Global soils uncovered at Bogor meeting

17 February 2011

The University of Sydney is behind a global initiative to bring soil knowledge into the digital age and help the international battle to secure food resources and tackle climate change.

Professor Alex McBratney, Director of the University of Sydney's Australian Centre for Precision Agriculture, described the project as a "Google Earth" of soil quality,providing the world's first freely-available, fine-scale, three-dimensional digital map of the globe's soils.

"Food security and the world's growing population is one of the world's greatest challenges," says Professor McBratney.

"Modellers, farmers, land users and policy makers are demanding good quality soil information to help them make decisions in real time affecting food production, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and regenerating their degraded lands."

From young volcanic ash soils under paddy fields in Java to the well-aged red clays under wheat in eastern Australia, soil resources are being scrutinised on an unprecedented scale.

The Oceania Node of the project was officially launched at a meeting of soil scientists in Bogor, Indonesia, 7-9 February 2011. The University of Sydney, which has a special role in training and capacity building in this project, was represented by Professor McBratney and Dr Budiman Minasny.

The first contact with Indonesian soil scientists was initiated by Dr. Budiman Minasny who presented the concept and idea of at the ICALRD office in Bogor, February 2010. One year later, together with Prof. Alex McBratney, they presented the state-of-art in digital soil mapping and the progress of the global mapping.

"In order for the national mapping project to progress rapidly, a new generation of Indonesian soil scientists needs to be trained in digital soil mapping," said Professor McBratney, who is also the scientific coordinator of the project.

Training for a soil scientist from Indonesia, funded by the Crawford Fund, has already commenced at the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "Once the trainee has completed the program at the University of Sydney, the trainee will train others in their own country", said Professor McBratney.

The Indonesian workshop is a collaboration between the Indonesian Centre for Agricultural and Land Resource Development (ICALRD),, CSIRO Land and Water, The University of Sydney and LandCare New Zealand. is supported at the international level by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the work done by the Oceania Node scientists is being mirrored by scientists from over a hundred agencies across eight nodes.

Dr Alfred Hartemink, international coordinator of, based at The Netherlands' ISRIC - World Soil Information, described the project as "truly global".

"It is not just assembling a global database of information on soil properties, it is also creating and fostering a truly global collaboration of relevant governmental and scientific agencies," said Dr Hartemink.

Further Information:
Global Soil map webpage:

Contact: Professor Alex McBratney

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