Soil Science Challenge
The Soil Science Challenge grant funding round closed on 14 February 2022. The successful funding recipients are:
- $3.94 million to the University of Western Australia (in collaboration with the University of Adelaide and University of Western Sydney) to provide an in-depth understanding of soil physical and chemical processes in response to biological inputs that complement chemical fertilisers to maximise productivity.
- $2.84 million to the University of Adelaide (in collaboration with the South Australian Research and Development Institute) to research the diversity of Australian soils using DNA technology to measure, understand and reverse soil decline, providing a basis to improve soil biology in farming systems.
- $2.69 million to the University of Sydney to better understand the diversity, function, and impact of Australian soils viruses and their links to soil health and productivity.
- $1.10 million to the University of New South Wales (in collaboration with the University of Newcastle, and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries) to provide insight into the use of nano materials (including waste materials) in soils, as an innovative approach to assist in improving soil carbon sequestration.
- $1.97 million to the University of Melbourne (in collaboration with the University of Western Sydney and Murdoch University) to develop new standardised approaches and tools for farmers to manage soil fauna across different agricultural industries.
- $1.78 million to the University of Melbourne (in collaboration with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Queensland Department of Environment and Science) to quantify and understand the causes and consequences of soil organic carbon decline in Australian cropping systems, to improve productivity and improve understanding of carbon sequestration.
- $1.67 million to the University of Sydney (in collaboration with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) to develop an improved spatial understanding of how soils behave in the Australian landscape to enable better advice for farmers and primary producers on land management strategies.
- $1.59 million to the University of Queensland (in collaboration with Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries) to develop new nitrogen fertiliser strategies for the more effective and efficient use of nitrogen to benefit Australia’s cropping producers.
- $0.80 million to the Queensland University of Technology to improve rangeland management in the Northern Australian pastoral zone, including developing strategies for improving carbon storage and productivity on those pastoral lands.
- $0.77 million to the University of Sydney to explore the interaction of various components in soils to better understand linkages and benefit to soil carbon sequestration
- $0.52 million to the University of Queensland to better understand the application of phosphorous in soils to increase agricultural productivity.
This new research will add to Australia’s soil health knowledge and address soil-related research priorities including soil carbon dynamics; soil hydrology; soil biology and nutrients; or soil/root interface.
Funded projects will contribute to building the knowledge base necessary to support innovative land management practices and improve productivity, profitability and climate resilience for Australian farmers and the agricultural sector.
All grant applicants will be contacted by the Community Grants Hub soon regarding the outcome of their application. General feedback will also be made available on the Community Grants Hub website.
Historical Soil Data Capture Payments Program
Farmers and land managers (i.e. Data Owners) can receive payments of up to $10,000 for sharing their soil data with the Australian Government as part of the two-year $21 million Historical Soil Data Capture Payments Program.
The department has engaged a panel of Data Brokers to engage with Data Owners, acquire data, and make payments on behalf of the Australian Government.
More information on the Historical Soil Data Capture Payments Program.
Farmers and other land managers can now apply for up to $10,000 in Australian Government funding to help pay for soil testing and contributions to a national soil database as part of the two-year $54.4 million Pilot Soil Monitoring and Incentives Program.
More information on the Pilot Soil Monitoring and Incentives Program.
Why do we need to protect and improve Australia’s soils?
Soil is vital to life on earth. Soils are home to more than 25 per cent of our planet’s biodiversity and 95 per cent of the world’s food comes from soil and soil organisms.
Soil provides essential ecosystem services that support and contribute to Australia’s economic, environmental, and social wellbeing, including food and fibre production; water storage, filtration and nutrient cycling; and carbon storage.
Australia ancient soils that are typically low in organic matter and nutrients and are susceptible to erosion. A changing climate, increasing pressure to produce more food and fibre, and increasing population pressures pose major challenges for the successful management of our fragile soil.
While it is hard to accurately quantify the cost of soil erosion in Australia, the cost of dust storms alone in New South Wales is estimated at $9 million per year. More recently it has been estimated that about 33 per cent of global soil is degraded.
The National Soil Strategy is Australia’s first national policy on soil. It sets out how Australia will value, manage and improve its soil for the next 20 years. It was released in May 2021.
The Strategy prioritises soil health, empowers soil innovation and stewards, and strengthens soil knowledge and capability.
These priorities have been identified through research and practical examples, government policies and programs, and by consulting with governments, industry, researchers, farmers and other land managers across Australia.
Collaboration is a key feature in the development of the National Soil Strategy, It has been developed by the Australian Government, state and territory governments, the National Soils Advocate and the soil community to secure and protect Australia’s soil for the future.
It will enable farmers to increase their ability to build farm resilience by planning and maintaining environmental plantings to protect soil.
The National Soil Strategy will also support Australia’s domestic and international commitments towards a more sustainable future, such as the Australian agriculture sector’s goal of being a $100 billion industry by 2030, and the Australian Government’s priority of building resilience in our communities and adapting to a changing climate.
It is part of a broader National Soil Package and supports other programs including:
- Agriculture Stewardship Program
- Bushfire Recovery Program
- Future Drought Fund
- Australian Collaborative Land Use Mapping Program
- Threatened Species Strategy.
What is included in the National Soil Package?
The National Soil Package is a $214.9 million funding package including $196.9 million of new funding through the 2021-22 Budget over four years to implement the National Soil Strategy and the associated Commonwealth Interim Action Plan.
- $5.9 million to implement the National Soil Strategy. The implementation of the Strategy includes the development of a National Action Plan by June 2022. The Action Plan will help identify current programs across Australia that support Australia’s soil health and may help identify gaps where new funding and resources can be directed.
- $54.4 million for a two-year Pilot Soil Monitoring and Incentives Program where land managers will be able to access low cost soil sampling and Australasian Soil and Plant Analysis Council (ASPAC)-certified testing in exchange for sharing their data.
This Program aims to increase the frequency and quality of soil testing by land managers and to provide access to this data in a secure national platform under established rules and processes.
- $2 million for a review of existing soil data to establish the quality, quantity and distribution of information across Australia and identify gaps in soil knowledge. The review will inform the scale and value of the incentives so that they can be targeted in a way that will capture the most useful soil information both for government and stakeholder objectives in a cost-efficient manner.
- $15 million to develop the Australian National Soil Information System to store soil data, track and report trends and changes in soil health, and be used to monitor the impact of land management practices and environmental shocks over time. The enhancement of a publicly available and federated soil information platform will support decision makers to identify gaps and opportunities to manage and improve Australia’s soil assets.
- $21 million to pay private and public entities to provide existing soil data to be incorporated into the redeveloped ASRIS.
- $18 million of existing funding from the National Landcare Program’s Smart Farms Small Grants initiative will be redirected to soil extension activities that encourage farmers to test their soil and help them interpret and act on results. See Australian Government investment in Landcare for more information.
The department is currently investigating options to engage soil extension officers as soon as possible.
- $615,000 to develop a National Land Management Practices Classification System.
A National Land Management Practices Classification System will be developed, tested and implemented by ABARES over two years in consultation with key land management stakeholders. The classification system will categorise and explain different land management practices across the country and will help map and track management practices across the country and their effect on soil health. The new system will provide further detail on management practices, currently not captured in the current Australian Land Use and Management Classification System. Work on the classification system is already underway.
- $1 million to enhance soil education and expertise
A new accreditation in soil science will be developed to improve the knowledge base of land management advisors.
- $20 million over four years for a Soil Science Challenge Grants Program
The grants program will support researchers to address fundamental gaps in soil science and improve our understanding of how to better manage soil. The first grant application period is anticipated to open in the late 2021.
- $67 million for the Food Waste for Healthy Soils Fund
A fund to support the diversion of household and commercial food and garden organic waste (FOGO) from landfill to soil via the expansion of existing FOGO processing infrastructure and capacity.
For more information see budget fact sheets and Portfolio Budget Statements at www.awe.gov.au/budget.
A Commonwealth Interim Action Plan has been developed to outline the Australian Government’s commitment to implementing the National Soil Strategy. The Interim Action Plan outlines high level actions that are being undertaken to support the Strategy. The actions in the plan will ensure that soil continues to contribute to agricultural productivity, environmental sustainability, and economic growth.
Engagement and collaboration will continue through the development of a National Action Plan, which will be delivered by June 2022.
What role does the National Soils Advocate play?
A National Soils Advocate is the first role of its kind internationally. Since 2012 the National Soils Advocate has worked with individuals, governments, and organisations to improve soil management and soil health.
The responsibility for soil management in Australia sits mainly with state and territory governments. In 2019 the Prime Minister announced the Australian Government’s commitment to a national focus on soil. The need for a national strategy was endorsed by all states and territories to provide an opportunity for future collaboration and leadership on common soil goals, and to reaffirm the commitment of all governments to the importance of soils.
Who will oversee the implementation of the National Soil Package?
The National Soil Strategy Implementation Steering Committee (NSSISC) including the National Soils Advocate will oversee the implementation of the Package.
The NSSISC provides technical advice and recommendations to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) regarding the implementation of the National Soil Strategy.
NSSISC champions, supports and drives implementation of the Strategy’s three main objectives including: to prioritise soil health, empower soil innovation and stewards, and strengthen soil knowledge and capability.
NSSISC is overseeing the development of the National Action Plan due for completion by 30 June 2022.
National Soil Strategy Implementation Steering Committee (NSSISC)
|Ms Maya Stuart-Fox (Chair)||First Assistant Secretary, Climate Adaptation and Resilience Division||Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment|
|Ms Lisa Nitschke||Assistant Secretary, Soil Policy Branch||Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment|
|Ms Alannah Pentony||Assistant Secretary, Emissions Reduction||Australian Government Department of Industry, Energy, Science and Resources|
|Dr Michael Battaglia||Research Director, Sustainability, CSIRO Agriculture and Food||Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)|
|Ms Anna van Dugteren||Natural Resource Management Facilitator||ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate|
|Mr Jason Hill||Director, Land Assessment and Geospatial Services||NT Government, Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security|
|Dr Warwick Dougherty||Director, Soil and Water Research and Development||NSW Department of Primary Industries|
|Mr Stephen Potts||Director, Landscape Sciences||Qld Department of Environment and Science|
|Mr Brett Bartel||Director, Recovery||SA Department of Primary Industries and Regions|
|Mr Rhys Stickler||Branch Manager, Natural Values Section Leader – Natural Assets Spatial Intelligence||Tas Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment|
|Ms Angela Avery||Research Director, Agriculture Resources Sciences, Agriculture Victoria||Vic Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions|
|Mr Tim Overheu||Team Leader, Soil Resource Science||WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development|
|The Hon. Penelope Wensley AC||National Soils Advocate||Independent member supported by the Office of the National Soils Advocate, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet|
|Dr Stephen Loss||Manager, Soils & Nutrition (South)||Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)|
|Ms Anna Boustead||Coordinator||Indigenous Carbon Industry Network|
|Ms Felice Driver||Project Manager, Sustainable Feedbase Resources||Meat & Livestock Australia|
|Mr Warwick Ragg||General Manager, Natural Resource Management||National Farmers Federation|
|Mr Chris Norman||Chief Executive Officer, NRM Regions Qld||Natural Resource Management (NRM) Regions Australia|
|Dr Michael Crawford||Chief Executive Officer||Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC)|
|Associate Professor Vanessa Wong||President||Soil Science Australia|
Endorsement of the National Soil Strategy
The National Soil Strategy has been endorsed by all state and territory jurisdictions.
- Queensland Minister for Agriculture Industry Development and Fisheries, the Hon. Mark Furner MP
- New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Adam Marshall MP
- Victorian Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas MP
- The Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Food, the Hon Alannah MacTiernan MLC
- The Northern Territory Minister for Agribusiness and Aquaculture, the Hon Nicole Manison
- The Australian Capital Territory Minister for the Environment, Rebecca Vassarotti MLA
- The Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industry and Water, the Hon. Guy Barnett MP
- The South Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, the Hon David Basham MP
|National Soil Strategy PDF||60||12.1 MB|
|National Soil Strategy DOCX||34||2.6 MB|
|Commonwealth Interim Action Plan PDF||16||2.6 MB|
|Commonwealth Interim Action Plan DOCX||15||1.1 MB|
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