Green leafy crop in foreground and paddocks and hills in background.

There is increasing demand for sustainable land management.

Advancing Agricultural Productivity and Environmental Health

The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship researchers are working to identify opportunities and pathways to increase productivity whilst maintaining natural resource function and ecosystem health.

  • 16 September 2010 | Updated 8 October 2012

Agricultural challenges

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.

Research opportunities include trialling new land-use systems and innovative farm industry management practices.

To address these challenges, agricultural production requires innovative and practical research.  

Research opportunities include trialling new land-use systems, innovative farm and industry management practices and improving the efficiency with which producers use natural resources such as soil and water.

Research for productivity improvements

There are five areas of research targeting productivity improvements while enhancing environmental health.

1. Frontiers of farm productivity

Dual-purpose crop can lift profit

This article from Farming Ahead looks at research by CSIRO on the potential for mixed farmers to use dual-purpose canola to produce livestock forage during the winter and an oilseed crop later in the year. (3 pages)

Legumes - benefits beyond nitrogen

This article from Farming Ahead, the final instalment in a series of articles on legumes, looks at the non-nitrogenous, break-crop effects of legumes. (2 pages)

Sheep production data can show value of saltland pastures

This article from Farming Ahead describes how CSIRO scientists have found that revegetated saltland sites could be highly productive, with some offering grazing value equal to that of adjacent areas unaffected by salt. (3 pages)

2. Efficient and sustainable water use

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.

Water Use Efficiency

CSIRO is working to improve the water use efficiency of grain based farming systems, with research partners in the Grains Research and Development Corporation's (GRDC) water use efficiency initiative.

3. Enterprise efficiency

Precision Agriculture: profiting from variation

CSIRO's Precision Agriculture research is helping farmers understand and benefit from landscape variation.

The scenario planning and investment framework tool

Information for users of the Scenario Planning and Investment Framework (SPIF) tool is provided in this guide. (44 pages)

Harvest forecasting solution for Simplot’s pea production

Dr Andrew Higgins, in collaboration with a large food processing factory in Tasmania, Simplot, developed and implemented a database application and model that dramatically improves the factory's ability to plan optimal harvest and transport times.

4. Multi-functional biodiverse landscapes

Biodiversity: benefits and threats

CSIRO research is helping to manage the increasing threat from invasive species and the benefits to agriculture from ecosystem services.

Managing invasive insects

CSIRO is developing biological control techniques for the management of some of Australia’s main insect pests. This will help reduce the amount of pesticide used and provide control at a landscape level.

Capturing the ecosystem service of pest control from native vegetation: the bush working for you

Scientists are researching the role of native vegetation as a means of improved pest management strategies for agricultural systems. (2 pages)

5. Functional soils for sustainable farming systems

Sustainable phosphorus use for the future

CSIRO scientists are providing solutions to a predicted shortage of phosphorus which is an essential element for agricultural production and therefore, availability of food worldwide.

Farming: roots and soil

CSIRO is studying plant roots and their association with soil and plant productivity to boost sustainable crop and pasture production.

Reducing water repellency in sandy soils

This two-page information sheet is about addressing water repellent soils in the southern and western grain belt by using beneficial bacteria and updating farming practices.

Read more about CSIRO's research in the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship.