There are 6 sets of practical soils skills that are used in the Competition. Together, these skills help landholders to understand and improve their soils’ health and fertility, confidently and effectively. These skills are covered in the Soil Skills workshops and will also be the ones used on the Competition Day.
We believe that the 6 Sets of Soils Skills learnt during the Competition will be invaluable to landholders, helping to build on existing knowledge and empowering landholders to make effective and independent decisions about how to run a sustainable and profitable business based on healthy soils.
A comprehensive Soils Skills Manual will be available. This will be provided to participants via email before the first Soil Skills workshop or Host Organisations may provide participants with a printed copy at the first Soil Skills day.
Soils Skills Set # 1
The starting point for understanding the health of your soil is to collect soil samples from the paddocks you want to manage. It’s important to take a consistent approach to sampling soil so you can accurately monitor changes over time. There are some simple, but important, principles & methods for collecting soil samples. Because getting a baseline measure of your soils’ health is the first step in soil management, the first skill you’ll learn is how to Sample Soils successfully.
Soils Skills Set # 2
Assessing Soil Type
As landholders, you know that it’s critical to understand the type of soil(s) you have on your property. Soil type determines what’s possible agriculturally and dictates how to best manage different soils for optimal health. During the Soils Skills Training Workshops, you will learn how to assess soil type using both field and lab assessment techniques. You’ll get confident doing soil texture tests on samples from the field and you’ll practice interpreting & understanding the Cation Exchange Capacity data which appears on agronomic soil lab assessment reports.
Soils Skills Set # 3
Assessing Soil Health
Soil is healthy when its key physical, chemical and biological properties are in balance. Participants will learn a comprehensive set of skills for assessing soil health. The Soils Skills Training Workshops will take you through a total of 9 methods for assessing the overall health of your soils. You’ll look at ground cover, infiltration rates & aggregate stability as methods for assessing the physical health of your soil. To evaluate the chemical health of your soil you’ll look at pH, salinity & sodicity. And to evaluate the biological health of your soil you’ll learn how to evaluate root depth, root volume and the soil organisms in your soil.
Soils Skills Set # 4
Managing Soil Constraints
Soil constraints are situations when a soil is physically, chemically or biologically out of balance and its function is being limited. You’ll learn how to identify and manage soil constraints through a practical 3 step process: benchmarking soil properties, evaluating your soil against a benchmark and finally, taking action to improve your soils.
Soils Skills Set # 5
Assessing Soil Nutrients
The main way to assess soil nutrient levels & balance is with agricultural soil tests. Nutrient deficiencies & imbalances in soils can also be revealed by observable symptoms in plants & animals. Through the Soils Skills Training Workshops you will get a chance to learn more about these methods for assessing soil nutrients.
Soils Skill Set # 6
Managing Soil Nutrients
There is an almost endless list of products that landholders can be sold to improve nutrient levels in their soils. But to make informed, economical choices, it’s vital to understand what you do and don’t need to add to you soil and how to best achieve improved nutrient fertility. In this final Soils Skills Set, you will learn how to identify relevant benchmarks for soil nutrients, how to evaluate your soils’ against nutrient benchmarks and make decisions based on these results.