Soil, water and landscapes

Australia's soils and landscapes constitute one of the country's most valuable assets, critical to food production, sustainable agriculture and our health. Our research spans national and international scales to inform land use planning, policy options and natural resource assessment.

The Challenge

Advancing agricultural productivity and environmental health with limited resources

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.

To achieve the goal of increasing productivity and maintaining or if possible improving the health of the environment, we need to understand the landscape. The interactions between our natural resources, how we use them and the health and productivity across the whole landscape, from the farm to the consumer.

This requires integrating a range of information such as the effects of land degradation or drivers of resource use efficiency and productivity, to understand and measure what is happening in the system.

Our Response

Innovative and practical solutions

To address these challenges, agricultural production requires innovative and practical research. For example, trialling new land-use systems, innovative farm and industry management practices and improving the efficiency of using resources such as soil, water, fertiliser.

Our research encompasses both the biophysical elements of agricultural landscapes and the social, institutional and economic structures. This view improves our understanding and ability to describe the extent to which the landscape interacts with and influences agricultural systems.

It also allows us to explore the impact on the landscape; degradation or enhancement of the soil, landscape, communities and their resilience and productivity.

Our priority research areas include:

  • developing integrated data and information that describe our agriculture and landscapes across space and time
  • assessing productivity and environmental impacts across industries, regions and life-cycles focusing on the use of resources such as water and energy
  • developing policy-relevant science to understand drivers of changes in landscapes and enable better land use decisions.

Case studies

  • Water repellent soils

    Water repellent sandy soils are a major problem across the western and southern grain growing regions of Australia. We have found a number of farming practices which improve water management in repellent sandy soils.

  • Researching water use efficiency for increased grain yield

    CSIRO and research partners working on the National Water Use Efficiency (WUE) Initiative have identified ways to improve yield through better WUE, in some cases by as much as 91 per cent.


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