The six characteristics of healthy soils

GroundCover Live and online, stay up to date with daily grains industry news online, click here to read more

Soil health refers to the condition of the soil and its potential to sustain biological functioning, maintain environmental quality, and promote plant and animal health.

The resistance of a soil refers to its capacity to retain function during stress or disturbance, while its resilience refers to how quickly it recovers after stress or disturbance.

1. The level of soil organic matter is maintained

  • Functionality maintained (substrate, role in soil structure, ground cover)
  • Net carbon sequestration
  • Soil organic matter level matching land use and soil texture

2. Soil fertility is optimised

  • Nutrient additions at least match removals and losses
  • Fertility is adequate for land use
  • Nutrient storage capacity is maintained
  • Minimise nutrient loss off-site

3. Optimised water entry, storage and supply

  • Water infiltration, permeability and storage maximised to meet land-use needs
  • Drainage is minimised where there is risk of dryland salinity or acidification
  • No constraints to water use (supply function)

4. Enhanced soil biological function

  • Resilient and diverse biological community (self-regulating)
  • Biota undertake key functions, such as nutrient recycling
  • Optimal biological functioning (efficient, beneficial, dynamic)
  • Absence of disease expression

5. Supports productive land uses

  • Supports plant growth/land use requirements
  • Maintains resource condition and ecosystem services

6. Enhances environmental and community health and well-being

  • Healthy soils = healthy food = healthy people
  • Profitable while conserving soil resource and reducing environmental impact
  • Fit for purpose

Region National, North, South, West