September 11, 2009, Newsletter Issue #323: Soils

Tip of the Week

Soils: All types of soils are found in varying quantities throughout the continent. Although more than 40 percent of the land consists of desert and sandy plains, suitable in places only for light grazing of sheep, soil resources are a significant factor in the Australian economy. Traditionally, the base of Australia´s exports has been supplied by those who farm and graze the land, although the proportion of foreign earnings from farming has declined in recent years.Phosphate additives have been used extensively as soil fertilizers for many years; large areas of marginal land have been made more productive by the use of trace elements, such as zinc, copper, and manganese, and some new lands have been opened up to production. Criticism of the accumulating side effects of soil additives increased during the 1970s and 1980s, when it was demonstrated that soil acidification was affecting vast areas. During the same period, water runoff from fertilized soils was linked with periodic outbreaks of toxic blue-green algal blooms in the Murray-Darling Basin. Elsewhere, wind erosion in the semiarid pastoral and agricultural regions and water erosion in the wetter, deforested southeastern regions pose major problems. A local movement called Landcare won significant government support to address these problems. The ecological and economic threats to the soil and water are being countered by a wide range of technical and educational programs.

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