VegeSafe helps you to carry on gardening

VegeSafe helps you to carry on gardening

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Macquarie’s popular VegeSafe program has received over $75,000 in donations.

VegeSafe is a community science participation program run by Environmental Science staff at Macquarie University and is the only service of this kind in Australia.

It informs the community about metal and metalloid contaminants in their garden soil through a soil metal testing program. Participants receive a formal report with their soil results and are provided with links to information and advice about "what to do next" in the event of soils containing elevated concentrations of metals and metalloids.

Their motto is "Carry on Gardening" because this is exactly what they want people to do - in the knowledge that their soils are metal free as is the produce from their gardens.

Thanks to generous donations, the VegeSafe team have been able to visit, sample and test soils from multiple schools, community and domestic gardens from all over Australia. They have been able to respond to daily enquiries for soil sampling and related advice and have assisted, advised and given comment presentations to thousands of Australians.

Research led by VegeSafe’s Professor Mark Taylor has found that lead can be a problem the humble Aussie backyard, and that backyard chickens can also be affected. Despite lead levels decreasing significantly in our major cities since the 1970s due to regulation, it is still an issue in Australian backyards, where the legacy of contaminated soils and dusts is starting to become evident through chickens – the “modern canaries in the coal mine”.  Vets are saying they are treating more and more animals, mainly chickens for poisoning.

With more Australians looking to grow their own vegetables and have backyard chickens, VegeSafe advise them to carry on gardening, but to take a few simple precautions, especially if they live in the inner city or have homes built before the 1970s.

A recent study by Professor Taylor found 40 per cent of the 200 Sydney backyards he measured had lead levels in the soil above the Australian health guidelines.

"What we see is in the inner part of Sydney — they're the most contaminated areas — and as you move away from the city centre as road density gets less, as houses get more modern, the contamination gets less," he said.

"We consider the greatest risk is particulates - bits of contaminant sticking to the plant and people not washing the veggies properly," Professor Taylor said.

"You should be mulching your garden soil, doing a raised bed if it's contaminated and just reducing exposure to particles and dust that can get on your food and into your house."

A new study of soil metal concentrations in residential and community vegetable gardens found soil in some Melbourne home gardens had elevated levels of lead.

The study, a joint project between RMIT University and Macquarie University, was published in February and analysed soil samples from 136 home vegetable gardens across Melbourne.

Content owner: Advancement Last updated: 19 Mar 2018 12:23pm

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