Turning unproductive soil into profits

Preeti Roychand

La Trobe University
AgriBio Centre for AgriBioscience
Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Sandy soils in Western Australia are bad soils for growing plants due to their poor nutrients and water holding capacity (see an example in Figure 1). In general, these soils are water repellent, which leads to land degradation by increasing soil erosion risk and run-off rates. Nevertheless, these soils may be improved by clay addition, which leads to increase soil organic carbon content (Franzluebbers et al. 1996). Several ways have been used to increase soil organic carbon content in soils: i) no-tillage systems, ii) addition of bio char , iii) organic amendments or fertilizer addition and iv) switch to perennial plants. But there is another potential method for enhancing soil organic carbon storage in soils which has received little attention: mixing of isolated clay with sandy soils. Continue reading

Burning Australia

This is a MODIS image of Tasmania (Australia), showing smoke columns from several wildfires burning on 6 January. In recent months, Australia has suffered a severe heat wave and strong winds, which have favored the emergence of several fires.
NASA’s Terra satellite MODIS system (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) captured this image from Tasmania showing a number of wildfires across the island on January 6, 2013.On January 7, the temperature shot up, exceeding 40 ° C, which has not happened for over 30 years.

MODIS image of Tasmania (6 Jan 2013). Hot areas (wildfires) are marked with a red line. Source: NASA Earth Observatory (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov). Click to enlarge.

How can soil kill all the fish?

Vanessa Wong
Monash University, Victoria, Australia

When settlers first arrived in eastern Australia, the large expansive coastal floodplains appeared to have the fertile soils and reliable water sources for successful agriculture. However, the floodplains were often waterlogged and contained excess surface water which required drainage to allow for the expansion of rural settlements and year-round agriculture. Thousands of kilometres of drains and hundreds of floodgates were built, changing the coastal floodplains forever.

One of the many floodgates and drains on the coastal floodplains of eastern Australia. Note the iron staining and waterlilies (Nymphaea spp.), which are indicators of acidic water.

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Archaeology and soil science: Green Hills, Australia

Robert van de Graaff                                                                                                                     with input from David Rhodes of Heritage Insight 

Over the last two years there have been some interesting applications of soil science and geomorphology to help archaeologists with their search for sites that could contain many Aboriginal artefacts from Pre-Settlement times. The areas eastward from Berwick towards Pakenham are part of a corridor along the Princes Hwy rapidly changing land use making up another “Growth Area” of Greater Melbourne. It is Government policy that these lands be investigated for potential presence of Aboriginal artefacts before wholesale excavation and filling destroy the richest sites. Continue reading