Looking across a cereal crop towards rolling hills and agricultural land

Agriculture and forestry activities occupy approximately 70 per cent of the Australian land surface.

Producing more with less: increasing productivity whilst sustaining natural resources

In a world of increasing demand for depleting natural resources, coming decades will see a focus on resource use efficiency and a major global effort on extracting more from less.

  • 21 June 2010 | Updated 8 October 2012

Overview

In Australia, as in the wider world, the food production challenge is now set in an environment where land, water, energy and labour resources are more constrained and competition for these resources is more intense.

In tandem with these challenges is emerging evidence that the growth in crop and animal yields are slowing in Australia and elsewhere in the world. 

This creates significant implications for Australia's competitiveness in global commodity markets and significant implications for global food security.

The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship, together with partners in industry, government and farmers are identifying intervention pathways for increasing productivity in food and forestry in Australia.

Diagram.

With our partners, the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship is focused on improving resource use efficiencies and innovative farm and industry management practices.

 

Using fertilisers efficiently

It is imperative that Australian agriculture move to more efficient use of fertilisers, particularly phosphorous.

Recent predictions that the global availability of phosphorus, a key fertiliser ingredient needed to ensure high levels of agricultural productivity in Australia’s low plant-available phosphorus soils, may peak in as little as 25 years. 

Although other estimates suggest that relatively cheap sources of phosphorus fertiliser may be available for a longer time, all the predictions indicate that phosphorus is a finite and valuable resource.

The Flagship, together with industry partners have been researching the effectiveness of phosphorus fertiliser use in pasture production systems.

Find out more in the phosphorous resource use fact sheet: Time ticking on the need to use phosphorus resources more efficiently.

Water and food production

The most significant changes humans have made to the global water cycle are from the agri-food production.

In many cases the impacts occur far from where the consumption of food takes place. Assessments of the amount of water used to produce products like beef and rice have received wide media attention, however assessments providing only total volumes used mean that consumers cannot interpret the real food production impacts.

CSIRO has developed a new method for ‘water footprinting’ that measures the environmental impact of the type of water used, rather than just counting volume used.

For more information about water footprinting: Measuring water footprints of crops from 'paddock to plate'.