Responsible stewardship throughout the value chain, caring for our environment and protecting Australia’s biosecurity underpin our productivity, profitability and global reputation.
Goal: to proactively improve the health of our soils
Target: to be determined when nationally consistent soil health indicators are in place
WhyHealthy soils are of critical importance to grain growers as the foundation for growing productive and healthy crops.
ContextAustralia’s soils are ancient, strongly weathered, have very low baseline organic carbon levels and are infertile by world standardsxiii. The traditional cropping practice of repeatedly ploughing fields to combat weeds exacerbated these underlying issues, created erosion, and impacted productivity. However, in the last few decades widespread adoption of conservation agriculture practices like minimising soil disturbance, maximising crop diversity and minimising bare ground have improved soil health and increased soil organic matterxiii. Maintaining and improving land used for agriculture is therefore a crucial sustainability driver.
Data gapSoil health is complex. There is currently no agreed national standard set of indicators to monitor soil health that take into account the wide diversity of soil types across the Australian continent, seasonal variability, and different farm management systems. A national soil strategy is being developed by 2021 to help fill this gap. We aim to use this strategy and work with other sectors to set common soil health indicators, and then set baselines and targets.
Goal: increase biodiversity stewardship on farm.
Target: to be determined when nationally consistent biodiversity indications are in place.
WhyBiodiversity (the variety of living things found in a particular place) can provide habitat for natural pest control and pollination, control erosion, store carbon, enhance water retention.
ContextBiodiversity is present in cropping soils, but the focus of this goal is the area of farms managed for environmental outcomes. This includes forests, shrublands, wetlands, or grass buffer and pollination swards. The area and condition of this land varies considerably, reflecting regional ecosystem and climatic differences as well as historic land use practices.
Data gapThere is currently no nationally agreed approach to measure farm native vegetation and biodiversity. The grains industry is working with others to develop a credible and pragmatic way to measure change in biodiversity condition at industry scale, taking into account natural regional variations. Australian grain industry indicators, baselines and targets will be developed when this is in place.
Goal: reduce our industry’s carbon footprint and net greenhouse gas emissions
Target: To be determined, when nationally consistent methodology to account for farm emissions are in place.
WhyActions to reduce the industry’s net greenhouse gas emissions, can help mitigate the impacts of climate change, and potentially reduce input costs, enhance market access, and provide a new revenue stream for farmers.
ContextThe grain industry emits greenhouse gases, primarily through use of energy and fertilizer. Vegetation on grain farms also naturally removes CO2 from the environment through photosynthesis. Actions to improve soil health and conservation, covered by the previous two goals, have the potential to increase the amount of CO2 sequestered on grain farms. Businesses along the supply chain are looking to reduce their emissions including through use of renewable energy.
Data gap (farm)A credible, accepted methodology to measure farm emissions and sequestration at industry scale is needed to be able to establish accurate baselines, set a carbon reduction target, and develop credible pathways to achieve the target. Research to do this, led by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, is due to be delivered in 2021. A target will be set after that.
Data gap (post-farm)Aggregating emissions from the multitude of companies operating beyond the farm gate is not currently practical. The industry will provide case studies and examples of initiatives to reduce emissions along the value chain until this data can be accurately reported.
Goal: improve water usage efficiency in rainfed grain production
Target: measure water use efficiency at an industry scale by 2025. Set a 2030 target then.
WhyMaximising every drop of water is a fundamental part of farming. In addition, evidence the industry is maintaining quality and yield in the face of climate change impacts – without compromising other sustainability factors – will give Australian grain customers confidence in long-term surety of supply.
ContextWith 96% of Australian grain crops rainfed rather than irrigated, the industry’s productivity is testament to the ability of growers to produce highly water efficient crops. Practices including breeding resilient crops, the adoption of a range of conservation tillage systems appropriate to different soil types and use of cover crops to conserve soil moisture are all helping build climate resilience and improve water use efficiency.
Data gapWhile individual farms can measure WUE, the ability to accurately measure WUE across the diverse rainfall zones and landscapes of Australia does not currently exist. Industry is exploring how best to do this.
Goal: demonstrate science-based best practice in pest, weed and disease control.
Target: 85% of grain growers and storage facilities use integrated pest, weed and disease management.
WhyDemonstrating their effective and safe use of synthetic pesticides is increasingly important to consumers.
ContextFarmers use an integrated approach for disease, pest and weed management. They carefully consider all available tools to prevent pest populations developing, including natural control by promoting native vegetation and refuge crops to house ‘beneficial’ insect predators, crop rotations and pesticides. Australia’s respected regulator makes sciencebased assessesments of all pesticides for their safety to humans, off-target species and the environment before they are registered for use: if industry chooses a pesticide to control a specific pest, then it is safe to use in accordance with the label. A national residue survey and maximum residues limits testing are mandatory (see Food Safety goal).
Data gapCrop protection is a complex process involving many options to control pests. Industry is exploring if a report card measure can be developed to simply but accurately measure the full range of mechanical, biological, chemical, technological and other crop protection tools to further demonstrate effective and safe use.
Goal: deliver a world-leading whole of industry approach to managing biosecurity.
Target: no change in exotic pest status. Australia remains free of high priority grain pests and disease.
WhyKeeping the industry free of exotic pests and disease provides a major competitive advantage and market access benefits. In addition to limiting market access, the introduction of new pests and diseases to Australia would have huge financial and productivity impacts. Pest and disease management is an intrinsic part of on-farm biosecurity. While every farmer undertakes pest and disease management as part of their crop management plans, increasingly farmers are implementing set biosecurity plans to broaden their approach to whole-of-farm biosecurity. Broader industry surveillance and reporting, the inspection of imported goods and broad community awareness regarding biosecurity issues all improve the ability to identify an emerging or new biosecurity threat.
ContextBiosecurity is the management of risks to the economy, the environment, and the community, of pests and diseases entering, emerging, establishing or spreading. Australia’s geographic isolation has meant we have relatively few of the pests and diseases that affect agricultural industries overseas. Grain Producers Australia and Plant Health Australia have identified high priority pests of Australian grain (as of December 2020, there were 42 pests on this list). Being free of these exotic pests and diseases is a vital part of the future profitability and sustainability of Australian agriculture.
* Priority Goal