Example of a map page from the Pacific Soils Portal.

Scientific impacts

  • The Pacific Soil Portal has enabled the rediscovery of different spatially scaled soil information for the Pacific Islands. This information has been used to guide field sampling and to quantify the change in soil carbon stocks in Tongatapu, Tonga. This valuable resource could be used for similar uses in other Pacific Islands such as Fiji and Samoa.
  • The project has helped improve the Fiji Soil Health Card design and delivery. This initiative provides farmers with information about the nutrient and fertility status of their soil and other relevant information relating to fertiliser recommendation and long-term soil health and management. This monitoring and evaluation program will be used to determine the state and trend of the soil resource base, and in five years time will enable valuable scientific analysis to the effect management interventions on soil health.
  • The use of proximal sensing mid-infrared, near-infrared, and portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy have been shown to be able rapidly predict soil properties. These tools will be able to greatly improve the monitoring and evaluation of soil state and trends and enable the provision of timely advice to land managers.

Capacity impacts

  • Project management: Project staff were empowered to design, manage, and deliver on-ground activities, as well as project management and reporting. This will strengthen future work programs and enable project staff to develop and design research activities.
  • Measuring taro corms in a field trial in Fiji.

    Farming extension: The capacity of research and extension services to understand soil health concepts and practices, as well as their ability to use participatory methods to communicate these messages to farmers, has been strengthened in Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati, and Tuvalu. In addition, a draft of a Dr Soils train-the-trainer program has been developed, which builds on the successful Dr Plant train-the-trainer program. Discussions are currently underway to merge the two programs to create a community of experts for both plant and soil health that can both train farmers and help problem solving issues and challenges with them.

  • Field Survey and Nutrient Management: The project trained in-country project team members in multiple methods of collecting soil and plant samples, data management and interpretation and the development of farming system fertiliser recommendation. The team now has awareness of methods to collect high quality data and are trained in the importance of undertaking rapid soil testing and diagnosis of the soil constraints while in the field.
  • Next generation researchers: The project enabled the professional development of a number of early career researchers from the Pacific Community, the University of the South Pacific, and CSIRO. These researchers developed their networks in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories and New Zealand, worked closely with the project team and partners to deliver project activities, and gained an understanding of soil and land management and associated research needs in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories. The project also enabled a student from Monash University to complete their honours thesis research on Tonga soil carbon status and a student from the Australian National University to complete a special topic on nutrient cycling and budgeting.
  • Irrigation management: The project introduced water monitoring technological devices (Chameleon and Wetting Front Detectors) to in-country partners to monitor soil water status. In-country partners in Kiribati have successfully used the technological devices to monitor solute flux and water use.

Community impacts

The project has created scientific, capacity and community impacts benefiting non-governmental organisations, individual growers, and government agencies and services. Throughout the duration of this project, the project delivered information that met the needs of land managers and improved the livelihoods of communities through more sustainable and secure food production.

Soil Doctors training in Tonga.

Economic impacts
  • Extension services that educate about soil health and approaches to increase soil carbon to improve agricultural production without depleting the natural resource base are expected to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories.
  • The development of the Pacific Soil Portal and associated data infrastructure removes a significant barrier and enables streamlined access to soil information. This information underpins the development of new business opportunities and reassess of land capability mapping and associated policy development.
  • Using mid-infrared spectroscopy for rapid soil testing to quantify soil organic carbon will enable the development of new revenue streams for Pacific Island communities through participation in voluntary soil carbon markets.
Social impacts

A major focus of the project was centred on pilot sites and their farming communities and a capacity building and communication strategy has been formulated to achieve wider impact and adoption. The project has sought to create social impact through several interventions centred at different scales.

  • Local scale: On-farm trials and surveying. The project has used on farm trials and soil surveying to directly connect on-ground land managers with the importance of gaining and applying soil knowledge for sustainable agriculture. The close participation and active engagements of our key stakeholder clearly demonstrate that they are keen to learn and adopt the new technologies or ideas to improve on their current practices, thus gradually making a significant impact on production, livelihood, and environment.
  • Regional scale: Workshops. The project has organised workshops on soil knowledge for sustainable agriculture that have included people from government, commercial and non-government extensions agents, growers, research and development practitioners, students and other interested parties.
  • Country scale: The project partnered with the relevant ministries in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati and Tuvalu, and actively engaged with Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services and the Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services. The aim is to provide information to policy makers that can assist them to develop policies that enable more sustainable agriculture, which in turn achieves social impact.
  • International scale: The project has enabled team members to discuss their findings with others via international workshops and the Global Soil Partnership.

The goal of these interventions is to enable improved food security through the management of the soil resource base and improved resilience of farming systems to future challenges. Without this added support, smallholder livelihood strategies may become even more constrained than at present, leading to both personal and communally shared hardship and potential social dislocation as communities stagnate or lose further members to migration. Protecting against this source of adverse social impact is partially addressed by increasing productivity.

Environmental impacts
  • Nutrients: Improving our understanding of island nutrient budgets will enable targeted management to improve soil health and long-term sustainable production systems. The project has endeavoured to improve the capability of growers and extension agents to manage farming system nutrients and to quantify nutrient leaching and water use in atoll systems.
  • Soil organic carbon: The project has revealed that soil organic carbon has declined in Pacific Island soils. Depletion of soil organic carbon has strong correlation to farming system yield decline, especially in low input systems. These results have begun discussions among the project partners, and the policy committee about the next steps in agricultural practice and research.
  • Monitoring and evaluation of soil state and function: The research teams in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa understand the importance of sample geolocation and recording of data into digital infrastructure to enable quantification of soil state and function. This is key to using monitoring and evaluation to direct soil management and policy and achieve sustainable agricultural production.
  • Fertiliser Policy in Tonga and Fiji: The soil analysis and interpretation data and expertise build at the Fijian Agriculture Chemistry Laboratory at the Ministry of Agriculture has influenced Fiji’s national fertiliser policy. Specifically, the Government’s policy was changed to respond to soil deficiencies identified. In Tonga, the multi-stakeholder national workshops on Sustainable Soil Management enabled by the project resulted in agreement to develop a policy brief and/or voluntary guidelines around fertiliser use. The outcome built on the changes in awareness and knowledge reported by farmers of the importance of managing their soil health in line with specific nutrient deficiencies, including the potential use of single nutrient fertilisers. The private sector led farmer network will experiment with this going forward.