A flowering canola field with windmill

The sustainability of cropping systems such as canola farming is a key focus of CSIRO agricultural landscapes research.

Sustainable agricultural landscapes

In partnership with rural industries, communities and governments, CSIRO's agricultural landscapes research is working at the interface of agriculture and the environment to improve ecological integrity and economic performance of farms and rural enterprises.

  • 29 January 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011


Large areas of land in Australia have been substantially transformed by broadacre agriculture. This includes the grain-grazing lands stretching from central Queensland through the Murray-Darling Basin of south-eastern Australia, across to the wheat belt of Western Australia.

These landscapes include a mix of cropping and grazing enterprises together with smaller areas of irrigated crops, horticulture and forestry.

The future and ongoing sustainable management of these lands is the focus of the Agricultural Landscapes Program at CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.

CSIRO agricultural landscapes research aims to be relevant at paddock, enterprise and landscape scales.

Our research targets the complex interface between agriculture and the environment, and we aim to be relevant at paddock, enterprise, and landscape scales.

With expertise in ecology and farming systems, we provide an integrative capacity to help address critical issues and complex challenges.

Research capabilities

CSIRO's agricultural landscapes researchers have broad ranging science expertise. Scientists work within three key disciplines that are combined to provide a cross-disciplinary approach to research. These areas are listed below.

Farming systems - expertise includes:

  • agricultural systems economics
  • crop and pasture agronomy and physiology
  • farming systems research
  • precision agriculture
  • international farming systems research
  • software engineering
  • soil water and fertility science.

Ecology and biology - expertise includes:

  • plant ecology
  • vegetation management
  • biodiversity in agricultural landscapes
  • quantitative ecology
  • ecological modelling.

Landscape science - expertise includes:

  • alternative transport fuels
  • soil water and fertility science
  • climate change impacts
  • spatial analysis and GIS
  • ecological modelling.

Finding solutions

Some key challenges facing Australia's agricultural landscapes include:

  • low profitability of many broad-acre agricultural enterprises
  • degradation of the natural resource base
  • land clearing, fragmentation and habitat damage, leading to the loss of biodiversity
  • uncertainties generated by climate change.

CSIRO agricultural landscapes research aims to address these challenges with research projects covering:

  • improved farming practice leading to enhanced economic performance of agricultural lands for the long term benefit of landholders and their communities
  • landscape design and management guidelines that enhance the natural resource base and protect native biodiversity
  • explicit integration of economic and ecological imperatives increasingly evident in farmland management decisions
  • enhanced capability in research, industry, communities and government to address profitability and ecological performance in agricultural lands.

Current activities

Current research activities include:

  • biofuel system feasibility, options and impacts
  • climate change impacts and adaptation
  • precision agriculture
  • integrated science to improve native vegetation management
  • fire and fragmentation impacts on plant diversity in Western Australia
  • linking sustainable management to farmers in southern Africa
  • managing nitogen use in farming systems.


Agricultural landscapes research staff are based at laboratories around Australia in:

  • Adelaide, South Australia
  • Brisbane, Queensland
  • Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
  • Hobart, Tasmania
  • Perth, Western Australia
  • Toowoomba, Queensland


CSIRO places significant priority on undertaking research in partnership with groups such as:

  • rural industries
  • communities
  • governments. 

Thses collaborations help to both to scale up and maximise quality and to ensure research results are most effectively delivered to the broader community enabling improved ecological integrity and economic performance.

Some of our major project collaborators include:

  • Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit
  • Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research
  • South Australian Research and Development Institute.

Read about Precision Viticulture: understanding vineyard variability.