The grain producing agricultural zone of Western Australia is located in the south-west of Australia. The majority of soils in this region are relatively low in clay and soil organic matter. Consequently their inherent soil quality is naturally low. Sustainable management of the soil resource is therefore essential to the continued viability of the Western Australian agricultural industry.
Climate in south-western Australia is Mediterranean, with hot dry summers and agriculture relying heavily on winter rain. Dry-land cereal cropping, mixed with sheep and beef farming is predominant in the northern, central, great southern and south eastern agricultural regions. Higher winter rainfall and sufficient ground water supplies in the South-West region allows irrigation of pastures for dairy and beef, fruit, and vineyards for both table and wine grapes. Forestry has also been a major industry in the past.
Our objective for soil quality monitoring in Western Australia has been to (i) identify factors that limit the capacity of a soil to enhance plant growth for increased production and (ii) ensure through monitoring, that changes to management practices designed to increase production do not cause a longer-term detrimental effect on the soil resource.