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The challenge

Effective management of soil to maintain the productivity and health of landscapes

Our soil is a valuable and important national asset. Effective management of soil is critical to maintaining the productivity and health of landscapes, which deliver economic, environmental and social benefits.

Influenced by climate and different land uses, soil properties can change over time, sometimes taking decades before a trend can be identified or altered.

Understanding these changes is vital for providing information to guide land management interventions and investment to sustain our agricultural industry and associated ecosystems. To achieve this, an ongoing and adaptable soil monitoring approach is required.

While remote sensing and modelling are regularly used as indicators to understand Australia's soil, we also need accurate soil data, derived from soil sampling and measurements to a high standard, to comprehensively understand the condition and trend of our soil.

There is currently no nationally consistent, long-term measured soil monitoring data available to guide land management decisions, support policy or guide investment relevant for climate-smart, sustainable agriculture. This also impacts the ability to address risks to soil such as erosion, acidification, and salinity.

Our response

A new national soil monitoring program

The National Soil Monitoring Program is led by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) as part of the implementation of the Australian Government Climate-Smart Agriculture Program and National Soil Action Plan. CSIRO has been engaged by DAFF to design the National Soil Monitoring Program.

More productive, healthier and resilient soils promote climate-smart sustainable and productive agriculture ©  CSIRO/Stuart Walmsley

The program will sample and monitor approximately 3,000 sites across Australia, with a strong focus on major agricultural zones. These activities will include sampling, analysis and archiving of collected soil specimens.

Using internationally and nationally recognised methods and approaches, the program will establish the statistical design, protocols and operating procedures for an enduring soil monitoring program into the future.

The data collected by the project will be publicly accessible through the Australian National Soil Information System.

The results

The National Soil Monitoring Program will provide nationally consistent soil data

The National Soil Monitoring Program will provide nationally consistent soil data that could be used to indicate trends in soil health and condition across different ecosystems.

Information products built using this data aim to empower stakeholders to better understand the importance of soil. This will enable evidence-based decision-making to improve soil, boost sustainability and climate resilience of agriculture, protect the environment and assist in increasing the confidence of data used for National and International reporting.

Additionally, these information products could help land managers inform their soil management practices by providing insight into the longer-term impact of land use and management.

The nationally consistent, regionally relevant data could also enable policy makers to make evidence-based strategic decisions for soil-related sustainable agriculture matters at regional, state, and national scales.

More productive, healthier and resilient soils promote climate-smart, sustainable, and productive agriculture.

Soil sampling and measurements are needed to guide land management decisions, support policy or guide investment relevant for climate-smart, sustainable agriculture ©  CSIRO/Stuart Walmsley

The National Soil Monitoring Program has been supported by funding through the Australian Government Natural Heritage Trust (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) in collaboration with CSIRO.

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