Back to: Soil health management plan - concept, process and pilot study with Mid Loddon Sub Catchment Management Group
Members of the Mid Loddon Sub Catchment Management group and their facilitator, Judy Crocker, are acknowledged for their support, interest and enthusiasm for this work. Howard Hepburn, Lachlan Ralton and Doug Curnow are thanked for their time and openness in being involved in the soil health management plan pilot. The project was jointly supported by the Commonwealth government's 'Caring for our Country' funding and the Victorian Government's Healthy Soils project funded through the Environmental Sustainability Action Statement (ESAS). Former DPI staff Mark Imhof, Grant Boyle, Darryl Pearl, Doug Crawford and Tim Johnston all gave direct assistance to the project through the delivery of training modules and assistance with fieldwork.
Pressures on the farm sector increase annually for a variety of reasons. Costs of production, seasonal hazards, climate change and prospective incorporation of agriculture into national and global CPRS are just some of the factors. Soil productivity and health are always going to be important in the farm business. It is crucial that, where business activities may affect the soil or be affected by the soil, the right questions are asked and appropriate decisions are made.
Some actions in a SHMP may require years of investment to achieve (e.g. changing machinery over to allow complete controlled traffic).
A SHMP has the potential to focus the farm business on the soil – it will only be successful if this is the approach – soil health is not an end in itself.
The process of developing a sound SHMP needs strong support, both from the technical side and the social side. From a DPI perspective this would require building a team between Future Farming Systems Research Division and Farm Services Victoria Division. The Departmental approach ‘Better Services to Farmers’, particularly concerning ‘wholesaling’ versus ‘retailing’, raises questions about capability and consistency if the SHMP (perhaps as a component of Farmplan21) is delivered. One of the main issues that came from the participating farmers was that of the trust they developed during the pilot.
Acronyms and Glossary
ArcMap Proprietary GIS software marketed by ESRI (www.esri.com)
CfoC Caring for our Country (Commonwealth government funding initiative)
CPRS Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme - subject of federal parliamentary papers regarding carbon emissions.
DPI Department of Primary Industries
DSE Department of Sustainability and Environment
EBMP Environmental Best Management Practices - a DPI farm planning program used in south west Victoria.
eFARMER A web-based system used in Victoria to provide access to and record spatial data for farm planning.
EM Electromagnetic (induction) - used in EM31 and EM38 instruments to map subsurface differences in conductivity.
EMAP Environmental Management Action Plan - landcare based process funded by DPI, DSE and MCMA.
EMS Environmental Management System
ESAS Environmental Sustainability Action Statement (Victorian Government funding initiative).
FFSR Future Farming Systems Research - Division of DPI conducting innovative research for farming systems.
FSV Farm Services Victoria - Division of DPI that is focussed on support and regulatory services to farm businesses.
GIS Geographic Information System - computer based mapping software.
GPS Global Positioning System
GRS Gamma radio spectrometry (a type of remotely sensed data used to distinguish surface geological and soil materials)
ISO International Standards Organisation. ISO 14001 - standard governing environmental compliance.
MCMA Mallee Catchment Management Authority
MLSC Mid Loddon Sub Catchment Management Group
SHMP Soil Health Management Plan
VRO Victorian Resources Online - web pages managed by the DPI to provide natural resource information
WFP Whole Farm Plan
1 Land and Water Australia: Healthy Soils, Sustainable Farms project. 2006-2008
2 Environmental Sustainability Action Statement (ESAS) 2006-2010
3 Lobry de Bruyn LA, Abbey JA (2003) Characterisation of farmers' soil sense and the implications for on-farm monitoring of soil health. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 43, 285 – 305. Full text doi: 10.1071/EA00176
4 The Soil Conservation Authority was a Victorian government department that existed from 1940 to 1984.
5 Environmental Requirements For Victorian Farmers www.dpi.vic.gov.au
6 DPI report “Soil health for Victoria’s Agriculture”
7 Victorian Resources Online
8 Ploughing, ridging, harrowing, rolling, rotavating (rotary ploughing), discing, aerating, scarifying, drilling, deep ripping, bed forming, humping and hollowing, draining.
9 SOILpak first published in 1991 by the NSW government for the cotton industry has subsequently been adapted for dryland cropping and for vegetable growers in NSW.
10 AgriGater is free (external link)
11 Commonwealth funding program www.nrm.gov.au
12 The quad bike carries differential GPS, GRS, EM31 and dual EM38 (horizontal and vertical dipole).
13 Corporate geospatial layers exist for land parcels and fences but not for paddocks. Differences in management within parcels can be seen on recent air photography.