Soil Indicators and their use by farmers in the Billabong Catchment, southern New South Wales

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'Soil health' programs and projects in Australia's agricultural districts are designed to influence farmers'management behaviours, usually to produce better outcomes for production, conservation, and sustainability. These programs usually examine soil management practices from a soil science perspective, but how soils are understood by farmers, and how that understanding informs their farm management decisions, is poorly documented. The research presented in this paper sought to better understand how dryland farmers in the Billabong catchment of southern New South Wales use soil indicators to inform their management decisions. Thematic content analysis of transcripts of semi structured,face-to-face interviews with farmers suggest several themes that have implications for soil scientists and othe professionals wishing to promote soil health in the dryland farming regions of south-eastern Australia. In particular, all soil indicators, including those related to soil 'health', need to relate to some clear, practical use to farmers if they are to be used in farm decision making. This research highlights a reliance of the participants of this research on agronomists. Reliance on agronomists for soil management decisions may result in increasing loss of connectivity between farmers and their land. If this reflects a wider trend, soil health projects may need to consider where best to direct their capacity-building activities,and/or how to re-empower individual farmers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-242
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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