Frequently asked questions
Tell me about Soils for Life – what does it do?
The Soils for Life Program is a registered, not-for-profit environmental organisation with the principal purpose of enhancing the natural environment and promoting sustainable agricultural production
This is done through facilitating positive and sustained change in how the Australian agricultural landscape is managed to ensure a thriving natural environment is able to support quality food, fibre and health and social outcomes for the benefit of all Australians.
It achieves these objectives by:
- Identifying leading performance in regenerative landscape management through documenting, demonstrating and promoting those practices, characterised by:
- building soil health—in terms of structure, biology and chemistry, such as increasing the organic carbon content of soils as a foundation to increased water retention capacity, improving microbial function to access nutrients and ensure healthy plant growth
- water efficient operations—especially those employing approaches which maximise infiltration and retention of rainfall, regenerate wetlands, restore floodplain function and revitalise riparian zones
- maximisation of diverse and sustainable vegetation across rural properties
- active support and encouragement of landscape management practices that improve biodiversity
- innovative management of weeds and pests
- minimisation of external inputs and maximising of the value of enterprise production
- cooperation and coordination across agricultural enterprises, local authorities and community groups and the improvement of landholder family lifestyle.
- Promoting the wider adoption of these leading practices as the norm across the agricultural landscape in Australia, setting a positive example for others.
- Fostering and facilitating change of land management practices to those that contribute the regeneration of the agricultural landscape
Soils for Life is funded by private donors and partnering arrangements.
What is the Resilient Landscapes Project?
The Resilient Landscapes Project is a cooperative venture in knowledge and skill transfer between experienced land managers, with proven positive outcomes from resilient landscape management practices, and client landholders who seek to preserve and improve the natural capital of their agricultural and grazing properties.
The Project manages three functions that align with the three strategic objectives of the Soils for Life Business Plan:
- field studies and reports of selected agricultural land holdings where the landholder has adopted and can demonstrate a positive triple bottom line outcome from innovative landscape management practices
- demonstration and information activities that publicise the innovative landscape management practices and their outcomes
- landholder-to-landholder mentoring programs in a variety of representative geo-climatic regions and different enterprises.
How will the field studies sites be selected from the call for expressions of interest (EOI) activity?
A properly constituted selection board of specialist advisers from backgrounds including, primary production, hydrology, soil health and environmental science backgrounds, will conduct the evaluation of all the responses to the EOI. The activity follows an audited process which is part of our quality management system. Results will be independently reviewed.
Soils for Life is seeking exemplary sites for field studies where the landholder has been applying innovative land management practices that have improved the viability of the property over time and who can validate this process by tendering reliable records and data collected during the transition.
Noting the importance being placed on data and records, the merit selection of prospective study sites will rest heavily on responses to the questions set out in the EOI form.
The merit selection will then ensure that 2016-17 round of field studies comprise a regional spread across Australia; with a range of land uses not widely represented in the 2012 round.
Where a number of potential field studies have similar characteristics, the panel will use the following discriminators to make a final recommendation:
- the quality and quantity of data available for the enterprise—considering all forms of data including images, graphs, profit and loss records, soils sampling results, etc
- the ‘uniqueness’ of the innovations in catalysing strategic practice change
- potential of the innovations to be used more widely
- potential as a demonstration site, including accessibility, ability to view and understand the innovation(s).
Field studies are also sought of leading performance in coordination and cooperation in landscape regeneration within groups of landholders working with local authorities and/or community organisations. These study sites will be selected on the effectiveness of the ‘human dimension’.
The Soils for Life project is particularly keen in identifying catalysts for cooperation, incentives and motivations for individuals and community organisations to work together and what keeps the close working relationships durable.
How will the documentation of the field studies be conducted?
You will be advised by email that your EOI has been selected for participation in the 2016-17 field study program. A time will then be arranged to discuss the coordination of the field study on-site interviews, to cover mutually convenient timings to:
- conduct on-site interviews to record the how you went about introducing innovations and change to your farming enterprise
- collect and exchange data, images and records on key aspects of the enterprise to add value to the narrative
- allow you to review the draft field study developed by the Soils for Life research teams
- complete your review of the field study report prior to publication.
The documented field studies will be published on the Soils for Life website as they are completed. A consolidated report may also be prepared at the completion of sufficient field studies. The report will also address any changes to the common lessons drawn from the 2012 round.
The ‘typical’ field study report will be about 12-14 pages of text and images detailing the essential innovations and benefits demonstrated by the enterprise, together with key lessons and profit and loss indices.
Whilst each field study will be different, a potential look and feel for a field study is expected to follow the lines of the 2012 field studies set out in the Soils for Life website.
The documented field studies form the basis of the demonstration and promotion stage of the project. They will be available for download individually from the Soils for Life website.
The documented field studies form the basis of selection of landholders to take part in the mentoring program element of the Soils for Life Resilient Landscapes Project.
It is planned that the on-site gathering of data for the field studies will occur in the second half of 2016 and early 2017.
What are my obligations as a field study site landholder?
It is important that you feel comfortable dealing with the Soils for Life research team and are able to cooperate with them to assist in gathering the required data and information pertaining to your innovative practices.
Be willing to readily share the experiences and results of your enterprise in the field study, as they will be made freely available to people in Australia and overseas from our website.
Be prepared to host one field day per year on your property to demonstrate and provide information on the innovations you have implemented and their production, financial, environmental and social/family outcomes.
Participation in demonstration activities will attract financial remuneration.
Be prepared to contribute information on your enterprise to other forms of communication that you are comfortable with. That contribution could include, for example, blogging on the Soils for Life website and/or providing your services as a guest speaker at Soils for Life events or by taking part in the Soils for Life/Local Land Services landholder-to-landholder mentoring program.
What is in it for me?
Foremost, will be the opportunity to help foster other land managers, policy makers and government agencies in realising the changes required to ensure we have a sustainable, resilient agricultural landscape able to support, amongst other things, our agricultural requirements for the future.
Gain support from, and exchange information with, a network of like minded innovators, across Australia and, potentially, globally.
Recognition and promotion of your ideas, with potential for these to be regularly demonstrated to others, in reality and virtual environments.