The SA Department of Agriculture has had a long history in conservation of soil, water, vegetation and other natural resources for long term benefit of the community. It first became actively involved in soil conservation in 1923 through administering the Sand Drift Act, the first of its kind in Australia. It has also played a key role in assisting agricultural industries to achieve optimum productivity by sustainably managing land and water resources.
In 1939 it became obvious that the state’s soil resources had become seriously degraded by over grazing and wheat-fallow rotations. The Department then began administering the Soil Conservation Act which proclaimed the formation of soil conservation districts with corresponding administrative bodies named as soils boards. The soil boards were managed by landowners. Technical support was provided to the soils boards from soils officers who were appointed by the Department of Agriculture. This board system was a first of its kind and it was successfully adopted nationally by interstate agencies over the following half century. Boards also managed weed and pest animal control, and water resources.
Over the past 100 years, natural resource management has moved between different Government agencies. The Department of Agriculture’s role in natural resource management has included the following initiatives.
- The contribution of the Department’s Soils Branch to sustainable agriculture through contour banking, contour furrowing, farm planning based on land use and soil mapping.
- The development of water conservation measures in rural areas and efficient irrigation.
- Conservation of pastoral areas through property plans based on vegetation and soil associations and stocking rates.
- State wide involvement in sustainable land management including tree planting which helped develop community Landcare groups.
- Assisting with management of noxious weeds, rabbits, wild dogs and other pest animals.
A recent initiative has been the consolidation of various conservation, water and pest authorities into regional natural resource management boards, under the Natural Resource Management Council.