The Department of Agriculture, through Caring for our Country, is funding projects in the Sustainable practices national priority area under the Improving management practices and Landscape scale conservation targets. The department has approved $448 million (up to 30 May 2012) for projects to improve land management practices on farm. These projects provide information to farmers in the broadacre cropping, dairy, horticulture and beef cattle/sheep industries about land management practices that will help improve soil condition and contribute to maintaining a healthy environment.
On farm practice change is being monitored using the biennial Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), which surveys 33 000 of Australia’s 135 000 agricultural businesses. Results are reported at the national, state and natural resource management (NRM) region levels. Data from the ABS 1995–96, 2000–01 and 2010–11 agricultural censuses (which surveyed all agricultural businesses) have been used with data from the 2007–08 and 2009–10 ARMS to track trends in practice change.
A set of fact sheets have been prepared that show trends in practice change at the National and state/territory levels, and for NRM regions across the states/territories. Links to the fact sheets are provided below.
Key trends at the National level include:
- Increases in the percentages of farmers in the broadacre cropping, dairy, horticulture and beef cattle/sheep industries taking action to protect their soil from wind and water erosion, to help build soil carbon and protect native vegetation on their farm for conservation.
- Thirteen to twenty three per cent of farmers in each of the reported industries were actively managing soil acidification. More analysis at regional level, including rates of lime use, will be undertaken to better understand this issue. Soil acidification is a long term problem that will require an ongoing education and awareness raising strategy. Government agencies and industries (including through Caring for our Country) will continue to work with farmers to encourage regular soil testing and appropriate levels of liming.
- For broadacre cropping industries — the data indicate an improvement in ground cover management through better tillage and residue management practices.
- For the grazing industries (beef cattle/sheep dairy) more farmers reported active monitoring of ground cover levels. Further work is needed to encourage farmers to manage to targets of 50 to 70 per cent ground cover to reduce erosion risk whilst increasing carbon storage.
- Ground cover management practices have been adopted by many in the horticulture, industry, however no trend data are available for this practice.
- Land managed for agriculture may contain up to two thirds of Australia’s native vegetation. Estimates from the ARMS data indicate that more than half of the agricultural businesses reporting native vegetation, wetlands and rivers and creeks on farm were protecting these resources for conservation purposes. The percentages of farmers protecting these resources increased by 4per cent, 6 per cent and 12 per cent respectively over the period 2009-2008 to 2009-2010.
Northern and Remote factsheet
South Australia factsheets
Western Australia factsheets