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:
Link to GSP document (1.5MB)

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:
https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/vsa-field-guide/

The Waikato Regional Council provides some good information and fact sheets on soil management and erosion control:
https://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/community/your-community/for-farmers/soil-management/