Future proofing the soils of southern and central NSW from acidification and soil organic carbon decline (FutureSOILS NLP)
The project aims to protect and improve the subsurface soil layers (5-20 cm) within southern and central NSW NRM regions grown under dryland cropping and modified pasture systems, of which >50% of soil is acidic. The successful completion of this project will have a direct positive impact on the crop (cereal/oilseed/pulse), sheep (meat/wool), beef industry and pasture productivity.
Description and background
Soil acidity and declining Soil Organic Carbon affects over half of agricultural soils in southern and central NSW and threatens the viability and resilience of farming systems. Current acid soil management practices are based on outdated models that are failing to prevent the widespread development of subsurface acidity in contemporary cropping and pasture systems. This urgently needed project brings together an expert team from three farming system groups (grower engagement/extension), the NSW DPI (agronomy/soil science) and ANU (computer modelling/visualisation) to develop a new, accurate acidification model using innovative machine learning methods. Model outputs will be used to develop a free online decision support system and API protocols for integration with existing digital platforms. These tools will provide updated liming recommendations and interactive scenario forecasting which will ultimately result in more sustainable soil management and productive farming enterprises. The tool will enable growers and advisers to input paddock locations, target pH, soil parameters, rotation and management actions to receive customised liming and management recommendations.
CWFS has two sites, one plot trial at the Condobolin Research Station and the other, a paddock scale trial, at Trundle. The small plot site at Condobolin has three treatments, a once off application of lime at 3 t/ha incorporated with offset discs, a yearly application of 80 kg/ha prilled lime down the tube at sowing and a control of nil lime. The paddock scale site at Trundle has six treatments, looking at two liming strategies; lime applied to lift the soil pH to 5 (CaCl) in the 0-10 cm soil depth, lime applied to lift the soil pH to 5.5 (CaCl) 0-10 cm soil depth, lime applied to lift the soil pH to 5.5 (CaCl) in the 0-5 cm soil depth, lime applied to lift the soil pH to 5.5 (CaCl) in the 0-10 cm soil depth incorporated with a speed tiller, control cultivated with a speed tiller and control no lime or cultivation. Both were sown into good moisture and are looking promising. Updates will be posted through the normal channels.
This project is a partnership between NSW DPI, the Australian National University’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology and School of Computing, Central West Farming Systems, Farmlink, Holbrook Landcare Network and Incitec Pivot Limited. Three farmers across the region have also been involved in this.
The project funded by the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program to improve on-farm management of acid soils and to increase soil organic carbon (SOC). NLP Project Code: 4-CS70YJ8