Bread and butter: most farms use sustainable land management practices

Jamieson Murphy
By Jamieson Murphy
Updated December 21 2021 - 2:39am, first published December 20 2021 - 9:00pm
Bread and butter: most farms use sustainable land management practices

THE majority of farmers surveyed in a national study are using sustainable land management practices to improve the natural resource base and drought resilience.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) surveyed 2355 farms - representing a population of almost 82,000 - about their farming practices.

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ABARES's acting Executive Director Jared Greenville said the findings of the survey demonstrates the agriculture sector's commitment to sustainable land management.

"The findings show just how much sustainable land management has become the bread-and-butter of most farming enterprises," Dr Greenville said.

"For example, 84 per cent of farmers retain stubble, and nearly 70 per cent are reducing reliance on pesticides and optimising fertiliser use.

"Over the last five years, a significant number of farms we surveyed had taken part in the National Landcare Program, and over half had taken up new land management practices as a result."

The survey revealed lots of farmers are employing drought resilience strategies, such as destocking early in low rainfall periods (68pc), improving water retention (64pc), and investing in on-farm grain and fodder storage (58pc).

"Just as importantly, over half of farms (58 per cent) had a source of off-farm income and 37 per cent of farms had diversified their agricultural enterprises over the last three years to increase their resilience to drought," Dr Greenville said.

"Farming in Australia can be tough, and it's heartening to see our farmers employing best practice in both land and business management."

Minimising tillage or cultivation (65pc), using cover crops or inter-row crops (53pc), regrowing native vegetation (51pc) and planting or maintaining deep-rooted perennial pastures (44pc) were other popular sustainable practices.

Only 12pc of those surveyed took part in carbon farming, and of those, 82pc had adopted the practice more than three years ago.

Reducing long-term stocking rates and increasing fodder and grain storage had significant user uptake within the last three years.

Increasing drought resilience was most commonly considered a very important motivator for adopting various farm management practices on broadacre farms (75pc).

Dairy farms were more commonly motivated by financial considerations (83p ) while most sugar and other livestock farms were more motivated by environmental factors (76p).

The main barriers to practice change were available time (78p c of all farms) and lack of funds (73pc of all farms). Sugar and other livestock farms also commonly reported legislation or laws as an impediment to practice change (73pc).

The biggest source of information for nature resource management and drought preparedness practices for farmers were peers, neighbours or friends (49pc), internet (32pc) and private consultants (24pc).

An estimated 35pc of farms attended a natural resource information event in the last three years.

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Workshops and demonstrations were regarded as being most effective at influencing attendees to adopt a new practice, with an estimated 89pc of farms who attended a workshop adopting a practice as a result and 87pc for demonstrations.

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Jamieson Murphy

Jamieson Murphy

National Rural Affairs reporter

National Rural Affairs reporter, focusing on rural politics and issues. Whisper g'day mate to me at jamieson.murphy@austcommunitymedia.com.au

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