Soils are vital to life on earth – 90 per cent of the biodiversity on land is in the soil. Soils support plant life, and play a key role in carbon, water and nutrient cycles.
Soils help maintain the quality and supply of water, and provide a storehouse for potential antibiotics of the future. They also provide opportunities for carbon storage.
Australia has ancient soils that are typically low in organic matter and nutrients, and are susceptible to erosion. A changing climate, the increasing pressure to produce more food and fibre, and increasing population pressures, pose major challenges for the successful management of our fragile soils. In 2012, the cost of soil erosion to the Australian economy was around $5.8 billion annually. More recently it has been estimated that about 33 per cent of global soils are degraded.
A National Soils Advocate was announced in 2012—the first of its kind internationally—to work with individuals, governments, and organisations to improve soil management and soil health.
A National Soil Strategy
The Australian Government, state and territory governments, the National Soils Advocate, research institutes and the soil community are working to develop a National Soil Strategy by June 2021, to secure and protect Australia’s soils for the future.
The strategy aims to address key soil priorities for Australia. The priorities are being identified through research and practical examples, government policies and programs, and by consulting with communities, researchers, farmers and other land managers across Australia.
The need for a national focus
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.
A national 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.
We are supporting the good work of other programs including the:
- Agriculture Stewardship Program
- Bushfire Recovery Program
- Future Drought Fund
- Australian Collaborative Land Use Mapping Program
- Threatened Species Strategy.
We are also working closely with other Australian Government agencies with links to soil, including:
- National Indigenous Authorities Agency
- Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
- Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
- Australian Soils Network
- Rural Research and Development Corporations
- Department of Defence
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications
- Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.