By Teresa Fox and Richard Heath
As noted by Bellotti and Rochecouste in 2014, early awareness and proof of concept of conservation agriculture began in the 1960-70s through the establishment of agricultural bureaus such as the Crop Services Society in South Australia. These groups fostered channels of communication between farmers and consultants and provided opportunity to improve awareness of conservation management practices.
Increased adoption continued into the 1980s, aided by the establishment of the Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) as mechanisms for funding agricultural research. Farmer perspectives continue to guide operational decisions and strategic policies through appointments on executive boards and regional committees. The establishment of Landcare also contributed to increased participation in conservation practices within the farming sector.
However, conservation agriculture faces serious impending challenges, such as regulatory impacts on glyphosate use and increasing weed resistance. These challenges will require farm innovation above and beyond what we have seen across the past six decades. Anticipating emerging risks and potential impacts is vital if conservation agriculture is to continue delivering transformative outcomes.
The scientific community is actively engaged in this discussion and is working to provide Australian farmers with new facts and practices to ensure that Australian agricultural continues to thrive. The most recent Farm Policy Journal includes an article by Richard Dickmann from Bayer Australia which not only outlines the plant science industry’s involvement in the development of conservation agriculture practices, but also emphasises clear intention to partner in the next phases of cropping evolution.
However, are these solutions practical for everyday farmers? Do they maximise the creation of co-benefits seen over the past decades? If not, will they lead to the same levels of successful wide-scale adoption previously witnessed?
Discussions on conservation agriculture’s future must consider how policy can foster increased farmer innovation. Any barriers which currently impede on-farm innovation need to be identified and removed to ensure farmers can rise to the emerging challenges.
To progress these discussions, the Australian Farm Institute (AFI) and Sydney Institute of Agriculture (SIA) are hosting a webinar on this topic on Monday 22nd June 2020 from 10am – 3pm. The webinar will address the current state of conservation agriculture and emerging threats to best practice, the evolution of new practices and systems, and the policies and strategies needed to ensure that Australian farmers can continue to farm in a profitable, productive and sustainable fashion. AFI & SIA members receive free access to the live webinar and recording, and non-members can access this opportunity for $40.