Soil health

With about 81% of the Glenelg Hopkins catchment used for primary production, healthy soils are critical to the region’s future prosperity and are fundamental to increased production of agricultural commodities and the sustainability of farming communities. As an agricultural landscape, most soils are managed by farmers, making them best placed to make, and implement, decisions to improve and protect soil.

Soil takes a long time to form1 and is a mix of sand, silt, clay and organic matter. Soil health can be defined as2:

“the condition of the soil in relation to its inherent or potential capability, to sustain biological productivity, maintain environmental quality, and promote plant and animal health “Soil Health for Victoria’s Agriculture, 2007

Healthy soils provide a range of ecosystem services that “maintain fertility by cycling nutrients and decomposing wastes, provide a habitat for a vast array of organisms and support terrestrial ecosystems that are responsible for providing clean air and water as well as a regulated climate”3. In addition, terrestrial habitats, supported by healthy soil, play an important role in maintaining microclimates – a key factor affecting the distribution of many species and lowering water tables4.

Specific processes that have been identified for priority attention at a regional level include:

  • Soil acidification.
  • Inadequate groundcover in erosion susceptible areas.
  • Sodic soils that are prone to water erosion and are highly erosive.
  • Movement of sediment and nutrient into rivers, lakes and estuaries.
  • Soil contaminants, such as salt and acids.
  • Soil structure decline.
  • Improving knowledge and understanding of the distribution of coastal acid sulphate soils.