NCGRT supports new opportunities for research

Posted 24 May 2011

Soil and water scientists are taking advantage of recent wet conditions to undertake new studies.

The replenishment of water profiles after a decade of drought has provided soil and water scientists the opportunity to put some ideas to work.

"With 2010 having been such a wet year we can now actually test some of our theories generated over the past 10 years," said Dr David Mitchell, hydrology technical specialist with Industry and Investment NSW.

The work on soil and water is being supported by access to the recently commissioned geoprobe facility based at the Wellington National Centre Ground-water Research and Technology (NCGRT).

Peter Graham, University of NSW hydrogeologist and NCGRT site manager, said the geoprobe can retrieve minimally disturbed soil core samples from much greater depths than previously possible.

Geoprobe core samples from depths of up to 20 metres are being used to study the interaction between different soil horizons and help determine the ways that water and chemicals can move through the soil.

Dr Mitchell said one of the key research programs being conducted through the NCGRT is looking at the ways land-use affects water movement in soils.

This study is investigating the different effects of pastures, crops and trees on landscapes and water movement, and whether they will allow water to run into streams and underground.

Dr Mitchell said this knowledge can help farmers understand in practical terms the outcomes of their land use decisions.

He said it could also produce outcomes in policy-level decisions.

The work is particularly relevant to the problem of soil salinity, which has been exacerbated by the recent return of wet conditions.

So far, the project has progressed one year into a five year programme.

There are hopes this could be extended afterwards.

"Particularly because of the climate change research we're doing, it is quite important to continue the research over an extended period," Mr Graham said.

Source: NCGRT web site

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