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Title: Establishing Farmers' Understanding of Soil Health for the Future Development of 'User-Friendly' Soil Monitoring Packages
Contributor(s): Lobry De Bruyn, Lisa  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2001
DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-2033-5_12
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Abstract: The main purpose of examining farmers' understanding of soil health is to incorporate this understanding into monitoring packages on land condition. The findings of this project will allow farmers to develop a soil health checklist which is commensurate with their understanding of soil health - its definition, recognition and measurement. By developing a soil health checklist with farmers the research process acknowledged the importance of local conditions, including farmers' existing knowledge about soils. The examination of farmers' understanding of soil health was conducted in the north west cropping region of New South Wales, Australia. The project took a qualitative research approach and employed several techniques (interviews, soil testing and focus group discussions) to acquire and validate farmers' understanding of soil health. This paper reports on some preliminary results, focussing on farmers' soil health checklists - the features they use, how they recognise those features, especially the language they use to describe a healthy and unhealthy soil, and finally the techniques they use to measure those features. The most spoken about features farmers used to identify soil health were plant growth and soil feel. Other properties which were consistently mentioned by farmers in relation to identifying soil health were organic matter, plant roots and soil life. Interestingly, farmers in workshops then dismissed some features, such as weeds, which had been mentioned frequently by farmers in interviews as being more related to identifying a soil type than the health of a soil. Ways of measuring or determining the health of a soil were informal and related closely to observation skills, but are usually carried out while conducting other farming operations. Nearly all farmers were unaware of any formal soil monitoring packages. To encourage and motivate farmers to monitor soil health will require the development of a package or soil health checklist which allows for adaptation to local conditions and soil types, provides a model or protocol for interpretation, and is disseminated to farmers by people from whom they regularly seek advice.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Land degradation : papers selected from contributions to the sixth Meeting of the International Geographical Union's Commission on Land Degradation and Desertification, Perth, Western Australia, 20-28 September 1999, v.58, p. 187-206
Publisher: Springer Netherlands
Place of Publication: The Netherlands
ISBN: 9789401720335
Field of Research (FOR): 050206 Environmental Monitoring
050302 Land Capability and Soil Degradation
160804 Rural Sociology
Socio-Economic Outcome Codes: 961402 Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Soils
970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences
960904 Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Land Management
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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Series Name: The GeoJournal Library
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Appears in Collections:Book Chapter
School of Environmental and Rural Science

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