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Achieving Soil Conservation in Queensland


The climate and soils of Queensland are very conducive to soil erosion and by the middle of the last century, it had become a serious problem. An article written in 1950 in the Queensland Agricultural Journal revealed that 16 000 ha (40 000 acres) of land on the fertile Darling Downs had become so seriously eroded that it could no longer be cultivated.

By the late 1940s, the Queensland Government had begun a concerted effort to combat  erosion. Extension officers were employed in up to 30 towns and cities to assist farmers and to increase awareness amongst the community of the need for soil conservation.

Considerable progress has been made in the control of erosion since the 1950s. However, there is a need for continued vigilance and the need to share more information about protecting our soil from degradation.

The following resources provide background information on the situation that had developed by the 1950s and the approaches used to tackle the problem since then. We are indebted to Bruce Carey for this valuable contribution to our website and the land care community.

History of soil conservation in Queensland

The publication Achieving soil conservation in Queensland – a pictorial history was prepared by Bruce Carey in 2012. It has over 200 photographs to illustrate the erosion problems and control measures appropriate to Queensland.

The proceedings of a seminar titled Opportunities to achieve the sustainable use and management of land in Queensland. (2.5MB PDF) also contains information about the history of soil conservation and land management in the state. The seminar was organised by the Queensland Branch of the Australian Society of Soil Science in 2007.


Soil conservation manual & study guides

The publication Soil conservation measures – Design manual for Queensland  (4MB Pdf) was produced in 2004 by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines. To support this manual, the following study guides were prepared in 2014 by Bruce Carey as training materials for soil conservationists employed by QMDC. They feature numerous photos and diagrams.

  • Planning Soil Conservation Layouts (7MB)
  • Runoff Processes (6MB)
  • Empirical version of the Rational method to estimate peak discharge Runoff (2MB)
  • The Darling Downs Flood Frequency version of the Rational method to estimate peak discharge runoff (1MB)
  • Design of channels for soil conservation structures (2MB)
  • Contour Banks (12MB)
  • Grassed waterways for erosion control in cropping lands (8MB)


A 2014 edition of the manual is currently being prepared by Bruce Carey as a voluntary project and will feature new chapters on Land management on floodplains, Stream stability, Soil conservation in horticulture, Gully control and Property infrastructure.


Understanding dispersive soils (17 MB)

This digital book is about dispersive soils and their management in Queensland. Dispersion is  most commonly linked to sodicity  – a natural feature of our soils affecting up to 45% of the state.

Soil dispersion has implications for agriculture, construction, mining and water quality. The book contains 240 pages and almost 200 photos and diagrams. It will be of interest to students, land care groups, consultants, commercial organisations, agency employees, and the wider community. Understanding dispersive soils

Web pages 

These web pages on the Queensland government website  provide useful information about soil erosion and conservation.

  • Soil is your future: To promote the need for soil conservation, this film was produced in 1956 by the Department of Agriculture and Stock and the Rotary Club of Toowoomba. It portrays the serious erosion that was occurring on the Darling Downs and describes the measures needed to overcome the problem. It can be accessed on Youtube at
  • Soil – there’s plenty of it, isn’t there? Highlights the dangers of soil erosion and how it affects agricultural land, urban areas and the quality of water in streams, dams and reservoirs. It was produced by the Department of Primary Industries in 1982 and includes a description of basic soil conservation measures plus a case study based on a dairy farm in the Cambooya district of the Darling Downs.
  • Down to earth: Based on the publication ‘Understanding Soil Ecosystem Relationships’ (USER), this film describes the importance of keeping our soils in balance for long term productivity. It outlines the interactions between soil mineral components, water, organisms and nutrients. It includes graphics showing rainfall impacting on bare soils, photosynthesis and nutrient uptake. The film was produced by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries in 1992 with the assistance of National Soil Conservation Program (NSCP) funding.