Fertile soil is finite and invaluable. We need healthy and fertile soils now more than ever. Projections suggest that the amount of arable land will be reduced by half by 2050. And yet, all we see are the full supermarket shelves and believe this will continue forever.
We must, therefore, find ways to reverse these trends. Understanding our soils, and how we regenerate them, is no longer the responsibility of scientists and farmers. They certainly have a vital role to play. But the issue affects all of us, and we need more than ever before to understand the dynamics and intricacies of soil development and maintenance.
We need to understand more clearly the complex and intricate nature of this process, the role that water and sunlight play and the important and interrelated function of carbon, nutrients and micro-organisms.
Over the next few months, FDI will publish a number of papers that examine these issues in more detail.
These papers will not be written for scientists but will focus on simple, clear statements that ideally will be read by all of us as we attempt to understand what is involved in maintaining and forming topsoils that will remain productive and healthy for the future. Not only do we need to feed a growing population, but we need to do so in a time of changing climates, increased demands and smaller farming areas.
The papers will be short and written simply with minimum technical terms.
The following papers are under consideration:
- Soil Regeneration. This paper will describe simply how soils are regenerated, the role of vegetation and roots, noting the importance of the sun and water, carbon and its relationship with nutrients and the role of fungi.
- The State of Australia’s Soils. This paper will seek to determine the state of our soils, noting its decline but also making judgements of what might happen should this process continue.
- Carbon. The role that carbon plays, how it is formed and is able to be controlled by preventing wildfires and extending the greening process need to be considered. The ability of soils to absorb and retain carbon needs to be covered as well as how this outcome might be measured.
- Water. The impact of water, the types of water (ground, sub-surface, aquifer, captured by dams, tanks and other means), how water is captured and held in the soil will be described.
- Nutrients. What they are, the role they play, how they can be identified and replaced.
- Microorganisms. What they are, what role they play, how they are formed.
- Organic Matter. What it is, what role it plays, how it is formed.
- The Inter-relationship of all the above.
- Farm Management.This paper will essentially identify the critical role that farmers will need to play in managing their farms. Issues such as stock management in particular will be considered. The negative impact of grass eating animals in relation to the emission of greenhouse gasses will also be covered.
- The Role that Soil Regeneration in Ameliorating the Impact of Climate Change.
Major General John Hartley AO (Retd)
Institute Director and CEO
Future Directions International