CRC CARE brings together industry, government, science and engineering to prevent, assess and clean up environmental contamination

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On World Soil Day, Newcastle leads the way

Date: 5 December 2018
Category: News, Press releases,2018

Newcastle is making a major contribution to Australia’s soil research efforts, with two soil-related Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) headquartered at the University of Newcastle. 

The CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE) addresses environmental contamination of all kinds, with a strong focus on soil pollution, and the CRC for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC) aims to improve the productivity of Australia’s agricultural land. 

This year’s World Soil Day (Wednesday 5 December), which is themed ‘Be the solution to soil pollution’, shines a light on the importance of the work being done in Newcastle and across the nation by some of Australia’s finest soil researchers.

Chief Executive Officer of the Soil CRC, Dr Michael Crawford is excited that there is a worldwide focus on soil. “On World Soil Day we recognise the importance of soil in sustaining our agricultural systems and food production,” he says. “Soil – which holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere – is also a crucial element in our efforts to mitigate or adapt to a changing climate.”

CRC CARE Chief Executive Officer Professor Ravi Naidu notes the significance of World Soil Day 2018. “With one-third of our planet’s soil already degraded,” he says, “this year’s theme reflects the growing realisation that chemical contamination of our environment is one of humanity’s gravest challenges, which I truly believe is as great if not greater than climate change. 

“Soil pollution is particularly insidious,” says Prof Naidu, who is delivering the opening keynote address on Clean soils: humanity’s next great challenge at a special World Soil Day event in Seoul, South Korea. “It harms us when we eat food grown in contaminated soil and people working with soil – or children playing in it – can be exposed directly. It also disrupts the ecosystem services – the benefits that humans freely gain from the natural environment, such as water supply, erosion control and food production – upon which we rely for our quality of life.”

Dr Crawford says the Soil CRC covers a broad range of areas of soil research but research in soil pollution is part of the solution for Australia’s agricultural industry. 

“One of our research projects is looking at herbicide residue in soil and the effect it has on crop productivity. This information is invaluable to farmers who need evidence-backed guidance to improve their soil and crop health.” 

Among its many soil-related projects, CRC CARE is using microbes (bioremediation) to clean up hydrocarbon-contaminated soils at mine sites and developing rapid, real-time on-site sensors for detecting and analysing soil contamination. A project to remediate acid sulfate soils dramatically restored the health of wetlands near Cairns and has been hailed as a model for similarly afflicted sites globally.

CRC CARE (Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment) brings together industry, government, science and engineering to prevent, assess and clean up environmental contamination. 

The Soil CRC (Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils) brings together scientists, industry and farmers to find practical solutions for the nation’s underperforming agricultural soils. 

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