Seeing the soil through farmers' eyes

Farmers using their Soil Health Score Card to check on the state of their soil will be using a scientific tool they helped to design.

The card does not yet exist, but will become available as a result of work supported by growers through the GRDC.

Project scientists are turning back to farmers for their knowledge of the soil and their ideas on soil health.

Lisa Lobry de Bruyn and Carol Quilkey of the University of New England's Division of Ecosystem Management are talking to northern NSW wheat farmers to harness this expertise before designing paddock soil monitoring kits.

"All too often I hear from farmers that they have difficulty accessing information on how to manage their soil," Dr Lobry de Bruyn said. "At the moment, few practical guides exist."

The researchers will survey 100 farmers. "We want to understand as much as we can about how farmers recognise, measure and define soil condition or soil health."

In an earlier pilot study, Lisa Lobry de Bruyn found farmers often defined soil health in terms of plant health and growth, and the balance of air and water. Of 19 characteristics used to recognise healthy soil, a small group of Western Australian farmers considered texture, colour and soil structure the three most important. To measure soil health, the same group gave top preference to soil tests, texture and digging holes.

Program 3.1.1

Contact: Dr Lisa Lobry de Bruyn 02 6773 3119

or Ms Carol Quilkey 02 6773 5226