Landcare Farming is about taking a holistic approach to land management. It involves adoption of sustainable farming practices for the good of the land and land managers.
Sustainable farming can improve profitability, maintain the productive capacity of a farms natural resource base, and improve a farms capacity to cope with adversity all while maintaining or enhancing the natural resource base.
There has been significant progress in developing landcare farming systems across Australia, but more needs to be done to ensure sustainable agriculture in the future.
Australias natural resources are declining faster than we are able to protect and repair them. Issues such as salinity, soil acidity, pollution of waterways by nutrients, and loss of native vegetation are costing agricultural industries and the community billions of dollars.
There is an urgent need for a national effort to further develop sustainable Landcare farming systems if we are to see major landscape improvements over the next 50 years.
Farmers, land managers and agricultural industries are increasingly realising that environmentally sound production offers benefits in terms of business liability and profit, while having benefits for the environment.
There are more than 4000 Landcare groups in Australia, and in total, Landcare reaches about 75 per cent of farmers and land managers. Surveys consistently show that farmers who are Landcare group members are on average 50 per cent more likely to adopt sustainable agricultural practices than other farmers. Landcare Australia continues to educate and raise awareness about landcare farming practices, with good results.
At the industry-wide scale, Landcare farming promises to provide industries with better control over natural resource management issues, better market access such as for the emerging ‘clean and green market, and reductions in farm costs.
At the regional scale, landcare farming can contribute to setting and achieving catchment natural resource targets, and to maintaining the viability of local and regional communities.
At the farm scale, Landcare farming can improve the farms capacity to cope with adversity and maintain productivity whilst conserving important landscape features.
For example Landcare farming practices can:
reduce fertiliser costs through soiling testing
improve stock health through the use of shelter belts
improve pastures by implementing rotational grazing techniques
Farming and the Greenhouse Effect
Australias National Greenhouse Gas Inventory estimates that on-farm activities (excluding energy use) produce around 18 per cent of overall national emissions.
This is more than all of Australias transport-based emissions, making the agriculture sector the second largest source of greenhouse gases after electricity production.
Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture represent the loss of valuable resources from farming systems. For example, it is estimated that equivalent to 10-15 per cent of the feed energy digested by sheep and cattle is lost as methane, making it unavailable for animal production.
Improving feed conversion efficiency can therefore reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while improving farm productivity and profitability.
Similarly, 25-75pc of nitrogen added as fertilizer in Australian agriculture escapes without being channelled into plant systems. While the nitrous oxide component of these losses is relatively small (around 1.25pc of nitrogen applied), this is a particularly potent greenhouse gas. This means that the emission of even a small amount of nitrous oxide has a large impact on the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
Further, nitrous oxide emissions are often associated with conditions that result in large losses of nitrogen through other processes. Taking action to improve the efficiency of nitrogen use therefore presents opportunities for greenhouse, production and environmental benefits.