THE State Government has celebrated World Soil Day with the resurrection of the defunct Soil and Land Conservation Council (SLCC) after a 14 year hiatus.
The SLCC is a statutory body under the Soil and Land Conservation Act 1945 which helps to co-ordinate, monitor and review land use, soil and conservation policies and programs.
The Council has not met since 2003, but Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan today announced the formation of a Ministerial Advisory Committee to guide its re-establishment.
With land degradation estimated to cost WA's agricultural production sector more than $2 billion each year, Ms MacTiernan said the reformation of the SLCC was an important step towards better soil management practices and production improvements.
"If we are serious about growing our agricultural and pastoral production we need to get the basics right; report after report is telling us that land degradation is acting as a major handbrake to our primary industries," Ms MacTiernan said.
"Both the quantity and quality of what we produce is dependent on the biology of our soils, we need our policies and programs in soil revitalisation to be based on rigorous scientific research, and the Soil and Land Conservation Council can provide the bedrock of knowledge to drive a real improvement in our soils and agricultural productivity.
"Over the next 18 months the Advisory Committee will develop recommendations on the modern functions for the Soil and Land Conservation Council while working on strategies to address soil health issues in WA."
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) soil scientist Tim Overheu will chair the advisory committee, while University of Western Australia research fellow associate professor Frances Hoyle will serve as deputy chairperson.
Meantime, DPIRD has marked World Soil Day by launching a new online tool to help landowners overcome soil constraints.
Developed by DPIRD with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) a preliminary version of the Ranking Options for Soil Amendments (ROSA) was unveiled at the World Soil Day forum today.
Project leader and economist Liz Petersen and her team have drawn from the department's 2016 economic analysis of the impacts and management of subsoil constraints report to develop the online decision making aid.
"ROSA is designed to help landowners get the biggest bang for their buck," Dr Petersen said.
"It can be difficult to prioritise activities to mitigate subsoil constraints as they are all interlinked and landholders may not get the full yield benefit from addressing one constraint, as the crop potential will be restricted by other constraints.
"ROSA enables the landholder or their consultant to compare the likely profit from a range of subsoil mitigation activities required on a particular soil type or zone and ranks the options and combination of options to provide the most cost effective investment."
Dr Petersen said users could make ROSA as simple or complex as required, as the input variables were all adjustable.
"Users can identify just one or several farm production zones on their property in the program which details the soil type, level of subsoil constraint, and observed and potential yields," she said.
"They can then compare the options for the production zones, as well as the short and long term yield responses.
"This could be useful to compare different strategies such as wetting agents which generally have a one-year yield impact, compared with amendments like soil mixing or claying, the benefits of which are sustained over 10 years or more."