“The gully was insitu when we purchased the property. It was filled with old rubbish which wasn’t fixing the erosion problem and was an eyesore. It had formed from an old contour bank that ended on a road and dropped into a steeper creek bank. Part of the remediation plan was to provide groundcover immediately with hay and also undersow with grass seed. Heavy falls of rain on the bare ground have been the main challenge in managing erosion. However, the hay provides such simple protection on the slope. The gully is fully remediated, grassed-up, and completely productive again. BMRG was excellent to work with, providing extensive advice and resources to refer to in the future.” – Yolanda and Steve Webster, Manumbar, QLD.
“Good groundcover reduces flow which in turn minimises erosion, and also has a positive effect on biodiversity. Nobody wants to pay rates on bare ground. Being mindful of the potential to create erosion is a necessity in day to day management. Creating a problem may be as simple as putting a blade down in the wrong spot. Being proactive and not reactive gives greater choices with management options. The extension work BMRG provided was appreciated; they were great to work with. Don’t be afraid to seek out expert advice. Knowledge of the process of erosion and how to contain it was readily available and explained in a straight forward manner. As a result of this we now have a more holistic view of the processes influencing erosion” – Craig and Michele Hodges, Booubyjan, QLD.