Officer-in-Charge, Soil Conservation Research Station, Wagga Wagga.
In opening this Conference I would like first to congratulate your Committee on the excellent programme you have arranged and also on the timeliness of your theme - Recovering Lost Ground
The summer of 1982/1983 was an anxious time for us all.
It resulted in the worst soil erosion that many of us have ever seen, and, for many others of you it was the worst erosion you had seen for 30 to 40 years,
Irreplaceable losses of soil occurred and, but for the generally low intensity rainfall which accompanied the breaking of the drought, those losses would have been much greater still,
Your presence here today indicates that you also share a concern for our soil and our future.
Before the technical sessions start, I would like very briefly to make a number of points which I think should remain in the hack of your minds during today’s discussions and certainly after you get home.
Firstly, research results obtained by the Soil Conservation Service over the last 30-40 years show that the events of last summer were not unique,
For example, we now know that soil, loss due to erosion generally occurs in a succession of widely spaced, but catastrophic, events rather than as a gradual annual rate of attrition,
Drought creates the circumstances which make it all too easy for ground protecting vegetation to be reduced below critical levels.
Last summer showed us the ability of vegetation to prevent and control both wind and water erosion in crop as well as pasture areas.
We must remember that similar droughts will occur again and it is up to all of us to help prevent the kind of consequences we have so recently witnessed if years of effective erosion control and improved soil management are not to be wasted.
Secondly, research has shown that using conventional farming techniques, soil erosion is .probably occurring faster than normal soil forming processes can replace it. Certainly erosion at this rate will reduce soil productivity to a much greater extent than we first thought.
Where land use intensity has been increased and conventional farming practices are still being followed, soil erosion is definitely occurring faster than normal soil forming processes can replace it, especially on sloping land.
We also know that soil loss due to erosion results in soil degradation and, at the same time, degradation of the soil as a result of tillage or overcropping or overgrazing predisposes the soil to erosion.
Conservation of the soil3 that is maintenance of its chemical and physical fertility as well as the prevention of erosion, cannot be done with patent remedies or by concentrating on only one aspect of farm management.
The technology for successful conservation of the soil is available, This technology and its methodology is continually being improved by soil conservationists, agriculturalists and farmers.
However, I would emphasise to you that successful soil conservation in the long term depends, as in the past, on the integrated planning of complete farming systems.
This includes, first and foremost, the use of land only according to its physical capability, Cropland and grazing management systems which maintain productivity must involve improved soil management as well as yield maintenance. The physical control of excess runoff is also an integral part of the overall system in many circumstances.
For the future, our planning horizons will also need to be extended to the consideration of whole catchment areas so that the overall community impact of land use and land management can be more positively assessed.
Finally, I commend to you today’s proceedings and the excellent array of speakers you are about to hear, I am sure today's events will be both stimulating and profitable and I have great pleasure in declaring this Conference open.