[ASC-media] Media release: scientists meet on soils crisis

Science Media jca-media at starclass.com.au
Wed Jul 9 05:37:32 EST 2003



July 9, 2003


Leading international scientists meet in Australia next week to hammer out solutions to a growing crisis affecting the soils that produce most of the world's food.

Heavy modern farming equipment is causing widespread damage to soils, leading to water loss, increased risk of floods, pollution of waterways, poorer crop yields and global warming, the researchers warn.

But revolutionary Australian-developed technology which can cut the damage by up to 85 per cent may hold the answer, says the University of Queensland's Dr Jeff Tullberg.

The technology, known as "controlled traffic farming", sharply reduces the area of soil damaged by massive equipment - and is now being taken up by hundreds of Australian farmers.

"As populations and cities expand, the world is literally running out of good soils on which to grow food - so we need to look after what we have with extraordinary care," says Dr Tullberg, president of ISTRO, the International Soil Tillage Research Organisation.

"The wheel has been a great human invention for 5000 years - but 5 tonne wheel pressures also compress and damage the soil.

This causes greater water runoff leading to flooding, pollution by pesticides and fertilisers, and the loss of soil, water and crop yield. It even has implications for global warming.

"Now, using controlled traffic, we are restricting the wheels to just 15 per cent of the area of land used for cultivation, so the 85 per cent remains healthy and undamaged."

The Australian-developed technology will be showcased when the world's leading soil researchers meet at the University of Queensland, St Lucia, from July 14-18, 2003.

"Australian companies like Beeline Technologies are leading the world in the development of high-precision satellite guidance of field equipment. This has helped hundreds of farmers adopt controlled traffic," Dr Tullberg says.

"But we still need to do something about wheel-spacing. A new concept tractor being released during the conference has a wheel spacing compatible with harvesters. This means that only a small area of the total paddock will actually be travelled on by heavy equipment, allowing the rest of the soil to become healthy again.

"A healthy soil 'breathes'.  It is more open, stores more water, and allows both water and air to pass through. It makes better use of fertilizers and reduces runoff. It encourages worms and plant roots.  The result is higher food production - and fewer environmental problems off the farm."

More information:

Dr Jeff Tullberg, University of Queensland	
Ph     +61 ( 0)7 54601354
Fax.   +61 (0)7 54601367
Mob.  +61 (0) 417134372
Email: J.Tullberg at uq.edu.au

Sally Brown, ISTRO Conference
Ph     +61 7 3201 2808
Fax    +61 7 3201 2809
Mobile 0407 178 200
Email: sally.brown at uq.net.au

Media pictures at: http://www.aghort.uq.edu.au/staff/jtullberg/Pics.doc

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