Listen: Will Australia’s soils face a slow decline, or can we achieve an ambitious “outlook vision”?

In this public lecture Mike Grundy, leader of CSIRO’s Soil and Landscape Program, outlines two possible futures for Australia’s soil – the foundation of all food and fibre production.

Australia has entered turbulent times – where our past experience may not inform our future.

Recently, CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and business and community partners released an Australian Outlook that modelled plausible futures.

The focus has been on two contrasting scenarios: a slow decline and an ambitious “outlook vision”. In agriculture and land use, a business as usual approach to productivity and sustainability is compared to a more purposive whole-of-landscape emphasis on system repair and enhancement – and a promise of increased rural livelihoods.

Is our current system working? Optimism can be found but the trends are less convincing. Productivity has in general slowed, yield gaps abound and land degradation processes continue. Meanwhile our farmers manage an increasingly challenging system in which the (complex and poorly understood) soil is key. With business as usual, the slow decline scenario is easily imagined.

Read more: Save our soils: Why dirt matters on Pursuit, the University of Melbourne’s research news website.

In this special GW Leeper Lecture, hosted by Soil Science Australia (Victoria Branch) and the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, Mike Grundy, Research Director – Soil and Landscapes in the Agriculture and Food Business unit of CSIRO discusses the Outlook and steps towards a positive future for Australian soil health, productivity and sustainability.

You cans listen to his lecture below and download his slides.

A National Soil Outlook: the 2019 Leeper Lecture, by Mike Grundy

The optimism that underpins the ‘outlook vision’ assumes positive system change and new opportunities to take advantage of these changes. It assumes effective climate change mitigation and abatement; captures new markets with assured quality and sustainability; uses the increased capability of farm machinery to sense the interaction with soil and land on the farm; accesses the potential of the genetic revolution at finer scales and tracks provenance from our paddocks to their plates.

This vision imagines an enabling environment that includes abundant and less expensive energy, satellites with increased spatial and temporal resolution and a realisation of the broadband potential. What is an effective enabling setting for soil science?

This Lecture is part of the 2019 Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences Dean’s Lecture Series.