Despite soil being all around us, we often fail to realise how much we need it for food, water and most importantly, life! Today marks World Soil Day, a day for celebration and recognition of the importance of soil as a critical component of natural systems and a vital contributor to human wellbeing. The day is celebrated by the global community of 60,000 soil scientists charged with responsibility of generating and communicating soil knowledge for the common good.
Soil hosts a quarter of our planet’s diversity. It is so valuable that the UN General Assembly has declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils. The aim of the International Year of Soils is to be a platform for raising awareness of the importance of soils for food security and essential ecosystem functions.
OK, so soil is important. What is ACIAR doing?
ACIAR recognises that maintaining and improving soil condition is fundamental for successful and sustainable farming. Our Soil Management and Crop Nutrition (SMCN) program focuses on increasing the productivity and sustainability of smallholder cropping and farming systems throughout South-East Asia and the Pacific region. The program aims to enhance food security and smallholder livelihoods through interventions in soil and water management, nutrient management and crop rotations. ACIAR’s projects include: improving soil and water management and crop productivity of dryland agricultural systems of Aceh and NSW; integrating water, soil and nutrient management for sustainable farming systems in south central coastal Vietnam and Australia; and increasing productivity of legume-based farming systems in the central dry zone of Burma. A comprehensive list of all of ACIAR’s soil projects can be found on ACIAR’s SMCN website.
What’s being done in Australia?
On 23–27 November, Soil Science Australia hosted the National Soil Science Conference in Melbourne. The theme of the conference was ‘Securing Australia’s soils—for profitable industries and healthy landscapes’. The conference brought together over 400 delegates from throughout Australasia including researchers, analysts, educators, advisers, extension agents, land managers and policymakers. ACIAR is pleased to have been a Bronze Sponsor of the conference, with several papers showcasing Australia’s research for development effort (these can be read in the conference proceedings). ACIAR research officer Jack Koci, who attended the conference, noted, “A number of keynote speakers highlighted the need to change public perception of soils and agriculture. People have largely lost touch with where and how food is produced and the science that goes into its production”.
As part of the conference, participants went on a field trip to the Gippsland region to learn about the famous Giant Gippsland Earthworm (which can grow up to 3 metres!) and its role in improving soil structures. Jack Koci wrote a piece about this curious creature on the Cosmos Magazine blogsite!
|The Giant Gippsland Earthworm. Source: The Giant Earthworm project|
By Elise Crabb, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, ACIAR