Towards sustainable soil management

Most soils are able to provide a range of different functions. But that does not mean all soils are capable in the same way.

Wise soil management acknowledges that there are trade-offs between the various soil functions, and strives to balance the functions as much as possible. It considers the limitations a soil may have, and looks at how undesirable soil change can be minimised.

Building blocks for wise soil management can e.g. be:

  • Know your soil(s): Check on available soils information for your land [link to S-map Online]; are soil conditions such that it can sustain the intended management? If unsure, get professionals to look at your soil before making far-reaching land use and management decisions
  • Make use of the diversity of soil types on your land; e.g. adapt land use to the various soil depths, texture, and stoniness. The shallower a soil is the more likely leaching of excess nutrients will be an issue. Soils with poor drainage may at times have a high watertable and be vulnerable to pugging damage and runoff.
  • Use management practices that support life in the soil, or avoid/minimise those that don’t. Soil life is the ‘engine’ of soil formation, and is the basis of healthy and fertile soil.
  • Maintain vegetation and soil cover around the year to reduce the inpacts of wind and water erosion.
  • Monitor your soil. There is a wide range of visual soil assessments you can use to assess your soil(s) quickly and free of charge.

If you are keen to have a closer look at sustainable soil management, a good starting point is the 2017 booklet ‘Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management’ published in 2017 by the Global Soil Partnership (GSP):
Link to GSP document (1.5MB)

The Global Soil Partnership has also published a set of technical manuals of recommended management practices targeting the 're-carbonizing' of our soils:

In the New Zealand context, soil management guidelines for sustainable cropping and pastoral grazing on flat to rolling country as well as for hill country land uses have been prepared:

The Waikato Regional Council provides some good information and fact sheets on soil management and erosion control: