DPI Manager Ian Menz

Sustainable Soils

Central West Farming Systems (CWFS) hosted Major General the Honourable Michael Jeffery (centre, front) taking him on a tour that showcased the Lachlan Shire and the surrounding region recently. MB

By Melissa Blewitt

Major General the Honourable Michael Jeffery believes to save the soil is to save the planet.
Mr Jeffery has spent the past four years developing strategies to protect and maintain agricultural lands in the face of threats from soil and water degradation, erosion and harmful land-use practices.
Central West Farming Systems (CWFS) hosted Mr Jeffery and his wife Marlena, on Tuesday, 20 to Thursday, 22 June showcasing the Lachlan Shire and the region.
As well as being active on many other committees throughout Australia, he is currently Australia’s Advocate for Soil Health. The role entails the development of nationwide soil research, development and extension strategy.
Major General Jeffery and CWFS have recently been working together as part of the newly established Co-Operative Research Centre for High Performance Soils (CRC-HPS), along with other research groups. The CRC for High Performance Soils will receive nearly $40 million over 10 years and aims to help farmers’ bridge the gap between soil science and farm management.
Mr Jeffery said Australia’s 130,000 farmers were under heavy pressure to produce food cheaply, while managing 60 per cent of Australia’s land mass. He believes there should be a national objective to restore and maintain the health of the Australian agricultural landscape.
As Soil Advocate since December 2012, Major General Jeffery has worked hard to raise public awareness of the critical role soil plays (integrated with good water and vegetation management) in underpinning sustainable productivity, delivering high quality ecosystem services and helping to meet global challenges including food security and climate change.
Major General Jeffery, his wife Marlena and Soils for Life chief of staff, Natalie Williams met with CWFS staff and CWFS Executive members, and NSW DPI Manager Ian Menz, at the Condobolin Agricultural Research and Advisory Station before touring the Station and the CWFS Lachlan Irrigation Research Site, on the first day of their visit.
An informal dinner with CWFS staff and CWFS Executive Committee members capped off the first day’s visit where Major General Jeffery gave some interesting insights into his highly distinguished career as well as his passion for soils and the agricultural industry.
Major General Jeffery, Marlena and Natalie spent the second day touring towns within our region. This included visiting the CWFS’ Tottenham Regional Site where trials are conducted to locally validate research undertaken by the GRDC. This was followed by a tour of the CWFS lime trial at Tottenham High School, which is designed to introduce high school students to research agriculture and to demonstrate the impact soil acidity has on agriculture. Major General Jeffery was very impressed with the students’ involvement in this trial and their understanding of the need for improving the health of our soils.
The group then travelled to Trundle to visit both Trundle Central School and St Patrick’s Primary School. Major General Jeffery spoke to the students about leadership and overcoming locational disadvantage, as well as his life as a Governor General and his military experiences.
Major General Jeffery’s wife, Marlena, also engaged with the community and talked to the students at the local schools (Condobolin, Trundle, and Bedgerabong) about the various aspects of her life as an army spouse as well as her role supporting a Governor General.

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