Despite the essential role soil plays, there is a worldwide increase in soil degradation due to inappropriate management practices, population pressure, unsustainable agriculture, climate change and inadequate governance. Since 2012, World Soil Day has been held annually on 5 December to raise awareness and focus attention on the importance of the sustainable management of healthy soil resources. The theme for World Soil Day 2017 is “Caring for the Planet starts from the Ground” to bring attention to the importance of soil and the problem of soil degradation.
The development of northern Australia, as outlined in the Federal Government White Paper, Our North Our Future: Developing Northern Australia of 2015, will be heavily dependent on the delivery of an adequate water supply to food and agribusiness and other industries if goals are to be achieved. While physical challenges can be overcome with detailed water resource assessments economic, environmental and governance issues may delay and limit development objectives.
With a third of the population living in regional Australia, a strong internet is required now more than ever to provide regional Australians with the same opportunities their metropolitan counterparts enjoy.
In this FDI Feature Interview, Mister Kieran Coupe of the award-winning technology company Outpost Central discusses technologically advanced, computer-based monitoring systems to broad-acre irrigation and dryland farming.
As climate and weather patterns change, intermittent rainfall and warmer temperatures highlight the need for increasingly sophisticated water management. The use of web-enabled, digital technology to measure soil moisture is helping famers, across a wide range of agricultural pursuits, to determine the best ways to deliver irrigated water to crops and pasture. In addition to determining optimum watering delivery, farmers are making savings in power and water costs.
The National Water Initiative (NWI) is a market-based framework for the regulation of water resources by Australian states and territories. A basis for its principles are the lessons learnt from the challenges of cross-jurisdictional management in the Murray Darling Basin (MDB). Water resource development in northern Australia can benefit from the experience provided by the NWI and the NWI can be made a more rigorous framework if it incorporates some of the unique economic, social and environmental contexts of the north.
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is the process of pumping a fluid mixture into the earth to fracture impermeable rock to access gas resources. The process can provide an abundant source of natural gas for domestic and export markets, but it faces strong community opposition over environmental and social concerns. Nevertheless, as energy prices rise there are compelling reasons for it to be considered as a contributor to Australia’s energy future.
While water storage is important for northern Australia, large in-stream dams are not the only option. Any choice between water storage options should always consider location-specific environmental aspects as well as how water may be used by people and industries and shouldn’t be driven by any ideological preference for a development infrastructure.
In 2015, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched the Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite, an orbiting observatory that maps soil moisture content. The main objective of the satellite is to provide global maps of soil moisture to gain a deeper understanding of the water and carbon cycles. The data, however, has many practical applications: it can be used in climate and weather studies to help predict and monitor natural disasters such as droughts, wildfires, floods and landslides; to improve agricultural productivity; in improving public health by enhancing early warning systems.
Australia is set to make significant contributions to the international space industry in the next decade.
In 1959, a grant from the Commonwealth Government enabled the Western Australian Government to start work on the massive Ord River Irrigation Scheme, a bold plan to develop part of the tropical north for intensive irrigated agriculture. The project, however, has been plagued by delays, cost blowouts and planning problems and has fail to achieve economic success. Nevertheless, irrigated agriculture in the East Kimberley region still has the potential to make a significant contribution to the economic development of northern Australia.