Biological dust busters

DUST storms, such as the one that shrouded Qld, NSW and SA last week, can be avoided in the future through biological farming systems that return soil structures to what they were before European settlement - according to a leading soil scientist.

Adrian Lawrie, Managing Director of LawrieCo who has a team of soil scientists providing Biological Farming Systems, says the key to better soil structure is building Soil Organic Carbon (SOC).

“Soil organic carbon is the key because it provides a habitat for the microbial life in the field,” Mr Lawrie explained. “Microbes are important because they produce the 'glue' that binds soil and combats wind erosion,” he said.

CSIRO studies show that over the past 70 years, SOC levels that once stood at three to four per cent in average soils have dropped below one per cent.

“This decline has had a dramatic effect on soil erosion and the water infiltration rates, and holding capacity of those soils,” Mr Lawrie said.

Biological farming can reverse that trend.

“Biological farming would promote soil organic carbon, improve soil structure and water holding capacity, ensuring sustainability and fewer dust storms,” Mr Lawrie explained.

Improvements in soil structure can be seen between one to two years by integrating some biological aspects of management alongside more traditional farming practices.

Mr Lawrie also says that biological soil systems will also help combat global warming.

“These changes in the soil increase the amount of carbon sequestered which could balance a very large part of Australia's total CO2 emissions,” he said.

“Theoretically, the 25 million hectares of cropping regions in Australia could sequester over 300M tonnes of CO2 each year, which is 50 per cent of Australia's total annual emissions.”

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