SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
LAND USE AND AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITY
In 2007-08, approximately 54% of Australia's total land area was managed by agricultural businesses. On a state basis, the lowest proportion of land managed by agricultural businesses was in Tasmania (23% of state area) while the highest was in Queensland (82% of state area).
Grazing land accounted for 87% of land managed by agricultural businesses. This included both grazing on improved pasture (16% of agricultural land use) and other grazing land (71% of agricultural land use). Other agricultural land use included 8% for cropping. Land on agricultural holdings that was not used for agriculture included 2% set aside for conservation. Grazing on improved pasture was lowest in the Northern Territory at 3% and highest in Tasmania at 49%. Areas used for grazing on land other than improved pasture ranged from 12% of agricultural land in Victoria to 93% of agricultural land in the Northern Territory. The percentage of agricultural land used for crops ranged from less than 1% in the Northern Territory to 38% in Victoria.
In 2007-08, the majority of agricultural businesses were engaged in grazing activities (69%). This was evident across all states, except South Australia and Western Australia.
Half of all agricultural businesses in Australia were engaged in cropping activities. Cropping was more common in Western Australia and Tasmania, with 68% and 65% respectively.
While relatively few agricultural businesses were engaged in horticulture on a national basis (17% of all agricultural businesses), almost half of the agricultural businesses in the Northern Territory reported that they had undertaken horticultural activities, mainly fruit and nut production.
LAND MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
The most common land management practices undertaken by agricultural businesses in 2007-08 were surface water management (74% of agricultural businesses), application of fertiliser (62%) and monitoring ground cover in paddocks (54%). Overall, 63% of all agricultural businesses reported making one or more land management changes over the last five years to address land and soil related problems on their holding. This was reflected in all states and territories except the Northern Territory where fewer agricultural businesses (46%) reported changes to land management practices.
PROTECTING THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT FOR CONSERVATION PURPOSES
In 2007-08, 66% of all agricultural businesses reported having native vegetation on their holding and just over half of these protected their native vegetation for conservation purposes. Similarly, more than half of all agricultural businesses reported rivers or creeks on their holding with 49% of these protecting their river or creek banks for conservation purposes. Wetlands were reported by 10% of all agricultural businesses with just under half of these businesses reporting that they had protected these wetlands for conservation purposes.
TILLAGE & FALLOW LAND
In 2007-08, 75 thousand agricultural businesses prepared land for crops or pastures. Most of these undertook two cultivation passes or less with only 14 thousand reporting three or more cultivations. Of agricultural businesses preparing land for crops or pastures, 40 thousand (53%) reported using zero-tillage.
Nationally 17 million hectares was prepared using zero-till compared with 9 million hectares prepared using one or more cultivation passes. Western Australia performed zero-till on the largest area of land prepared for crops and/pastures (6 million hectares) and the Northern Territory the smallest area (8 thousand hectares).
Of Australia's cropping land left fallow, 22 million hectares was left fallow for 3 to 9 months. New South Wales accounted for a third of the 2 million hectares left fallow for more than 9 months.
Of all agricultural businesses managing crop residue, the main crop residue management practices undertaken were to leave stubble intact (43%), removal of crop residue by baling or heavy grazing (34%) and ploughing crop residue into the soil (33%). These management practices were used on 90% of all land managed for crop residue in 2007-08.
Although most states and territories followed the national trend, nearly two thirds of agricultural businesses in Western Australia that managed crop residue on their land left stubble intact (63%), while only 14% ploughed crop residue into the soil. In Queensland, the most common crop residue management practice undertaken was to plough crop residue into the soil (53% of agricultural businesses managing crop residue).
Of agricultural businesses grazing livestock on crops or pasture, 69% monitor the amount of ground cover in paddocks and 57% of these have established a minimum ground cover level target. Queensland reported the highest proportion (65%) of agricultural businesses with a target for minimum ground cover levels, while in the Northern Territory only 33% reported minimum ground cover targets.
By far the most common method undertaken by agricultural businesses for monitoring ground cover was visual estimates, with 96% reporting using this method. This proportion was generally reflected in all states except the Northern Territory where 17% reported using photo monitoring standards (comparison with photos of known ground cover levels) to monitor ground cover.
A large proportion (62%) of agricultural businesses in Australia applied fertiliser to their holding between 1 July 2007 and 30 June 2008. The highest percentage of fertiliser use by agricultural businesses was reported in Western Australia (79%) and the lowest was reported in Queensland (44%).
The most common types of fertiliser used were urea and single superphosphate (both used by approximately 32% of all agricultural businesses reporting fertiliser use). However, the type of fertiliser used varied between different states and territories. In Queensland, agricultural businesses reporting fertiliser use had a higher usage of urea (50%) and other manufactured fertilisers (44%), while only 7% reported using single superphosphate. The use of other manufactured fertilisers was also common in the Northern Territory (53%), Western Australia (51%) and Tasmania (41%).
Nationally, the average application rates for manufactured fertilisers ranged between 0.07 and 0.14 tonnes per hectare. The application rate for animal manure was 3.19 tonnes per hectare.
In 2007-08, 17% of all agricultural businesses reported undertaking activities to prevent or manage soil acidity. The highest proportion of agricultural businesses managing soil acidity were in Tasmania (33%), Western Australia (27%) and Victoria (21%).
The most common activities to manage soil acidity were the application of lime and dolomite. Victoria and Western Australia reported the highest proportion of agricultural businesses managing soil acidity by applying lime (86% and 85% respectively). Tasmania reported the highest proportion of agricultural businesses applying dolomite to prevent or manage soil acidity (41%).
While the application of soil conditioners was the dominant activity undertaken to prevent or manage soil acidity, 15% of agricultural businesses managing soil acidity reported changing the type of fertiliser used and 8% used other methods.