Farming Practices in Australia
Agriculture is an important contributor to the economy of every country. It provides revenue, employment, food for domestic consumption, food for exports and so on. Australia is a major agricultural producer and exporter in the world today. Australia earns about 12% share of GDP from agriculture alone. It has diversified its agricultural practices over time and still continues to dominate in the wheat and sheep market. About 325,300 people are employed in agricultural activities across Australia. Australian food exports are worth A$ 30 billion annually and growing.
Australia is a leading exporter of grains, meat and wool. About 6% of the land is arable and about 60% is suitable for cattle grazing. The main agricultural crops grown in Australia are wheat, barley, oats, sorghum, cotton, fruits, tobacco maize, rice, canola, sunflower, soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, sugarcane, and vegetables. The livestock produce in Australia is sheep, beef, pork, poultry and dairy products. The export for wheat is about 80%, 90% for wool and cotton, 50% for barley and rice, 40% for beef and grains, 30% dairy products and 20% fruits.
Farming is mainly carried out in the states of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia. Beef is produced in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Cotton is produced in New South Wales and Queensland. Tropical fruits are grown in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory. Sugarcane and vegetables are grown in Queensland. The central parts of Australia are mainly desert areas and not suitable for farming purposes.
Farm sizes vary from small to very large farms. Australia produces a wide variety of fruit, nuts and vegetables. Popular fruit varieties are oranges, apples, bananas, chestnuts, potatoes, mangoes, pineapples and tomatoes. Australia has a large wine industry with wine being grown in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and New South Wales. Australia is the second largest exporter of beef in the world. Cattle production covers about 200 million hectares of land. Sheep production for wool has also diversified towards the lamb meat industry. Other important livestock production is the pork industry rearing about 5 million pigs annually. Apart from this, dairy and fisheries are important industries for export and domestic consumption purposes.
Currently Australia has been developing a heat resistant variety of wheat. This happened with the help of NASA discovering fluorescence in plants. Due to this, it is easy to discover how certain plants react to weather conditions and it is easier then to develop hardier crops. It also shows much heat the crops absorb. Newer technologies are being developed and adopted to grow better crops that are heat resistant and tolerant to water scarcity. Australian agriculture R&D ranks among the best in the world. Research is being carried out to develop crops suitable for climate changes. Australia has recognized the importance of linking engineering and biology to improve farming practices and for future sustenance.
Satellites and drones are being used to gather information such as crop health and productivity and how the weather affects certain crops. New crop varieties are being developed that will optimize the use of available resources and minimize environmental effects on farming. Farmers use computer models to assess the status of soils, crops, and farming systems being practiced. Farmers will use this information and decide when to sow their crops, when to apply fertilizers and how to manage pest control. Organic farming is popular the world over and Australia is not far behind. Every country understands the need for organic farming and is pushing research and technology to find ways and means to reduce chemical usage on crops to produce food that is pest free.
Health hazards across the world have pushed people into thinking out of the box and finding ways to develop healthier crops. Chronic ailments such as cancer have made it necessary to move towards a healthier approach towards farming. Apart from this, production land is not available as it used to be earlier and hence ways and means are being developed to produce more out of what is currently available. Sustenance is the key to future farming and we need to leave something for the future generations too. Rapid and exponential rise in population and therefore the demands in food supply have gone up and hence food production needs to match this demand. To meet these needs and many more, the Australian government is continuously carrying out research and development in the field of agriculture to develop better crops and more crops per hectare land that is available.
Water is major scarcity in Australia and there are various zones being followed to conserve water in cities and towns. Australia faces major challenges in ensuring sustainable water supply in the face of increased climate variability and rising demand for water. In response, the Australian Government provides national leadership in water reform. The National Groundwater Strategic Framework was developed last year to address the serious water issues faced by Australia. The National Water Initiative (NWI) is Australia’s blueprint for water reforms being developed by the government to conserve water. Increasing demands on ground water have lead to a better approach to better understand and manage the groundwater systems.
Some threats faced in farming are the sharp rise in costs and capital investments, move from conventional farming to organic farming due to soil degradation, uncontrolled increase weeds, diseases and pests, poor animal health and use of pesticides. Although using pesticides and conventional farming methods generate more crops and are effective for large scale farming but the health hazards associated with it are not worth the trouble. Organic farming is harder to implement but the long term effects are satisfying and ways are being developed to increase production by use of organic farming and also consider and work towards sustainable farming for the future. Organic farming has been practiced in Australia for a long time now but not in large scales. Australia is primarily arid land or semi-arid land and organic farming has easily taken over most of the conventional farming zones and it has now come out as the top organic farming land in the world. Efforts are on to keep up the pace and produce good quality food for the future generations to come.