Tag Archives: soil

Debate @ the Waite in the City … on soils

“Australian soils are more fertile now than they’ve ever been”

Our understanding of the soil has changed dramatically over the last 150 years, from ‘ground-up rock’ to a dynamic, living ecosystem.

Soils contribute significantly to Australia’s food and fibre production, worth $23.6 billion, in 2009-2010, as well as supporting the economic growth of rural and regional communities. An estimated 63% of the Australian landscape is managed under agriculture or forestry. Food production on Australian soils provides 93%of our domestic food supply and feeds another 40 million people outside Australia every day.

Soil fertility refers to the physical, chemical and biological attributes of the soil which affect the availability of nutrients for plants to use. Soil fertility is lost when more nutrients leave the soil than are added to it, as well as through processes such as erosion and salinity. The impact of European land use on Australian soils was extreme, with severe erosion, organic matter loss and nutrient depletion commonplace across large areas.

We now know that the way we’ve managed our fragile Australian soils in the past was unsustainable at best, and at worst, caused permanent infertility and lost production potential. However, with increasing knowledge we have improved our farming practices to maintain, and in some areas increase soil fertility. For instance, conventional cultivation, where ploughing the soil is the main method of managing crop residue and controlling weeds, was reduced to 1.4% of the area used to grow crops in 2011.

So have we learned to manage our soils sustainably? Or did we learn the lesson too late and have permanently limited our productivity?

In this debate, moderated by Dr Paul Willis, Director of the RiAus, we will explore these issues as six experts in two teams argue for your vote.

Team for the Affirmative
Associate Professor Ann McNeill
Soils Research Group, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide
Dr Nigel Wilhelm
Research Leader, Farming Systems, SARDI
Professor Rob Fitzpatrick
Professorial Research Fellow & Director, Acid Sulfate Soil Centre, The University of Adelaide

Team for the Negative
Dr Patrick O’Connor
Visiting Research Fellow, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide
Dr Ashlea Doolette
Research Fellow, Soils Research Group, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide
Mr Richard MacEwan
Senior Research Scientist, Department of Environment & Primary Industries, Victoria

When: Thursday 11 July, 2013 6.00 – 8.30pm
Where: RiAus, The Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide. Finger food provided and cash bar available

Admission is free, but prior registration is essential as seats are strictly limited.
Live-streaming of the event will be available from 6.30 pm CST.
To follow the debate on Twitter use #agchatoz and follow @waiteresearch and @RiAus

Phosphorus in Agriculture workshop

The Australasian Soil and Plant Analysis Council and the Australian Society of Soil Science Inc are presenting a ‘Phosphorus in Agriculture’ workshop at the Waite Campus on Thursday, 20th of September.

The need for efficient use of phosphorus (P) in agricultural systems has been highlighted recently due to concerns about the finite nature of P fertiliser resources and the likelihood of increasing agricultural production costs due to rising fertiliser prices. At the other end of the spectrum there are environmental concerns associated with P-induced eutrophication of waterways, where run-off from P fertilisers, both organic and inorganic, is an issue.

The phosphorus cycle is complex with multiple chemical and biological functions working together to enable the soil to sustain crop and pasture P nutrition. In addition, the variability of soil types within Australian agricultural systems provides significant challenges for sound agronomic P management advice. This workshop brings together leading researchers and advisers to consider and discuss best-practice strategies that will address the requirement for improving P utilisation in agricultural systems to maximise economic outcomes and minimise detrimental effects on the environment.

Speakers include
•    Alan Richardson (CSIRO), Rob Norton (IPNRI), Ron Smernik, Sean Mason, Fien Degreyse, Maria Manjarrez (University of Adelaide), Phil Barnett (APAL), Roger Armstrong (DPI, Vic), Bill Long (Ag Consulting) and Therese McBeath (CSIRO)
Covering a range of topics, including
•    P uptake by plants and mycorrhiza; fertilizer design, supply and use efficiency; quality control and analysis of soil P; organic P in soil.

For more information go to the Australian Society of Soil Science SA Branch website.

To register click here.

Closing date for registrations: 14th of September

When: Thursday September 20th, 2012, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Where: Charles Hawker Conference Centre, Charles Hawker Building room 107, University of Adelaide, Waite Campus, Waite Road Urrbrae

Current financial member of ASSSI – $55
Current financial member of ASPAC – $55
Not a financial member of ASPAC or ASSSI – $110
Student – $44

Price includes tea/coffee, lunch and finger food at Lirra Lirra after the meeting

Distinguished visitor Seminar – Podcast

Prof Ulrich Zimmermann

How do plants take up water in a drying climate?Listen to Emeritus Professor Ulrich Zimmermann’s talk which was given at the Distinguished visitor Seminar on the 22st February, 2011.

The traditional paradigm of how plants take up water from the soil and transport it to the leaves is that water is pulled exclusively by transpiration-induced negative pressure gradients through continuous water columns. Water under negative pressure is in a metastable state. Cavitation is therefore a frequent event and can be catastrophic to water transport during drought. I will show how plants use other forces (such as gel-supported and interfacial forces) in order to overcome drought-induced interruption of the water columns. Evidence for this comes from non-invasive and minimally invasive techniques, such as NMR imaging, xylem probe and cell turgor probe, applied to crop and (fruit) trees. NMR imaging and non-invasive probes have also provided evidence that moisture uptake from the atmosphere by mucilage-containing epistomatal plugs plays an important role in the water supply of leaves of crop (such as grapevine and tomato), but also of 60-m tall trees. The results challenge our current view about the mechanism of water transport in plants and have paved the way for the development of new tools for online monitoring the water supply of crop under field conditions.

Short Speaker Biography

Currently, Emeritus Professor Ulrich Zimmermann is Senior Professor at the Biocenter of the University of Würzburg and chair of the scientific advisory board of ZIM Plant Technology. He was Head of the Membrane Research Group at the Research Center Jülich, Germany (1969-1984), and from 1984 – 2009 led the Department of Biotechnology at the University of Würzburg, Germany. The main focus of his research includes water transport and salt tolerance of plants and development of irrigation systems, biophysics of membrane transport, electromanipulation of cells and organelles, and turgor-mediated processes in algae and higher plants. He has authored c. 500 publications and more than 120 patents. Some of his most important inventions, which are used worldwide, include the plant cell turgor probe, xylem pressure probe and the magnetic, non-invasive probe for measuring turgor in leafy plants.