THE health and quality of South Australian cropping soils is being benchmarked through an innovative online resource.
The website, soilquality.org.au, enables growers to compare the condition of their soils with that of their regional farming counterparts.
The SA node of the interactive website was launched recently at a soil quality workshop at Clare.
As part of the National Soil Quality Monitoring Program, which is funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) through its Soil Biology Initiative II, the new resource provides growers with insightful paddock data, assisting them in their efforts to improve yields and productivity.
The website currently offers information on soils located on Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula and in the Mid North and will include data from all cropping regions as it becomes available.
Soil data from South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia is now included on the website which will eventually be a national soil quality resource as information from other states is added.
In officially launching the SA node of the website, Dr Murray Unkovich, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture Food and Wine, said development of the online tool had been strongly supported by the GRDC which recognised the importance of comparative data in informing growers about the status of their soils.
“For growers to know how their property’s soils fit within the local region is very useful in terms of gaining a better understanding of the health of their soils,” Dr Unkovich said.
As part of the Soil Carbon Research Program (SCaRP) which is managed by CSIRO and funded by GRDC and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), more than 100 SA farm soils have been sampled and analysed for carbon stocks, as well as a range of other chemical, physical and biological indicators of soil health. The results of these analyses are available via the Soil Quality website.
The website is also supported with fact sheets and simple calculators that relate the soil quality indicators to productivity and management options. This information will help growers to make better management decisions.
Dr Andrew Wherrett from the University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture attended the website launch and soil quality workshop in Clare where he spoke to growers and farm advisers about the value of the online resource.
Dr Wherrett said the website filtered soil quality data into a “traffic light” system which was a quick and easy way of identifying possible soil constraints to production and formulating management strategies to combat these issues.
“This can act as a prod to growers who may need to look further into an issue relating to the health of their soils, especially if a high or moderate risk of production constraint is identified,” Dr Wherrett said.
For each soil quality indicator (biological, chemical, physical), a series of critical values have been applied relating to impacts on production and/or soil quality in general.
Dr Wherrett said growers could enter their own data into the site to gain a regional comparison, even if they had not been involved in the soil carbon research program through which official data had been recorded.
- More information about GRDC’s Soil Biology Initiative II research, development and extension program is available at www.grdc.com.au/soilbiology.