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Conference to tackle soil health

19 Feb 2018

With fears the world is fast running out of usable topsoil, the race is on to stop rapid soil degradation in its tracks.

A conference in Bendigo next month will highlight the work of a group of local farmers, whose results could be the recipe the world needs.

Former Governor General Major General Michael Jeffery and 2015 Weekly Times Young Farmer of the Year Grant Sims will headline the North Central Catchment Management Authority’s (CMA) Farming for Sustainable Soils conference in Bendigo on March 8 and 9.

The conference will also hear from the North Central CMA’s Farming for Sustainable Soils (FSS) groups, landholders who have banded together to make a big difference.

“The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation believes there is only about 60 years of farmable topsoil left in the world, if current farming practices continue,” North Central CMA Project Manager Phil Dyson said.

“Our farming systems have depleted the world’s soils of organic carbon. Soil biology is important, and soils all around the world need to be treated as a living organism, not just the thing that holds up plants.”

What will be held up will be the North Central CMA’s National Landcare Program-funded FSS project, one important example of what can be done stop the tide of soil degradation.

“There are large areas of our region that have inherently unstable soils,” Mr Dyson said.

“It’s not just salinity that is a problem, it’s the makeup of the soils themselves and the fact we have depleted them of nutrients.

“We are working to find farming systems that improve organic carbon in the soil and do it in a way that makes good economic sense.”

Mr Dyson said the key to that was working together in groups of farms, rather than just individually.

“We are trying a lot of different technologies, but none of them will work unless we understand the importance of community led action,” he said.

“Our FSS groups have been trialling putting organic matter back into the soil at root depth, as well as using cover crops to improve the health of the soil.

“Conference attendees will hear from people like Grant Sims who have made this kind of thing work, and made it profitable.

“It is important that farmers accept responsibility for their soils in their part of the world and find solutions based in the type of farming they are doing.

“We will present the findings of more than five years of hard work.”

For details about our Farming for Sustainable Soils Conference, including the full agenda and registration, click here.

This project is supported by North Central CMA, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.