Articles on Agriculture

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Everyone seems nervous to talk about changing our diets. Sumlin/Flickr

Why aren’t we talking about meat and climate change?

Reducing your carbon footprint by eating less red meat rarely gets attention. This strategy has been recommended by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, epidemiologists writing in The Lancet and…
It may not be a silver bullet, but biochar has a lot to offer farmers (and the atmosphere). sillypucci/Flickr

Backing biochar: the Australian Government’s role

Evelyn Krull, a research scientist at the CSIRO, asked in these pages whether biochar could save the planet. Eighteen months have passed and although research efforts continue, still no meaningful quantities…
Overuse of nitrogen fertiliser can have nasty environmental consequences. eutrophication&hypoxia/Flickr

Agriculture’s hunger for nitrogen oversteps planetary boundaries

Planet Earth has boundaries for its biophysical subsystems. By 2009, we had already exceeded three of the boundaries – climate change, biodiversity loss, and the nitrogen cycle. Climate change is a top-of-mind…
Flooding risk is often used as an argument against greater environmental flows for the Murray-Darling, but graziers would benefit greatly from floods. Richard Kingsford

More flooding in the Murray-Darling basin could be good news for farmers

The history of our development of the Murray-Darling Basin is one of constraining and constricting its rivers’ flows. Many of the basin’s floods are now captured in dams for later constrained release to…
Phasing out live exports may be the only way to save Australia’s northern cattle industry. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

A ten-year plan to phase out live animal exports

Temporary bans on live cattle and sheep export have undermined confidence in the industry, driving property prices down and diminishing banks’ willingness to lend for long-term improvement. If the industry…
Brigalow trees are vital for soil health and erosion control. They’re only just recovering from 19th century clearing. Why does the Queensland Government have it in for them? Arthur Chapman

Queensland land-clearing changes threaten trees farmers need

The Queensland State Government has recently proposed changes to the Vegetation Management Act 1999. Under the planned reforms, landowners will be able to clear and thin out vegetation using self-assessable…
Sensible Australian farmers don’t object when foreign investors want to buy their problematic assets. AAP Image/Cubbie Group

Cubbie Station sale no threat to food security

Controversy surrounding the recent sale of Cubbie Station in Queensland near the New South Wales border to (mainly) Chinese interests is not unexpected. Fears about foreign ownership in Australia are long-standing…
Some of the biggest water-energy-food integration challenges are on better soils close to major population centres; in this case, Adelaide. Andrew Campbell

Rethinking rural research in Australia

Rural research is vital. It is about 10% of our national innovation system. Annual investment exceeds $1 billion, according to the Rural Research and Development Council. The rural sector and farm-dependent…
Methane-capture technology in Grantham, Queensland, could earn carbon credits through Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative. AAP/Alan Skerman

Carbon farming: a solution to global land degradation and poverty?

Today, nearly 1.3 billion people – almost a fifth of the world’s population - live on “fragile” agricultural land. Just one-third of the rural poor in developing countries live on productive agricultural…
With so many vested interests, opposition to the plan will likely last a long time yet. SA Eco Images Pty Ltd

Resisting the Murray-Darling Basin Plan – in whose interest?

As the final version of the Murray-Darling Plan heads to Parliament there seems little doubt that the debate will continue. The sticking point remains the volume of water to be returned to the environment…
Efficient water use is ever more important, yet budgets for vital irrigation R&D are declining. A. Campbell

Part One: Irrigation R&D drying up - a looming weakness for Australia

Welcome to a two-part special on the troubling plight of irrigation R&D, by Professor Andrew Campbell of Charles Darwin University. Research into the smartest, most efficient and sustainable ways to…
The rains came too late for these Texas wheat crops, which are stunted and thin. But there’s more to rising food prices than bad weather. Flickr/agrilifetoday

Crops hit by drought and biofuel policy: another food price crisis?

Not so long ago, things were looking good. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had announced on the 5th of July that the FAO food price index had been falling for the third consecutive month…
It would be smarter to use perennial native grasses for cereal grains instead of relying on a handful of farming-intensive annual crops. Shown here is Curly Mitchell grass (Astrebla lappacea), common in northern Australia. Ian Chivers

Splendour in the grass: new approaches to cereal production

Any investment manager will tell an investor to spread risks, to have a diverse portfolio, to engage with many sectors of the local economy, to invest in other parts of the globe, to hedge your bets, a…
Harvest time: Asia’s rising incomes and demand for food are no guarantee of a mining-style payday for Australian farmers. AAP/EPA/Raminder Pal Singh

Australia’s place in the global food chain: time to wise up

In recent weeks Australia’s PM, a shadow minister, and a state premier have heralded the opportunities for Australian farmers to capitalise on a global food-shortage and, in particular, rising demand for…
Community gardens in Melbourne: urban food production is increasingly important but obstacles are heaped in its way. AAP/Julian Smith

Grow your own: making Australian cities more food-secure

Food security has typically been framed as an issue of global concern, concentrated within developing countries. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation defines food security in terms of the availability…
Climate change is only one of many pressures farmers will have to adapt to. Pete Hill

The three Ps of climate change and agriculture

Opinions on anthropogenic climate change vary greatly across society, and it appears that Australia’s farmers remain largely sceptical about the causes of climate change. Recent surveys show that only…

Asiatic pear genome mapped

The genome of the Asiatic pear has been accurately sequenced to within 3% of its complete assembly. Sometimes referred to…

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