New soil conservation guidelines for Queensland

Soil feeds, clothes, and houses us, cleanses the water we drink and the air that we breathe, protects and nurtures native plants and animals, and creates the landscapes that we love. In this, the International Year of Soil, we are reminded that all life depends on this thin outermost layer—or skin—of the earth.

Just like our own skin the important contribution that soil makes is frequently overlooked. It takes hundreds of years to form just one centimetre of soil—and yet that same centimetre of soil can be lost in a matter of minutes in a single short wind or water erosion event. Here in Queensland we need to be particularly vigilant to prevent erosion. Intense (and at times prolonged) rain events are a feature of our climate and many of our soils have characteristics that make them particularly vulnerable to erosion especially when they have lost protective vegetation cover and/or surface structure.

In the past we haven’t always practiced this vigilance and as Queenslanders we continue to pay the price for these past mistakes in lost agricultural production potential, increased expense to treat water, damage to infrastructure (such as roads and bridges), and loss of biodiversity. In this respect, the release of updated Soil Conservation Guidelines for Queensland (available online for no cost at is an important milestone. The Guidelines bring together decades of research and practical experience in Queensland’s soils and their management to provide a wealth of information to help farmers and graziers, and those who advise them (such as agronomists and agency extension officers), to prevent soil degradation (in particular water based erosion) and to remediate degraded areas.

This is the third edition of soil conservation guidelines for Queensland—the first was published as long ago as 1966. With each succeeding edition the information contained has become more extensive and comprehensive reflecting growth in our knowledge of soils and how to conserve them. This edition in particular represents a significant expansion from the previous, with new information about stream and gully erosion and on management of floodplains, property infrastructure and horticulture. This edition of Soil Conservation Guidelines for Queensland is dedicated to our dear friend and respected colleague Bruce Carey who recently passed away. Bruce will have been known to many on the land. Motivating and educating people about soil and the need to conserve it was more than a job for Bruce—it was his life-long passion.

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