Grains Research and Development

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Monitoring soil quality for better decision making

Soil biology under the microscope

Theme 1: Monitoring soil quality for better decision making

Linking soil biology to measurable economic benefits on-farm is perhaps the largest barrier to adoption by growers and advisers.

Growers need monitoring tools that directly measure soil biology (or provide a reasonable surrogate measure) so they know they are heading in the right direction with their systems and practices.

These measures need to be regionally relevant and able to be related to crop performance measures. Theme 1 is focused on delivering these tangible resources.

Theme 1 projects include:

• A national soil quality monitoring framework (GRDC project code UWA00138)
• Monitoring soil biology with high resolution genomic technologies (DAV00102)
• DNA tests for nematode community analysis (DAS000111 SARDI)
• Molecular indicators for soil quality (UWA00142)

 

Related Articles

Molecular indicators of soil quality (Ground Cover Issue 96 Supplement)
A single gram of soil can contain thousands of millions of individual organisms. Until recently only simple measures, such as soil microbial biomass, have been available to quantify the impact of farming practices on soil biology. However, these measures could only show changes to the total size of the community.

You can discover your soil's biology (Ground Cover Issue 96 Supplement)
A high-quality soil has biological, chemical and physical properties that promote the health of native and farmed plants and animals, and humans. While growers usually have some knowledge of the physical and chemical properties of their soil, little is generally known about the biological component.

Health tests to be clearer (Ground Cover Issue 96 Supplement)
DNA tests already exist for the ‘bad guys’, the plant parasitic nematodes such as root lesion nematodes. However, in a healthy soil, it will be the ‘good guys’, the free-living, non-parasitic nematodes that predominate. Of these free-living nematodes there will be a good balance between bacterial and fungal-feeding nematodes, and reasonable numbers of omnivorous and predatory nematodes. These free-living nematodes provide a wealth of information on the soil’s biological status and can be useful indicators of soil health.

 

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