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Applications of soil survey to farm forestry site selection and management

Harper, R.J. and McGrath, J.F. (1997) Applications of soil survey to farm forestry site selection and management. In: Soils 97: Proceedings of the fourth triennial Western Australian Soil Science Conference, 30 September - 2 October, Geraldton, Western Australia pp. 22-27.

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Trees are being established on substantial areas of Australian farmland for both land conservation (salinity and erosion control) and profit. It is essential that site constraints are identified prior to planting, so that the trees are planted where they will survive and grow well. Both the environmental benefits of high water use and commercial viability depend on adequate growth.

This paper describes the application of soil survey to farm forestry. Soil survey has advantages in that it can provide information in a relatively cheap and timely manner. Whereas in the past it has mainly been used for the prediction of tree performance it can be extended to form the basis for site-specific management. Management decisions can be made on the basis of actual crop requirement rather than general prescription. Sites with un-manageable constraints (e.g. with shallow or saline soils) can be avoided; those with manageable constraints (e.g. poor fertility, poor drainage, root constraints from shallow pans) can be treated as required.

Much Australian soil survey has relied on observations and interpretations of soil morphology, on the basis that this provides surrogates of underlying factors. In some cases this assumption does not hold and here site assessment procedures should incorporate field and laboratory measurements of pertinent chemical and physical attributes. A pragmatic approach to field survey is required, with data gathering (whether morphological or analytical) being based on demonstrated benefit rather than routine prescription or tradition. Calibration of soil morphological, physical and chemical attributes with tree performance provides considerable research opportunities.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Publisher: Australian Society of Soil Science Inc. (WA Branch)
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