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Sustainable soils for future farming generations

From tilling by hand and horsepower, to now, the practices of farming families across the world have seen a gradual evolution of technological advancement and knowledge growth. 

Through the successes and failures experienced by each generation of Australian farmers, the need for fallowing ground and conserving subsoil nutrients has been the fundamental driver behind each season’s cropping decisions.

Poor rainfall, early frosts, climate change and the roll of the dice decisions around planting times, have all contributed to the ongoing battles faced by farmers who invest their lives into providing for the families and industries of today.

USQ is leading the way with world-first advances in soil structural stability research.
Dr John Bennett (right) and PhD student Stirling Robertson's (left) research will deliver results for sustainability in Queensland and beyond.

USQ’s Sustainable Soils and Landscapes Theme (SSLT) acknowledges the uncertainty faced by farmers and works with organisations and the people on the ground, to develop conservation and soil-management modernisation solutions, in rural and rehabilitated landscapes. The SSLT is implementing a number of research projects in the agricultural sector across a broad range of key interests.

Combining sensing and robotic technologies and soil-plant-climate system models, USQ researchers are cultivating real-world solutions through their state of the art laboratory techniques and ‘boots on the ground’ field studies. 

These researched solutions are now being applied globally and in the most agriculturally productive regions of Australia to achieve greater yield per field.

Bringing together the practical experience of cattle grazing experts, the advice of independent agricultural services and the passion for environmental sustainability, USQ researchers are working with New Hope Group to deliver a five year research project, the Acland Cattle Grazing Trials, to determine the success of mined land rehabilitation.

Australians ate around 25.4kg of beef per person in 2015-16.

The scientific strengths in soil chemical analysis, pasture indicators and livestock monitoring and productivity offered by USQ, is assisting the New Acland coal mine implement land rehabilitation practices for a viable and sustainable future.

The Acland Cattle Grazing Trials project won a 2016 Australian Business Award for Sustainability and has so far shown that four years into the project, pastures on rehabilitated land are supporting cattle production on a similar scale to unmined land.

Aiming to reclaim mined land

The Australian cattle industry had a gross value of $14.3 billion in 2015/2016, and research like this will have tangible benefits to the 58% of the agricultural industry impacted by cattle (ABARES Agricultural Commodities June 2016).

USQ hopes that by working collaboratively with industries and stakeholders, the wider mining industry will benefit from the results of this project and can implement the recommended practices to successfully reclaim mined land back to grazing pasture.

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