Module 01 >

Monitoring Soils

Module 02 >

Interpreting Soil Results

Module 03 >

Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management

Module 04 >

Common Soil Constraints

Module 05 >

Soil Carbon Capture

Module 06 >

Digital Agriculture for Soils

Module 07 >

Using Biologicals to Build Soil Organic Matter and Resilient Soils

Module 08 >

Managing Irrigated Soils in the Riverina Region of NSW


Using Biologicals to Build Soil Organic Matter and Resilient Soils

Module 01 >

Monitoring Soils

Module 02 >

Interpreting Soil Results

Module 03 >

Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management

Module 04 >

Common Soil Constraints

Module 05 >

Soil Carbon Capture

Module 06 >

Digital Agriculture for Soils

Module 07 >

Using Biologicals to Build Soil Organic Matter and Resilient Soils

Module 08 >

Managing Irrigated Soils in the Riverina Region of NSW

Section 7A


Biological amendments are a key component in building organic matter and improving nutrient cycling while maintaining soil structure and fertility. These amendments consist of processed organic matter and frequently contain beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that enhance soil structure, fertility, and plant health. By decomposing organic matter, fixing nitrogen, and protecting plants from pathogens, such amendments can improve soil structure and fertility and support a diverse soil-plant microbiome.

What are biologicals?

Biological amendments are a key component in building organic matter and improving nutrient cycling while maintaining soil structure and fertility.

Some common examples of biological amendments used in agriculture

Composts and manures

Traditional organic amendments such as composts and manures have been widely used in areas where livestock are commonly raised. They supply decomposed organic matter while improving soil structure and enhancing nutrient availability.

Microbial inocula

Inocula typically include beneficial microorganisms such as Rhizobium, which are important for nitrogen fixation in legume species. They can also include  other soil bacteria that promote plant growth and overall health in terms of crop protection against pests and pathogens.

Humates and Humic substances

Solid, soluble, and liquid humates contain organic materials or metabolites that enhance soil structure, nutrient retention, and microbial activity. Humates are high in humified organic matter and humic acid which again can improve soil fertility and soil structure.


Substances that stimulate plant growth beyond direct nutrient input. They frequently include plant or  seaweed extracts which contain minerals, nutrients, amino acids, carbohydrates or other plant growth or microbial stimulants.

Alternative fertilisers

Some fertilisers are marketed as being organic or less harsh on the soil microbial community than conventional fertilisers. These alternatives also aim to maintain soil health while providing essential nutrients.

How do biologicals affect soil health and function?

Biological amendments can be expensive but can play a crucial role in maintaining healthy soils and enhancing plant productivity, especially when producing high-value crops. The introduction of bio-amendments can stimulate the soil’s microbial community, promoting a balanced ecosystem where energy exchange and nutrient cycling are optimized. This can be crucial for the resilience of agricultural systems, as some amendments can stimulate crop yields while reducing reliance on synthetic fertilizer or chemical inputs. Amendments can also improve soil physical properties, including water retention and aeration, both essential for root growth and overall plant vigour. They can also contribute to the long-term sustainability of soil health by increasing organic matter content and fostering a diverse microbial population, some of which may be useful for supporting plant growth and overall health

Biological Amendments
Figure 1: Biological amendments help mitigate a variety of deleterious processes in the soil ecosystem.
Source: Nature

The role of biologicals in managing healthy soils

In essence, the role of biological amendments goes beyond mere nutrient supply; they can be integral to the dynamic and complex interactions within the soil ecosystem that underpin productive and sustainable agriculture, and further supplement the use of synthetic fertilisers or amendments. However, not all biological amendments have been proven to be useful by demonstrating positive effects on crop growth or on soil health.

Further research on the use of soil amendments is often required to determine if they represent cost-effective solutions for crop and pasture managers.


The efficacy of soil amendments can vary based on soil type, crop, and existing environmental conditions. Farmers often combine different types of organic or biological amendments to achieve optimal results in their own agricultural ecosystem.

Section 7B

Understanding Soil Biology

Soil biology is a fascinating field that delves into the complex world beneath our feet. It is defined as the study of microbial and faunal activity and ecology within the soil, encompassing a vast array of organisms that spend a significant part of their life cycle within the soil profile or at the soil-litter interface. These organisms range from bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes to larger organisms such as earthworms, beetles, and burrowing mammals.

The interactions between these soil inhabitants and their environment influence soil health, nutrient cycling and decomposition as well as pathogen suppression and overall plant growth. Understanding soil biology is essential to understand  ecosystem function and for managing soil health in agricultural and natural landscapes. As we continue to explore this hidden universe, we will uncover the intricate connections that sustain life above ground.

Diversity Organisms
Figure 2: Diversity of organisms living in soil.

What are the main functions of soil microorganisms?

Soil microorganisms are vital for the health and fertility of soil ecosystems. Microorganisms perform the key functions: nutrient cycling, decomposition, disease suppression, soil structure, symbiotic relationships, and bioremediation.

What are the main functions of soil microorganisms?

Microorganisms perform the key functions below. These main functions are essential for maintaining a balanced soil ecosystem and supporting plant life.

  • Nutrient cycling: They play a crucial role in the cycling of nutrients, such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, making them available to plants.
  • Decomposition: Microorganisms decompose organic matter, breaking down dead plant and animal material into simpler substances that can be used by other organisms.
  • Disease suppression: Some soil microbes can suppress pests and pathogens, protecting plants from diseases.
  • Soil structure: Soil microbial activity contributes to soil aggregation, which improves soil structure, drainage, and aeration.
  • Symbiotic relationships: They form symbiotic relationships with plants, such as mycorrhizal associations and nitrogen-fixing nodules, which enhance plant nutrient uptake.
  • Bioremediation: Soil microorganisms can help in the removal of pollutants and contaminants from the soil, a process known as bioremediation.

Healthy soil is a living organism

Soil is not just dirt and decomposed organic matter; it’s a living layer located between the atmosphere and bedrock. Soil may seem inert, but it is typically teeming with life. Healthy soil is a represents a living ecosystem, both above and below ground.

Did you know?

In just one tablespoon of soil, there are more living organisms than there are people on Earth!

Soil Fauna

Soil fauna are the diverse community of organisms that inhabit the soil. They are an integral component of soil biodiversity that includes a wide range of organisms, from tiny nematodes and mites to larger earthworms, beetles, and burrowing mammals.

What are the functions of soil fauna?

Soil fauna play essential roles in soil ecosystems and contribute to various functions including organic matter decomposition, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration and soil formation, fertility and water-holding capacity.

Maintaining healthy soil ecosystems

Soil fauna play a crucial role in maintaining healthy soil ecosystems. Here are some of their essential functions:

  • Soil formation: Soil fauna contribute to soil formation by breaking down organic matter, mixing soil particles, and creating soil structures. Their burrowing and rooting activities enhance soil aeration and drainage.
  • Litter decomposition: Soil fauna, such as earthworms, mites, and nematodes, actively participate in the decomposition of organic material (litter) on the soil surface. This process releases nutrients and contributes to soil fertility.
  • Nutrient cycling: Soil fauna facilitate nutrient cycling by consuming organic matter and excreting nutrient-rich waste. Recycling of nutrients benefits plants and other soil organisms.
  • Biotic regulation: Soil fauna interact with other soil organisms, including microorganisms and plants, and can regulate population dynamics, nutrient availability, and overall ecosystem balance.
  • Promoting plant growth: Some soil fauna such as dung beetles have demonstrated the potential to promote plant growth by increasing soil nutrient and water availability and facilitating root development.

In summary, soil fauna are essential ecosystem engineers that contribute to soil health, nutrient cycling, plant growth and the overall functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.

Section 7C

Biologicals for Soil Health

What are the different types of biological amendments used in agriculture?


Manures are organic materials that are either decomposing animal faeces that provides a rich source of nitrogen and other nutrients, or green manure i.e. fast-growing plants that are often rich with nitrogen which are cut and incorporated into the soil.  Manures enrich the soil by adding essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, promoting plant growth and improve soil structure, increases its water-holding capacity, and enhance the microbial activity in the soil, contributing to a healthier and more productive soil ecosystem. They can provide a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical fertilizers, promoting sustainable agricultural practices such as resource recycling on-farm.


Composts are nutrient-rich, partially decomposed organic material that enriches the soil with varying contents of nutrients, which often originate from microbial breakdown of kitchen waste, farm animal and plant waste, food waste etc. Incorporating earthworms to composting process generates “Vermicompost” which includes “worm castings” that are rich in nutrients and beneficial microbes. Composts are used extensively in gardening and agriculture to improve soil structure, provide a wide range of nutrients for plants, and introduce beneficial microbes into the soil. Over time, the use of compost can significantly enhance soil aggregation, pore spacing, and water storage, leading to better crop yields.

Cover crops

Cover crops are plants grown to cover the soil rather than used for harvestable yield. can prevent erosion, improve soil structure, and add organic matter when tilled back into the soil. They can also suppress weeds and pests, depending on the species or mixtures produced.

What is the difference between biologicals and synthetic fertilisers?

Typically, compost contains about 2% nitrogen, 0.5-1% phosphorus, and 2% potassium. It is often applied in large quantities due to its relatively low nutrient content compared to synthetic fertilsers. However, compost is particularly important in organic farming, where synthetic fertilisers are generally not applied.

What are the suitable cover crops for the Riverina region?

Selecting suitable cover crops is essential for enhancing soil health, conserving moisture, and suppressing weeds. Here are some cover crop options that thrive in the Riverina region:

Winter cereals

Wheat, barley, oats, triticale, and rye are commonly planted cover crops. They provide ground cover, compete with weeds, and contribute organic matter to the soil. However, these are generally used for harvestable yield, and as such are not used as “cover crops.”


Peas, beans, and vetch are useful choices to consider to build soil organic matter for green manures. Legumes also fix nitrogen in the soil, enriching it for subsequent crops.


Subterranean clover varieties (such as Campeda, Narrikup, and Rosabrook) adapt well to varying soil types and provide nitrogen fixation. Balansa clover, Persian clover, red clover and other annual and perennial clovers are also beneficial.

Other species

Mustard, tillage radish, ryecorn, and buckwheat are fast-growing annual cover crops that suppress weeds and add biomass to the soil. Sunflowers and turnips can also be considered for their benefits.


Biochar is a carbon-rich form of charcoal that is derived from the pyrolysis or combusion of biomass under limited oxygen conditions. Similar to charcoal, it is used primarily as a soil amendment rather than fuel.

Biochar has a porous structure that helps improve soil structure, water retention, and nutrient availability, and it can sequester carbon in the soil for long periods, making it a valuable tool for climate change mitigation.

The production of biochar involves heating plant matter, such as wood, crop residues, or other organic waste, in a controlled environment where oxygen is scarce.

This process prevents the material from burning completely and instead transforms it into a stable form of carbon. When added to soil, biochar can enhance nutrient availability, reduce the need for chemical fertilisers, and improve soil health and microbial biodiversity.

Biochar is recognised for its potential to improve agricultural productivity, restore degraded soils, and contribute to carbon sequestration efforts.


The choice of cover crop should align with your specific soil type, climate, and cropping system. Consult with local agronomists or extension services to tailor cover crop selections to your Riverina farm.

Did you know?

Indigenous peoples have used practices similar to biochar production on land for thousands of years, notably in the Amazon with the creation of terra preta, a highly fertile soil rich in charcoal.

Microbial inoculants and biofertilisers

Microbial inoculants, also known as soil inoculants or bioinoculants, are agricultural amendments that utilize beneficial microbes to promote plant health. These products contain one or more type of beneficial bacteria such as Rhizobium spp. or fungi such as mycorrhiza which form symbiotic relationships with plant roots, aiding in plant nutrient and water uptake, enhancing, and stimulating plant growth by producing plant hormones. They can also induce systemic acquired resistance in plants, providing protection against common crop diseases.

The use of microbial inoculants is an integral part of sustainable agriculture, as they can improve yields and reduce the environmental impact of agrochemicals.  Microbial inoculants can sometimes  offer eco-friendly alternative to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

How to find microbial inoculants suitable for the Riverina region?

The Australian Inoculants Research Group (AIRG) provides a Green Tick endorsement for high-quality rhizobia inoculant products that are effective in Australian conditions, including the Riverina. These inoculants are rigorously tested and guaranteed to contain the correct strain and minimum number of viable root-nodule microorganisms (rhizobia) as indicated on the label. Farmers in the Riverina can benefit from using these endorsed products, as they are designed to perform optimally in the field, contributing to improved yields and soil health. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding storage, handling, and usage to ensure the rhizobia remain viable along the supply chain. For specific crop needs and soil types, it’s advisable to consult with local agricultural experts or extension services to select the most appropriate microbial inoculants for your farming conditions. It is also important to understand what mixtures of microbes or by-products are present in the inoculant and if you have suitable microbial populations already present in your soil community.

Microbial biofertilisers are similar to inoculants but use one or more strains of microorganisms to enhance soil fertility and plant growth. They contain specific strains of bacteria, fungi, or algae that can fix atmospheric nitrogen, solubilize phosphorus, and produce plant growth-promoting substances. These beneficial microbes colonize the rhizosphere or the interior of the host plant, increasing the availability, supply, or uptake of primary nutrients.

Biofertilisers are touted as eco-friendly and economical alternatives to chemical fertilisers, helping to maintain soil structure and biodiversity. They are sometimes effective in sustainable agriculture, reducing the need for synthetic inputs while supporting healthy crop yields and soil ecosystem, they can be costly, and must be considered generally as slow-release forms of nutrients, thereby leading to longer-term soil impacts. They are generally not used as a replacement for synthetic fertilisers but a supplement or a long-term addition to support soil fertility and health


Biological type


Cattle, sheep, poultry, etc.
  • Increase in soil structure
  • Increase in microbial activity
Aerobic decomposition of wastages
Bioloicals Compost


  • Fertiliser (planting media)
  • Decrease in top soil erosion
Residues from waste water treatment
Biologicals Sewage
Sewage Sludge


  • Soil conditioner
  • Waste treatment
Organic waste water solids, reuse of sewage sludge
Biologicals Organic Waste


  • Increase in OM
  • Macro and micro nutrients
Thermal decomposition or organic bioasses
Biologicals Biochar


  • Increase in OM
  • Macro and micro nutrients
Fungi, mutual association with plant roots
Biologicals Mycorrihiza


  • C storage
  • Decrease in GHG
  • Decrease in heavy metal content

How do biological amendments interact with soil organisms?

Biological amendments have a significant impact on soil organisms. They can enhance the overall microbial biomass, including bacterial and fungal populations, which are essential for soil health and plant growth.

Here’s how they affect soil microorganisms:

  • Increase in microbial biomass: Organic amendments have been shown to significantly increase total microbial biomass, bacterial biomass, fungal biomass, as well as Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial biomass.
  • Diversity and composition: The application of different organic amendments can affect the diversity and composition of soil microbes. For example, some amendments have been found to increase the abundance of Acidobacteria, which are important for soil health.
  • Functional diversity: Organic amendments can also influence the functional diversity of soil microbes. They can increase the abundance of microbes involved in crucial soil processes like carbon and nitrogen cycling, which in turn supports plant growth and increases crop yield.
  • Soil improvement: Amendments can improve soil properties, which in turn supports a richer and more diverse microbial community. Improved soil conditions such as increased organic matter content and better nutrient availability provide a more conducive environment for microbial growth.
  • Resistance and restoration: Soil microbial diversity plays a crucial role in resisting and restoring degraded ecosystems. Biological amendments can help in maintaining this diversity, which is vital for the resilience of ecosystems against disturbances.


Overall, biological amendments contribute to a more robust and diverse soil microbial community, which is fundamental to sustainable agricultural practices and the health of our ecosystems.

How do biological amendments interact with plants?

Biological amendments interact with plants in several beneficial ways, enhancing plant growth, health, and resilience.

Here’s how they work:

  • Nutrient supply: They can improve soil fertility by adding nutrients and organic matter, which are essential for plant growth.
  • Soil structure: Amendments like compost can also improve soil structure, making it more porous and better able to retain water and nutrients, which benefits plant roots, especially when used in larger quantities.
  • Microbial activity: They increase microbial activity in the soil, which helps in the breakdown of organic matter and the release of nutrients in a form that plants can absorb.
  • Disease suppression: Certain amendments have suppressive properties against soil-borne pathogens, thus protecting plants from diseases.
  • Plant-microbe interactions: They can enhance beneficial plant-microbe interactions, such as symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi or nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which aid in nutrient uptake.
  • Induced resistance: Some amendments can induce systemic resistance in plants, making them more resistant to pests and diseases.


Overall, biological amendments are a key tool in sustainable agriculture, helping to create a healthy soil environment that supports robust plant growth.

Overall, biological amendments are a key tool in sustainable agriculture, helping to create a healthy soil environment that supports robust plant growth.

Biological Amendments
Image description: Sustainable agriculture promoting robust plant growth and crop yield enhancement
Source: Resilient Soils Project

Section 7D

Producing and applying biologicals on-farm

Biological amendments for improving soil health can be easily produced on-farm by recycling farm waste of animal or plant origin. These include ingredients such as animal waste and byproducts, pre-consumer vegetation waste, sewage sludge, table waste, or yard trimmings.

Producing biologicals on-farm

Application of biological soil amendments can frequently add to the cost of production, especially when applying microbial inocula and biostimulants that are produced in a controlled laboratory setting and eventually formulated for seed treatment  or incorporated in soil. However, some biological amendments including composts, compost teas, manures, and biochar can be made on-farm using plant and animal waste.

  • Composts and compost teas are produced and processed using compost bins or piles, with careful management of moisture, temperature, and aeration.
  • Manures are collected from livestock holding yards and may be composted before application to reduce pathogens and weed seeds

How does the performance of biologicals vary?

It’s important to note that the performance of biological amendments can vary widely with strain, formulation, and local environment.On-farm testing across a range of conditions is necessary to understand the potential of bio amendments in supporting productivity under variable environments. Additionally, no single amendment or class of amendments has yet consistently outperformed traditional fertilizer treatments across various field trials.
  • Biochars can be produced through pyrolysis of various types of biomass, frequently  woody plant parts collected from fast-growing trees such as poplar species. Biochar can be processed on both large and small scale,  with specialised equipment.

When applying biological amendments, consider the following:

  • Application rates: Follow the manufacturer’s recommended application rates and methods to ensure effective results.
  • Monitoring: Conduct small-scale trials and leave untreated strips to compare with treated areas over varying terrain.
  • Quality assessment: Check product labels for microbial content, nutrient composition, and application rates. Look for certifications indicating quality standards.

To select and use suitable biologicals for different soil types, climates and farming systems, it is helpful to refer to resources uch as GRDC’s guide on biological farming inputs or the CSIRO’s report on biological amendments for the Australian grains industry. These documents provide detailed information on the chemical variability, field performance, and practical guidelines for on-farm testing of biological amendments.

What are the risks associated with biologicals?

Microbial contamination

  • Raw manure: One common type of biological soil amendment is raw livestock manure. Unfortunately, crops grown in soils amended with raw manure can become contaminated by microbial pathogens carried by the manure. These pathogens include E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., Listeria monocytogenes, and Cryptosporidium parvum. Each of these species presents risks to the user of the subsequent crop.
  • Fresh produce: Fresh produce presents a unique food safety challenge because there is no kill step between harvest and consumption. Preventing microbial contamination relies on time-interval criteria between manure application and crop harvesting. Handling of fresh produce can also result in contamination.

Complex contamination sources

  • Contamination risks are complex and can arise from various sources, including:
  • Agricultural water: Contaminated water used for irrigation or from flood/runoff.
  • Field workers: Carriers who don’t properly decontaminate before handling produce.
  • Animal faecal deposition by domesticated or wild animals on farm.

Contaminated farm equipment

  • Chemical variability and performance
  • Wide variability: Biological amendments exhibit wide variability in chemical composition both between and within classes (e.g., biostimulants, humates, organic amendments, alternative fertilisers).
  • Uncertain yield benefits: No single amendment or class consistently outperforms traditional fertiliser treatments across field trials. On-farm testing across varying conditions is necessary to understand bioproduct potential in supporting productivity under different environments and stresses.

While biological amendments offer potential benefits, management to mitigate risks is crucial. Proper application practices, monitoring, and adherence to safety guidelines are essential to ensure both soil health and food safety on organic and commercial farms.

What are the quality and safety standards and regulations for biological soil amendments in Australia?

In Australia, the quality and safety standards for biological soil amendments are governed by regulatory guidelines from the APVMA and supporting legislation. Let’s explore some key resources and regulations related to biological amendments.

Testing and assessing biological amendments

  • When it comes to assessing biological amendments for soil health, farmers can follow these steps.
  • Conduct soil tests: Identify soil characteristics such as nutrient deficiencies and pH levels to select amendments tailored to your soil’s needs.
  • Consider crop requirements: Choose amendments aligned with the nutritional needs of your crops and specific plant and soil requirements.
  • Assess amendment quality: Check product labels for microbial content, nutrient composition, and application rates. Look for certification indicating quality standards and adherence to organic or best management practices.
  • Small-scale trials: Evaluate the performance of selected amendments on your farm before full-scale implementation.

For more information: Testing and Assessing Biological Amendments Fact Sheet

Other relevant legislation

  • Biosafety Legislation: The HS430 Register of the Main Biosafety Legislation, Standards, and Related Documents provides information on biosafety regulations in Australia.
  • Biosecurity Amendment (Biofouling Management) Regulations 2021: These regulations address biofouling management and are administered by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry.
  • Health Legislation Amendment (Quality and Safety) Act 2022: While not specific to biological amendments, this act focuses on quality and safety in health-related matters.


Compliance with these standards and regulations is essential to ensure the safe and effective use of biological amendments in agriculture and other fields.

Section 7E

Monitoring soil health following application of biological amendments.

Regular monitoring of soil conditions considering physical, chemical, and biological aspects can provide a more comprehensive understanding of soil health. It is essential to ensure the efficacy of amendments contributing to sustainable crop production.

Measuring the effects of biological amendments on soil health and crop productivity involves assessing various indicators. Let’s explore some key methods and indicators:

What are the risks associated with biologicals?

Physical indicators

  • Bulk density: Indicates soil compaction. Lower bulk density is desirable as it allows better root penetration and water movement.
  • Soil aggregate stability: Reflects soil structure. Stable aggregates resist erosion and improve water infiltration.
  • Soil water holding capacity: Determines the soil’s ability to retain moisture for plant use.

Chemical indicators

  • pH: Affects nutrient availability. Optimal pH varies by crop type.
  • Electrical conductivity (EC): Measures soil salinity. High EC can harm crops.
  • Soil organic carbon (SOC): Reflects organic matter content. Higher SOC improves soil health.
  • Nutrient status: Assess levels of essential nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc.).

Biological indicators

  • Soil enzymes: Active enzymes indicate microbial activity and nutrient cycling.
  • Soil respiration: Measures microbial respiration. Higher respiration indicates more active soil life.
  • Mycorrhizal fungi: Beneficial fungi that enhance nutrient uptake by plants.
  • Presence of beneficial bacteria and fungi: Healthy productive soils that tend to have less plant disease have been shown to harbour certain microbial species.
  • Earthworms and other soil fauna: Their presence indicates good soil structure and organic matter decomposition.
Soil Quality Indicators
Figure 6. Indicators of Healthy Soils
Source: Miriam Muñoz-Rojas, 2018

How to assess soil health?

  • Field observations: Visual assessment of soil structure, earthworm activity, and plant health.
  • Laboratory tests: Measure specific indicators (e.g., enzyme activity, microbial biomass) using soil samples.
  • Biological indices: Combine multiple biological indicators to assess overall soil health.

Biological soil amendments 

Biological soil amendments can offer significant benefits in terms of cost savings and environmental sustainability, however, they also come with certain trade-offs and challenges that need to be carefully managed. Here are some key points:

  • The use of biological amendments can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers, significantly reducing production costs for farmers.
  • Biological amendments can improve the sustainability of crops and the well-being of growers, potentially leading to more stable and resilient agricultural systems.
  • Biological amendments can enhance soil health by improving water retention, soil permeability, drainage, aeration, and soil structure. They can also increase soil microbial activity and bacterial diversity.
  • By reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, the use of biological amendments can indirectly decrease greenhouse gas emissions at the regional level.
  • Biological amendments often make use of farm and local wastes such as coffee pulp, filter mud, ash, biosolids generated by wastewater treatment plants. This can contribute to more efficient waste management and recycling.
  • Crops grown in soils amended with biologicals such as raw livestock manure can become contaminated by microbial pathogens carried by raw manure. Therefore, raw manure application, compost processing, and application practices must consider ways to reduce the  risk of potential crop contamination.
  • Transitioning to the use of biological amendments may require changes in farming practices and infrastructure, which can present challenges.

Did you know?

Biological soil amendments can offer significant benefits in terms of cost savings and environmental sustainability.

Section 7F

Government Policies and Incentives

The Australian government has recently implemented several policies and incentives to promote the use of biological soil amendments.

Here are some key initiatives:

National Soil Strategy: Released in May 2021, Australia’s first national policy on soil outlines how Australia will value, manage, and improve soil over the next 20 years. The strategy’s three goals are to:

  • Prioritize soil health.
  • Empower soil innovation and stewards.
  • Strengthen soil knowledge and capability.

National Soil Action Plan: Launched in November 2023, this plan addresses priorities in soil health and long-term soil security for the first five years under the 20-year National Soil Strategy. The plan outlines four priority actions:

  • Develop a national framework for soil state and trend information.
  • Develop a holistic policy and strategy approach where soil function is recognized, valued, and protected.
  • Accelerate the adoption of land use and management practices that protect and improve soil.
  • Identify and develop the soil workforce and capabilities needed to meet current and future challenges.

Funding for Soil Improvement: The 2021–22 Budget allocated $233.6 million in new funding to improve and protect Australia’s soil. This includes new incentives for farmers to encourage them to test their soil and improve productivity, profitability, and participation in the Emissions Reduction Fund.

Australia-wide, farmers using biological soil amendments can benefit from a range of incentives designed to promote sustainable agricultural practices and soil health improvement, such as:

  • Soils for Life Program: This program provides insights and support for farmers looking to adopt bio-amendments. It includes case studies and examples of how Australian farmers are integrating bio-amendments into their operations, which can lead to reduced costs, improved soil health, and increased gross margins.
  • Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF): The ERF is a key climate change policy instrument that provides a crediting, purchasing, and compliance framework. Farmers can be issued with carbon credits for eligible activities, including practices that aim at sequestering carbon in soils, such as the use of biological soil amendments.

These incentives are part of a broader effort to encourage environmentally friendly practices that contribute to soil health and carbon sequestration, aligning with Australia’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and climate change mitigation.