Such is the inescapable presence of soil, upon which we walk, drive, plough, harvest, that it's existence is too often taken for granted.
Soil has been too long seen as an inexhaustible resource fit for immediate profit without the urgency to consider it is a living organism which needs to be carefully husbanded for future generations.
Soil is the essential support of our food systems, and it's fundamental existence is being recognised on December 5 with World Soil Day.
"Soil is the foundation of every farm, it is the basis for the production of all of our agricultural systems," says Dr Sara Hely.
"Anything that grows needs soil, and that soil needs to be healthy if plants, animals and families are to be healthy.
"Soil health is the foundation of prosperity for every farming family and ultimately every community."
Dr Hely is the chief operating officer of Riverine Plains Inc, an independent farming systems group specialising in farmer-driven research and extension across north-east Victoria and southern NSW.
"This World Soil Day, we want to shine a spotlight on soil management across southern NSW, and this project is just one example of the work we are doing to help farmers sustainably manage this vital asset," Dr Hely said.
"Farmers have to be planning for the unpredictability of future climate and if they understand their soils better, it has a flow-on effect for many years which will enable them to make decisions to alleviate the impact of future droughts or floods.
"It is the mindset we need to have our farmers thinking about their soils."
Riverine Plains aims to help farmers improve their drought resilience through a significant project that is taking research from small plot trials and scaling that up to test on farms across Southern NSW.
Dr Hely said it was a unique project which emphasised the critical role of soil management in ensuring sustainable farming practices.
"For the past 10 years, we have been working with scientists and farmers to develop a deeper understanding of the variability and fragility of our soils," she said.
"It is not often that scientists and farmers stand side by side in a paddock and agree with what is happening on a commercial farm, but we have been able to achieve that through the various demonstration trials we have across the south."
Some of the biggest soil management challenges farmers face in the region is maintaining moisture, carbon and nutrients in their soil, and Dr Hely explained the unique project is looking to address these challenges and is focused on strategies to manage soil and available water to ensure farmers are better able to cope with drought.
"Droughts are unpredictable in their timing and duration, and this project focuses on increased plant diversity, early sowing and nitrogen-banking as key strategies that can help farming businesses manage drought, compared with conventional farming practices," Dr Hely said.
"Previous small-scale field trials in NSW have identified three strategies to increase profitability and productivity by increasing soil moisture and the prevention of carbon and nutrient loss under drought conditions."
This project, "Improved drought resilience through optimal management of soil and water", which was supported through funding from the Australian Government's Future Drought Fund Drought Resilient Soils and Landscapes Grants Program and co-funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, was the first collaboration between Riverine Plains, Farming Systems Group Alliance, CSIRO and the NSW Department of Primary Industries that integrates both the adoption and the validation of research at the farm level.
CSIRO chief research scientist, Dr John Kirkegaard, said his vision was to create a linked project such as this, and to establish local trials in collaboration with local farming systems groups so management strategies tried and tested by researchers could be validated on-farm with growers and advisers.
"This project represents an opportunity in farming systems research to learn directly from the experiences of farmers, leading to much boarder and effective adoption of this research for a more sustainable grains industry in the long-term," Dr Kirkegaard said.
Results from the trials will be shared with growers at field days, online, through the Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs, and other agencies.
The project also includes farming groups FarmLink Research, Central West Farming Systems, and Southern Growers and is being used to demonstrate to growers what was working, Dr Hely said.
- Visit: www.riverineplains.org.auamp;source=gmail&ust=1700784727016000&usg=AOvVaw3PlMkNC5GyUyklWqgtv-kJ" www.riverineplains.org.au