Soil is vital to our existence. It provides nutrients, water and physical support for the production of food and fibre, and the base resource for roads, homes and built infrastructure. In doing so, soil underpins our agricultural industries and supports other industries including construction engineering and mining. Soil also sustains our natural environment by cycling and storing nutrients and water, and it helps to regulate our climate by acting as a source or sink for important greenhouse gases.
Soil is, however, a non-renewable resource (within human timescales) and Australia’s soils are mostly ancient, strongly weathered and infertile by world standards. While there are areas of highly fertile soil, Australia’s soil is often poorly structured and affected by salinity, sodicity, acidification and other constraints, and in some regions severely degraded by wind and water erosion. We need to understand and manage our soil if we are to increase agricultural productivity and profitability, reverse degradation and improve soil condition for present and future generations.
There has been substantial investment in soil research, development and extension (RD&E). However there is clear room for improvement in national coordination which can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of soil RD&E, helping drive increased return on investment. Australia needs a mechanism to identify, coordinate and address national priorities across industries. Australia’s first National Soil Research, Development and Extension Strategy (soil RD&E strategy) will help to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of Australian soil RD&E helping sustain industry, including agricultural productivity and profitability, and the function of Australia’s soil resource.