Benchmarking Rural Industries' Practices and Productivity Performance and Review of Industries' Capacity to Change
The grains industry's Southern region includes the following agroecological zones (AEZ):
- NSW Central;
- NSW Victoria Slopes;
- SA VIC Mallee;
- SA VIC Bordertown-Wimmera;
- VIC High Rainfall/ TAS Grain areas; and
- SA Midnorth- Lower Yorke, Eyre.
These cover an area of 4,757,081 hectares.
Grain production statistics for this region for 1999 are:
|Grain group||Production (t)||Average yield (t/ha)||Gross value ($m)|
In the 10 years to 1998, grain production in this region increased by 2.8 million tonnes. The graphs below show the trend in area, production and average yield for this region for the four grain groups.
As an example, the average annual increase in productivity and farm performance of wheat for this region is illustrated in the table below.
|Region/AEZ||Productivity a (%)||Wheat Yield a (%)||Rate of Return b(%)||Farm Cash Income b ($)||Grain Area b (ha)||% of Australian Grain Crop|
|Vic High Rainfall/Tas Grain Areas||2.7||4.7||0.5||41,346||128||0.6|
|SA Midnorth-Lower York, Eyre||3.2||1.4||4.7||93,264||457||9.1|
a - average annual growth 1978-79 to 1998-99
b - four year average to 1998-99
Gross margins for the production of grain in this region vary considerably depending on crop and location.
In 1999, gross margins for wheat production varied from $144.40/ha for ASW in the Mallee AEZ to $330.64/ha for ASW irrigated in the same zone. For barley production, gross margins varied from $141.09/ha for feed barley in the SA Lower, Mid and Upper North AEZ to $263.65/ha for malting barley in the SA Mid and South East AEZ. Other coarse grains recorded gross margins of between $67.02/ha for oats, short fallow in the NSW Central AEZ and $258.83/ha for triticale in the SA Mid and Upper South East AEZ.
Oilseed production gross margins range from $83.00/ha for safflower in the Mallee AEZ to $499.00/ha for canola in the Wimmera AEZ.
Pulse gross margins, however, varied from -$17.07/ha for lupins, short fallow in the NSW Southern AEZ to $231.40/ha for chickpeas, short fallow in the eastern portion of the NSW Central AEZ.
The Southern region experiences a temperate climate, where yields depend upon reliable spring rainfall.
Enterprises in this region are smaller in size when compared to the other regions with diverse production patterns and opportunities. This region has a large and diverse domestic market, and the shift in intensive livestock production has increased the demand for feed grains in this region.
In 1999, the Southern region included:
- 6,818 thousand hectares of field grains
- 330 thousand hectares of oilseeds
- 755 thousand hectares of grain legumes
- 129 thousand hectares of rice production.
Grain production is distributed according to sub-regions as presented in the following table.
|Region/AEZ||Field Grain area ('000 ha)||Oilseed area ('000 ha)||Grain legume area ('000 ha)||Rice area ('000 ha)||%of Aust grain area|
|Vic high rainfall/Tas grain areas||161.2||11.5||8.2||na||0.1|
|SA midnorth-Lower Yorke||1,378.2||23.6||174.2||-||8.5|
* based on ABARE dada, 2000
What are the key characteristics of grain producers and farms in the Southern Region and how do they compare with industry averages?
Key characteristics of grain producers and farms in this region include:
|Key characteristic||Industry Average||Region Average|
|Age of owner/manager||50 years||51 years|
|Owner/manager education and skill|
|- Completed university/tertiary or trade||15%||11%|
|- Completed 5-6 years high school||35%||36%|
|- Completed 1-4 years high school||48%||50%|
|- Primary or no schooling||3%||3%|
|Family members working on farm||86 hr/wk||85 hr/wk|
|Owner manager work on farm||51 hr/wk||50 hr/wk|
|Number of dependent children||1||1|
|Farm cash income ($)||93,514||88,667|
|Total farm debt - June 30||234,708||183,639|
|Farm business profit ($)||20,209||17,030|
|Total off farm income ($)||17,016||18,909|
|Owner work off farm||3 hr/wk||3 hr/wk|
|Total farm area - June 30||1,570 ha||1,242 ha|
|Long term crown lease||15%||24%|
|Employment of non-family labour||26 hr/wk||22 hr/wk|
|Length of group involvement||6 years||6 years|
The main environmental challenges facing the grains industry in this region are dryland salinity, weeds resulting in degradation and wind erosion.
The proportion of farms reporting significant degradation in various forms is demonstrated in the chart below, which shows that the grain farmers of this region see dryland and irrigation salinity as most significant in this region.
What is the grains industry doing to meet these environmental challenges in the Southern Region and across Australia?
Research and development
The main body involved in research and development in the grains industry is the Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC). The GRDC is responsible for overseeing research and development, delivering improvements in production, sustainability and profitability across the Australian grains industry.
Until recently, research it on the wider natural resource management issues have traditionally been the responsibility of the state agencies and CSIRO. In the past, this research has concentrated on land management issues and more recently, moved into land and water use assessment and water management issues. In addition, applied research into areas affecting production and environmental values have been undertaken.
The grains research industry surveys carried out for GRDC between 1994 and 1998 by TQA Research P/L, provide an indication of the trend in application of research findings by the industry. The chart below shows the trend in the percentage of Southern region growers indicating that they have changed farming practices in the last 2 years and 5 years as a direct result of research findings.
The adoption of management practices by growers in the southern region has been surveyed by ABARE (2000). The proportion of growers adopting the practices surveyed are shown in the chart below. Numbers in bold indicate national average.
A positive change in the likelihood of adoption of best practices by grain growers has been identified in the quantitative benchmark studies undertaken for GRDC (Quint, 1994 and Watson and Quint, 1998). This is evidenced by the upward trend in grower movement through the study?s ranking system. This upward trend is illustrated in the chart below.
Grower adoption of certain preventative programs has also been assessed in the quantitative benchmark studies. 1998 these measures this region are:>
- use of legume pastures to improve crops - 75% of growers;
- sowing of deep-rooted crops to counter rising water tables - 24% of growers;
- current use of controlled traffic systems - 11% of growers; and
- probably future use of controlled traffic systems - 5% of growers.
Codes of Practice
The grains industry does not currently have a specific industry code of practice, however, some guidance is provided to farmers through codes of practice for general agriculture such as that developed by the State Farmer?s Federation bodies or through the TOPCROP program.
The industry?s main source of advice on recommended management practice has historically been developed through state agency and CSIRO research and extended to growers via state agencies and agribusiness support.
TOPCROP is a farmer focused information network based on monitoring and target setting for crops, pastures and finances. The aim of setting these targets is to increase profitability and sustainability. TOPCROP is a partnership between growers, industry and government that assists with:
- access to recent industry recommendations;
- dissemination of local knowledge;
- grower interaction; and
- technology review.
Industry strategic planning
The Grains 2000 Project, initiated by the Grains Council of Australia in 1989, identified a number of issues critical to the longer-term profitability and financial sustainability of the Australian grains industry. Strategic Planning Units (SPUs) were established to address these critical issues as they relate to specific grains and deal primarily with improving/expanding domestic and export markets, improving links and arrangements with various institutions and improving industry profitability.
How is the Southern Region of the grains industry working with other agricultural industries to overcome some of the challenges faced by this region?
Grain produced in the southern region typically forms part of mixed farming systems and or mixed farming regions. The NSW and Victorian grain production areas are predominantly located within the Murray Darling Basin. These areas have a diversity or agricultural systems - irrigated and non irrigated, intensive and extensive supporting horticultural, grazing and some cotton production. The South Australian grain production areas are mainly linked with grazing systems.
Historic natural resource management issues that have the potential to impact on regional environmental values and grain production include:
- containment of herbicides through spray drift and runoff mobilisation;
- runoff coordination affecting erosion rates and water flow patterns;
- unknown effects of genetically modified plantings;
- equitable water allocation.
The resolution of these issues requires on going research and development. The grains industry in the southern region has involved itself in the planning processes presently proceeding on natural resource management issues such as:
- dryland and irrigation salinity;
- floodplain management;
- water quality improvement;
- Water allocations accounting for environment flow requirements
An analysis of adoption rates for management practices surveyed indicates that higher adoption of recommended practices is needed to reverse degradation levels.
The grains industry in the southern region is geographically spread across the southern Murray-Darling catchment and the coastal areas of South Australia. Production levels for all sectors are generally trending up over time. Irrigated rice is a diversification of production capacity for the grains industry in this region.
The general intensive nature of agriculture with many of the districts within the southern region results in natural resource management issues such as dryland and irrigation salinity that aredifficult to manage. The less intensive districts face environmental issues such as weed infestation and wind erosion.
Technology and research will need continual development if the insideous nature of salinity, woody weeds and wind erosion are to be checked. Cross industry environmental effects such as:
- herbicide containment;
- water allocation;
- runoff coordination;
- floodplain management;
- salinity management.
occur in the intensively developed areas. The continued high proportion of growers implementing improved management practices (>70%) suggests a capacity for the region?s grain producers to progressively implement change. A majority of growers (around 50%) are designated as ?middle? grower adopters and subsequently require ongoing programs to maintain change behaviour.
Link to Map maker to make a map using this information.
Link to data available for download on "A spatially consistent sub-set of agricultural statistics (AgStats) data 1982/93 to 1996/97"
- Grains Research and Development Corporation web site
- Quality Wheat Cooperative Research Centre web site>
- Australian Wheat Board web site
- Rice Cooperative Research Centre web site
- Ricegrowers' Association of Australia web site
- Grains Council of Australia web site
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