National Soils Advocate urges protection of Australia's soil

National Soils Advocate urges protection of Australia's soil

Domestic Policy National Soils Advocate
Thursday, 05 December 2019

National Soils Advocate

Major General Michael Jeffery, AC AO (MIL) CVO MC (RETD)

Protecting, restoring and maintaining the health of Australia’s agricultural landscape has today been highlighted on the United Nations’ World Soil Day.

World Soil Day, held annually on 5 December, raises the profile of healthy soil by encouraging governments, organisations, communities and individuals to undertake activities that support soil health and sustainable management of soil resources.

Australia’s National Soils Advocate, Major General Michael Jeffery said, “The growing global population is increasing demand for food, placing ever more pressure on the environment.

“Elevating the health of Australia’s landscape is vital. A healthier and more productive agricultural landscape can be sustained by integrated management of our soil, water, vegetation and animals.”

This is best achieved by:

  • Improving soil health through increasing soil carbon and maintaining good soil structure
  • Maximising infiltration and water holding capacity of soils
  • Encouraging vegetation in the right places on a catchment scale
  • Managing total grazing pressure from domestic, native and feral animals.

On 18 July 2019, the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, announced the re-appointment of Major General Michael Jeffrey as Australia’s National Soils Advocate to provide advice on the Government’s objective to improve the health of Australia’s landscape, guarantee our nation’s food security and support sustainable farming communities.

“Australians have a deep, ancient connection to our land, founded on our First Nations’ kinship to Country,” Major General Jeffery said.

“From the red earth of Uluru, to the rich black soil of NSW’s Liverpool Plains, and the gold flecked fields of Victoria’s Ballarat, our lands hold many stories.

“But our weathered soils are low in nutrients and depleted of organic carbon. Drought, some European farming techniques and changing weather patterns have compromised our soil. It can take thousands of years to produce just 2-3cm of soil. I acknowledge those farmers and agricultural communities that have made changes to help to mitigate soil erosion, and the important role this plays in the long-term resilience of agriculture, including during drought. I urge our agricultural communities to continue adopting approaches that support the long term health of our soil.”

  • Planting and maintaining trees, grass and shrubs: Plant roots hold the soil together, while their leaves soften rain and stop soil breaking apart. Anchored vegetation that covers the soil year round is best, whether in a broad acre paddock or an urban garden.
  • Adding mulch: Covering soil assists in protecting it and the seeds and young plants underneath from washing or blowing away. This includes retention of crop stubbles.
  • Maintaining soil structure: Well-structured soil will improve rainfall infiltration and reduce erosion.
  • Installing contour banks: Sloping land contour banks slow surface water flow and enable infiltration, minimising water erosion.
  • Planting wind breaks: As wind breaks at right angles, planting evergreen trees lessens the wind force, protecting soil and plants from damage.

“The beauty of Australia’s landscape is renowned the world over, immortalised in song, poetry and folk-lore,” Major General Jeffery said.

“Today on World Soil Day, I ask all Australians to do their part to protect our landscape, ensuring its survival for future generations.”

More information about the work of the National Soils Advocate, Major General Michael Jeffery, can be found here.