Diversity and Evolution of Rainfed Farming Systems in Southern Australia

  • John A. Kirkegaard
  • Mark B. Peoples
  • John F. Angus
  • Murray J. Unkovich
Chapter

Abstract

Rainfed farming systems in southern Australia have changed during recent decades from a traditional mixed crop–livestock system towards more intensive cropping. New technologies and greater economies of scale have increased productivity and have been accompanied by the adoption of more environmentally sustainable land management systems. Despite intensification of cropping, medium-term farm business profits vary less with the proportion of the area cropped than with the management skill of individual farmers. Many consultants believe that trends toward higher cropping intensity on mixed farms may have weakened recently as a result of prolonged drought, herbicide-resistant weeds, higher crop input costs, and higher prices for livestock products. These adjustments demonstrate the benefits of the reversible integration of mixed crop–livestock systems. Optimism for the future of broadacre farming, re-ignited in 2008 by high world grain prices and increasing demand for meat, is tempered by concerns over rising energy and input costs, the possible impacts of climate change, and slowing productivity trends. Case studies in this chapter illustrate the development of mixed farming systems in contrasting regions: (1) the equiseasonal rainfall area of southern New South Wales with clay loam soils, and (2) the winter-dominant rainfall area of the northern sand plain of Western Australia.

Keywords

Mixed farming Intensive cropping Productivity Sustainability 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • John A. Kirkegaard
    • 1
  • Mark B. Peoples
    • 1
  • John F. Angus
    • 1
  • Murray J. Unkovich
    • 2
  1. 1.CSIRO Plant IndustryCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.University of AdelaideGlen OsmondAustralia

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