4632.0.55.001 - Discussion Paper: From Nature to the Table: Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/11/2017  First Issue
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FERTILISERS AND PESTICIDES

This section presents the first experimental step in compiling Australian accounts for fertilisers and pesticides in accordance with the SEEA AFF Framework. Some of the desired indicators within each account are not yet available and feedback is sought from users about the potential uses of these accounts, additional sources of data, and priority data gaps. See the Approach taken and future plans section.


SEEA AFF FRAMEWORK FOR FERTILISERS AND PESTICIDES

The SEEA AFF framework proposes the use of physical flow accounts to record the supply and use of inorganic fertilisers, organic fertilisers and pesticides. This can either be measured in terms of tonnes of fertilisers that contain active nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K), or in terms of the nutrients themselves. The intermediate consumption of nutrients or pesticides refers to the total amount of organic and inorganic fertilisers applied to soil to increase crop yield and should be allocated to key agricultural products, primarily crops and pastures.

The physical flow account for pesticides records the supply and use of pesticides in terms of active ingredients.


POLICY RELEVANCE AND USE

The Australian Government policy document Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper contains an overarching vision of a more profitable, more resilient and more sustainable agriculture sector. The use of fertilisers and pesticides on Australia farms is an important consideration in the sustainability and growth of agricultural operations.

As Australia grows in population, there is more demand on the agricultural industry to produce a greater amount of food products. Fertilisers and pesticides are fundamental inputs to agricultural, forestry and fisheries practice. Without the use of these, it is expected that Australian agricultural production would have decreased substantially over the past decades. It is relevant however to understand the intensity of fertiliser and pesticide use because of their cost and potential long term effects on ecosystems and the environment. Assessing the merits of production practices such as organic farming, which do not involve manufactured fertilisers and pesticides, is another aspect where environmental-economic accounting could weigh up benefits from both a production and ecological sense.

In some cases, fertiliser and pesticide use are viewed as how effectively natural capital (the value of the natural environment for economic means) is performing compared to agricultural outputs. For example, fertilisers may improve agricultural production but adversely affect the soil they are grown in.

Consistent measurement of the amount of fertiliser and pesticide can be useful for measuring changes to profitability or productivity of agricultural output. Additionally, the use of an accounting approach for recording these flows facilitates comparison of data on production, trade and consumption data.


HEADLINE MEASURES

Fertilisers

A physical flow account for fertilisers is presented in Table 22 from the Downloads tab with data sourced from Land Management and Farming in Australia, 2015-16 (cat. no. 4627.0). This includes information on the use (tonnes applied) of selected slow-release fertilisers, nitrogen based fertilisers and soil enhancers at a national level. Data for 2015-16 also present a breakdown of tonnes applied by selected Agricultural industries (ANZSIC).

Urea and ammonium phosphate were the most commonly used fertilisers in Australia. They accounted for 47% and 38% of total nitrogen based fertilisers used in 2015-16 (Graph 1). In 2015-16, 1,384 thousand tonnes of urea and 1,115 thousand tonnes of ammonium phosphate were applied.

GRAPH 1. NITROGEN BASED FERTILISERS APPLIED, selected fertilisers, Australia, 2011-12 to 2015-16


GRAPH 1. NITROGEN BASED FERTILISERS APPLIED, selected fertilisers, Australia, 2011-12 to 2015-16





Graph 2 shows that Other grain growing (ANZSIC Class 0149) applied the most amount of nitrogen based fertilisers in 2015-16. The Other grain growing industry class includes non-rice cereal and coarse grain crops such as wheat, barley, maize, oats and sorghum. Care should be taken when interpreting this graph, as for example “Other grain growing” has a significantly larger business count and area of holding than “Floriculture Production” (lowest tonnes applied and therefore not in this graph). A more relevant measure might be application rate of tonnes per hectare; however for the data in question the relevant area applied was not available at the time of this report.

GRAPH 2. TOTAL NITROGEN BASED FERTILISERS APPLIED, by ANZSIC class, 2015-16


GRAPH 2. TOTAL NITROGEN BASED FERTILISERS APPLIED, by ANZSIC class, 2015-16



(a) Specialised


Lime and dolomite are the most commonly used soil enhancers and are used to ameliorate soil acidity, improve soil structure, and improve plant growth (Graph 3).

GRAPH 3. SOIL ENHANCERS APPLIED, selected enhancers, Australia, 2011-12 to 2015-16


GRAPH 3. SOIL ENHANCERS APPLIED, selected enhancers, Australia, 2011-12 to 2015-16





The use of fertilisers became a significant topic of interest in 2009 with the emergence of the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) and also the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. While flows to the atmosphere are not captured in this account, the GHG physical flow accounts presents data on carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from agricultural activities including use of fertilisers and liming. Lime and dolomite use in soils leads to carbon dioxide emissions as carbonate reacts with acid in the soils to produce bicarbonate and eventually leading to the production of CO2 and water. While increased use of lime can increase carbon dioxide emissions, there is evidence to suggest increasing soil pH via liming can decrease nitrous oxide fluxes from sandy, acidic soils following summer rainfall (footnote 1).

GRAPH 4. APPLICATION OF LIME AND DOLOMITE AND EMISSIONS FROM LIMING, Australia, 2011-12 to 2014-15



GRAPH 4. APPLICATION OF LIME AND DOLOMITE AND EMISSIONS FROM LIMING, Australia, 2011-12 to 2014-15



Source(s): ABS; DoEE, Australian Greenhouse Emissions Information System


Urea can provide an essential source of soil nitrogen and similarly to lime and dolomite, forms a bicarbonate which eventually leads to the production of carbon dioxide and water. Graph 5 shows greenhouse gas emissions from the application of urea and application from 2011-12 to 2014-15.

GRAPH 5. UREA APPLICATION AND GHG EMISSIONS FROM THE APPLICATION, 2011-12 to 2014-15, Australia

GRAPH 5. UREA APPLICATION AND GHG EMISSIONS FROM THE APPLICATION, 2011-12 to 2014-15, Australia






(a) Includes slow release urea and nitrogen based urea applied.
Source(s): ABS; DoEE, Australian Greenhouse Emissions Information System


Pesticides

Data on pesticides are not readily available, however Table 23 from the Downloads tab presents an empty shell table of the information that would be required and presented in this account.


MEASUREMENT GAPS AND OPPORTUNITIES

The ABS has collected fertiliser and agricultural land management practices data though the Land Management Practices Survey (LaMPS) and the Rural Environment and Agricultural Commodities Survey (REACS) since 2011. The LaMPS fertiliser data is more comprehensive than that of the REACS data. However, the LaMPS occurs biennially, so detailed data is not available for every collection cycle. Additionally, the scope for LaMPS changed after the 2014-15 collection cycle. Previously, agricultural businesses with an Estimated Value of Agricultural Operation (EVAO) of at least $5,000 were selected, but from 2014-15, businesses required an EVAO of $40,000 or more to be in scope. Therefore while data is available for all cycles from 2011, direct comparison of fertiliser data over this full time period is problematic.

The physical flows account calls for a disaggregation of fertilisers applied by specific commodity (e.g. wheat, sugar, maize). In Australia the ABS classifies businesses by their main agricultural activity based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) classes. This groups many similar crops together - for example Class 0149 Other Grain Growing includes but is not limited to wheat, maize, field pea and bean, and other cereal grain growing. Some crops, such as rice and sugar cane, have their own class. Specific commodity based data is available for rice and sugar cane, while other commodities are more broadly grouped. Further work will be undertaken to consider how to most effectively group these commodities.

Footnote:
(1) Barton, L., Murphy, D.V., Butterbach-Bahl, K. (2016). Nitrous oxide fluxes from cropping soils in a semi-arid region in Australia: A 10 year perspective. Proceedings of the 2016 International Nitrogen Initiative Conference, "Solutions to improve nitrogen use efficiency for the world", 2-8 December 2016, Melbourne Australia. http://www.ini2016.com/pdf-papers/INI2016_Barton_Louise.pdf <back