World Soil Day: valuing our soils key to a better world
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has marked World Soil Day (5 December) with a $6.25 million investment in mapping New Zealand’s most valuable soils which are vital to our economic, environmental and social wellbeing.
“The more we know about our natural resources, including soils, the better we can make good sustainable land use decisions,” Damien O’Connor says.
“Understanding our soils and protecting their health fits with the Māori principle Te Taiao, of connecting with the natural environment. This underpins our Government’s roadmap for the food and fibres sector, Fit For a Better World.
“Good farm planning advice and good data are both essential to the roadmap. We are working to get farm managers and farm advisors to help them get the tools they need to make the best decisions about land use.
“That’s why our Government is committing $6.25 million for a nation-wide project to expand S-Map,” he said.
S-Map combines on-the-ground soil sampling with digital mapping technologies. It is used by rural consultants, councils, landowners and others for crop and pasture management, nutrient budgeting, erosion control, irrigation management, drought resilience, and land valuation.
“Expanding S-Map will have lasting benefits for our regions,” Damien O’Connor said.
To carry out the project, the Ministry for Primary Industries has commissioned Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research to work with councils over the next five years. Manaaki Whenua and those councils who choose to take up the opportunity will also contribute to the project.
The project could add approximately 1.5 million hectares of land to S-Map, which is already the highest resolution and most detailed source of soil information currently available in New Zealand.
Manaaki Whenua chief executive Dr Richard Gordon says soil information from S-Map is important for freshwater modelling and nutrient limit setting.
“We know there is strong demand for greater S-map coverage, to inform decision making on a range of national issues including climate change, food production, and meeting new freshwater regulations,” he said.
Soil mapping for S-map has historically been carried out by central government agencies and individual regional councils. The S-map Expansion project will reduce the cost for councils to use and invest in S-Map, and will also create employment opportunities for the next generation of soil scientists, and other work and training benefits through Manaaki Whenua and councils.
- The $6.25 million funding for the S-map expansion has been allocated from the 2019 Productive and Sustainable Land Use package.
- In Budget 2019, $43 million was allocated for improving decision support tools. The $6.25 million for this project is part of that funding. An additional $1.56m will come from regional councils including in-kind contributions of staff time.
- Link to view S-Map online https://smap.landcareresearch.co.nz/
- As of August 2020, S-map covers 50 percent of New Zealand’s farmable land (36 percent of total land) and 67 percent of our most productive land (land use capability classes 1-4).
- S-map is free for non-commercial use via download maps and factsheets. Commercial users such as farm consultants require a commercial license.
- While other, more spatially complete sources of soil information exist (e.g. New Zealand Land Resource Inventory, Fundamental Soils Layer), S-map operates at a higher resolution (minimum of 1:50,000) and incorporates a wider range of soil properties. This makes S-map a more accurate input for environmental modelling, farm environment planning and on-farm decision-support tools.
- Land Use Capability (LUC) classification: With LUC, land is categorised into 8 classes. This is based on the land's long-term capability to sustain one or more productive uses. Class 1 (elite soils) are usually flat lands that can grow anything, while class 8 soils are generally unsuitable for production.