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Journal article

The second transformation of southern Australian agriculture, regional landscapes and communities

1 Jan 2011

The development and evolution of Australian agricultural practice is a story of rapid and transformational adaption. The importation of European agricultural species and methods needed subsequent major changes to cope with the great diversity of climates, soils and competing vegetation in this highly weathered land. Initial, labour intensive practices have been completely replaced by mechanisation driven by ingenuity and the need to adapt. In this process the landscape has been dramatically altered - vegetation cleared and replaced, soils modified, new species introduced, infrastructure built and communities grown and others eventually bypassed. These dramatic and sometimes abrupt changes might be thought of as the first landscape transformation. We are now witnessing the start of a second transformation. Agriculture is changing at an increasing pace in a process of adaptation to cope with the coincidence of profound economic and social drivers: - Labour costs drive ongoing mechanisation, - better machinery and chemicals enable better agronomic practices, - increases in the real cost of energy will increasingly influence all aspects of production and processing, - critical nutrient supplies will become more expensive, - the price on carbon will change our attitude about what we grow where, - the climate will be warmer with more frequent extreme events, - new genetic technologies and innovative breeding are offsetting other production, constraints - world demand for food and fibre will continue to grow exponentially, - social expectations of land stewardship are more prominent and - more people will have lifestyles that will change land ownership. All aspects of agriculture, its position as part of social and political life, its practice and the nature of service businesses will change. It is not possible to predict with reasonable certainty what these changes will be. Our best chance of successfully adapting will be to be well informed on the trends, to embrace education and research, to encourage regional diversity and to be flexible.

Publication Details
Vol. 23
No. 3
Published year only: 
Subject Areas
Geographic Coverage