WA farmers at forefront of State Government’s soil strategy

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan.
Camera IconWA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan. Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Embracing innovative technologies and best soil management practices on WA farms will be key to improving the State’s soil health in the face of climate change, according to a 10-year plan released on Wednesday.

It is set to bolster food security and the productivity of agricultural, pastoral and horticultural soils while increasing the capacity of farming systems and the landscape to adapt to climate change.

The WA Soil Health Strategy — released by the State Government to coincide with World Soil Day — aims to tackle four major challenges the State’s $11 billion agricultural industry faces: salinity, loss of perennial vegetation, rising groundwater tables and acidifying soils.

Competing land uses, overuse of agricultural chemicals and wind and water erosion are also listed as significant threats to soil health.

Solutions identified include fit-for-purpose soil health practices, investigating emerging farming systems, tracking soil health, conducting land suitability assessments and landscape monitoring and ensuring widespread understanding of WA government policy by landholders.

It is hoped the strategic plan will lead to healthy and diverse soil ecosystems which boost agricultural production while providing environmental and community benefits.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan called it “more than a document”.

“It is an investment in action to look after our diverse soil ecosystems, which are the foundation for profitable agriculture and the environment,” she said.

“Climate change is placing increasing pressure on our soils, with hotter and drier weather affecting plant growth, agricultural production and encouraging bushfires and erosion.

“The Soil Health Strategy is an important step in protecting this essential living resource to ensure our soils continue to function as a vital ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans for future generations.”

Ms MacTiernan said soils were “critical” to the industry’s future.

“We have an opportunity to position WA to lead the way in meeting the community’s growing expectation and the change in many markets seeking provenance tracing and sustainable production of agrifood and fibre,” she said.

“This strategy supports the science, innovation and adaptations that farmers can use to improve their climate resilience.

“I look forward to working with farmers, industry and the community on the implementation of the Western Australian Soil Health Strategy.”

Healthy soils are fundamental to food security and environmental sustainability, while being integral to carbon sequestration to help lower carbon in the atmosphere.

The plan compliments the State Government’s Soil Health Masterclasses, the Southern Rangelands Revitalisation project and the Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program.

It will be overseen by the Soil and Land Conservation Council and delivered through the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development together with government, industry and community partners.

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