Report Synopsis

Growing Soil Health. Future drivers and critical knowledge growth strategies with a focus on soil acidification

Johanna Tomlinson

Soils are a critical natural asset. They underpin agricultural productivity and provide the capacity for agriculture to meet future challenges, such as delivering food security and addressing climate variability.

Western Australia (WA)’s soils are well known to be some of the most challenging soils in the world which has driven significant improvements and innovation in soil management in the WA agricultural sector. The need for continual improvement persists as WA soils continue to be impacted by a variety of threatening processes, most notably soil acidification. This research confirms that globally the most widely adopted best management practice for addressing soil acidification is the application of lime. This report provides an expanded view of soil acidification in considering soil in a broader soil health and soil stewardship context. Barriers and challenges around the adoption of best management practice on farm are explored, highlighting that the decision-making process to address soil health issues is impacted by a range of factors, including economics.

Internationally and domestically, there is an increasing strategic focus being placed on soil health. This research explores several future soil health drivers and opportunities. Many of the macro drivers explored are linked to a desire from numerous parts of agricultural supply and value chains to address global sustainability. Of particular significance are the opportunities and challenges which will be faced by growers in relation to the carbon economy and future access to financial capital with the incorporation of sustainability metrics into credit risk assessments.

A range of strategies to support the collective and coordinated growth of soil knowledge are presented and recommended with a focus on continual improvement processes, adaptive learning and the need for end-user (grower) centred design.

The research draws from observations during the authors’ global travels to highlight the need for local soil research, development, extension and validation. A focus on farming systems and monitoring and evaluation, from the paddock scale and beyond, is highlighted to drive the increased adoption of best management practice for improved soil health in WA.

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