Sustainable farming in Australia is a hot topic among farmers and environmental stewards alike. Our climate is changing. The way we farm must change to meet the new challenges of our hotter and drier continent.
However, there are barriers. Some farmers are reluctant to move away from the practices of old if that means sacrificing productivity. That’s the key. Maintaining or increasing farm productivity whilst preserving the environment can be a daunting task. So, what approaches are our farmers adopting?
One way to achieve sustainable farming in Australia is through regenerative agriculture. This approach focuses on restoring the land and increasing biodiversity, while still producing reliable yields. By developing holistic farming systems, such as crop rotation and cover crops, farmers can improve their soil health while reducing water runoff and pollution.
One of the champions of this style of farming is an American farmer, Joel Salatin. His farm in Virginia is recognised as one of the world’s best examples of regenerative farming.
Joel Salatin travels the world lecturing to groups of farmers about his practice and experience. He has toured Australia several times and filled halls around the country with interested farmers. His audiences sit up and take notice (and notes) when he reveals how his farming approach delivers several hundred percent more productivity than neighbouring farms.
Regenerative agriculture also emphasises the use of natural inputs such as compost and manure to fertilise fields rather than chemical fertilisers. At a time when evidence links chemical herbicides and insecticides with cancers, farmers are looking seriously at natural alternatives.
Another sustainable farming technique is called agroforestry. This practice combines trees with food crops, creating a more diverse and resilient ecosystem. Trees provide shade to crops, reducing the need for chemical pesticides and improving water efficiency. In addition, agroforestry can improve soil fertility through nitrogen fixation and reduce erosion caused by wind and rain.
Australia has traditionally been world leader in land clearing. Not a record to be proud of. Most of that clearing has been on Australian farms. In a hotter, drier country, trees reduce animal stress. This stress has been shown to impact pregnancies and damage immune systems.
Farmers embracing change
Sustainable farming in Australia is gaining support as farmers learn of the positive impacts these practices can have on their land, their productivity, and the environment. Farmers are embracing sustainable farming techniques to ensure a healthy future for both their crops and Australia’s natural ecosystems.
The Australian government is supporting this effort by providing grants to farmers implementing sustainable farming practices. The government has allocated $136 million to the Smart Farms program to help farmers acquire resources and knowledge to transition to regenerative or organic agriculture. Additionally, the government is providing education on sustainable farming techniques.
Sustainable farming also has wider implications in Australia. By shifting away from traditional chemical-heavy agriculture, the country is reducing its overall contribution to climate change. This shift helps protect local wildlife and water sources from pollutants and runoff, furthering Australia’s commitment to conservation.
Many of IIF’s farmer partners have taken remarkably innovative approaches to how they manage their farms and grow their produce. Like Joel Salatin, some of our farmers are now teaching their new farm management practices to farmers around the world. Check out Oceanfarmr’s complete ocean farm management system.
Earth’s population is growing faster than farm productivity. Our farms will need to increase productivity by 70% to feed the world. Arable land is a finite resource. We can’t afford to convert more native forests to farms. So, the answer is finding sustainable ways to improve the land we currently farm. Australian farm produce is in high demand worldwide. By investing in sustainable farming practices and regenerative agriculture, Australia’s farmers are taking an important step towards a brighter future. Our farms can remain productive and environmentally friendly for generations to come.