Talking dirt at school

For senior students at Cleve Area School, on South Australia"s Eyre Peninsula, soil took on a whole new meaning this year. While implementing the "Your Soil"s Potential" program to local grower groups, Cleve-based Rural Solutions SA consultant Linden Masters saw another avenue for increasing the profile of soil issues locally.

As the agricultural education manager at Cleve Area School, he introduced the Year 11 and 12 Agricultural Studies students to the same program, giving them the opportunity to learn about something that was also happening on many of their own farms.

Erica Hancock, service development consultant in field crops to Rural Solutions SA, who oversees the statewide delivery of the "Your Soil"s Potential" program, said the students loved the hands-on aspect. "It wasn"t just a subject out of a textbook and they could go home and share the information with their parents and increase their knowledge of the importance of their soil," she says.

Cleve Area School students come from a wide radius including Kangaroo Island, Mid North and Eyre Peninsula.

Using data collected on 15 local farms, students were able to examine and discuss actual subsoil constraints. Real examples closely linked classroom theory to practical application. Students were shown how to interpret soil tests, with the chemistry behind cation exchange and electrical conductivity being keys in examining transient salinity and sodic subsoils.

"We are dealing with the next generation of farmers and, as a result of this program, they can leave school with a better understanding of one of the most crucial aspects of successful crop management," says Ms Hancock.