Scientists, students, local government and industry representatives gathered at Lincoln University last week to celebrate the International Year of Soils at a workshop that focussed on the profound importance of soils globally and to New Zealand.
The New Zealand Society of Soil Science organised the workshop with the intention of bringing together Lincoln Hub partners, members of other local research institutions, industry bodies and regulatory authorities to talk about the management and protection of soil resources in New Zealand, where the growing intensity of farming is making soil-related issues more urgent.
Summing up the day’s talks, Dr David Whitehead of Landcare Research said the workshop was an example of “smarter science”, connecting across disciplines and sharing resources to find solutions to common problems. Dr Whitehead emphasised the importance of collaboration in the context of global climate change, saying innovation is required to transform agricultural systems and lower the environmental footprint of agriculture without losing productivity.
“New Zealand’s livelihood and economy relies on the land. We need to keep doing research on soils. We need knowledge and good management to maintain our agricultural systems and be sustainable.”
The diverse range of presentations at the workshop, covering irrigation, soil borne diseases, cultivation, grazing, plant-soil interactions, technology, dairy farming, nutrient loss and greenhouse gas emissions, illustrated the crucial role soil plays in every area of life and the need for cooperation to effect change.
Plant and Food Research’s Dr Trish Fraser is a member of the Society of Soil Science and helped organise the event. “We wanted to organise the day to not only raise the importance of soil, but also for local researchers in the vicinity of the Lincoln Hub to become more aware of each others’ current activities in soil research, for the students to get a snapshot of the research activities going on in the locality, and also for any other interested members of the local community to come along and learn about soil.”
A number of Lincoln PhD students are actively involved in soil-related research and presented their research findings at the workshop. Roshean Woods is looking into how plants can help reduce nitrogen loss from farms, while Gustavo Boitt is researching the nature and distribution of soil phosphorus under irrigated grazed pasture.
The International Year of Soils 2015, and the annual World Soil Day on 5 December, aim to raise awareness of the importance of soils for food security,