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FEATURE ARTICLE: SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MURRAY-DARLING BASIN NRM REGION
Additionally, a combined presentation that draws together data from these base accounts is included for 2015-16. Data are sourced from Tables 28 and 29 in the Downloads tab. As with the national SEEA AFF accounts, there are currently data gaps that will require further investigation for future releases.
SELECTED MEASURES FOR THE SA MDB REGION
Agriculture relies on natural environmental and economic inputs to generate produce. The more productive a region is suggests the presence of sufficient inputs for a productive industry. In turn, the ability to sustain the use of these inputs could indicate continued income for the region over the longer term. The SEEA AFF highlights a number of direct environmental and economic inputs into agriculture: land, fertilisers, energy, water and labour. A set of accounts using this framework could assist in balancing the needs of agriculture dependent regions like the SA MDB with those of the community and the environment.
This section draws in some of the ecosystems that are an integral part of agriculture, as a brief example to demonstrate the opportunities for profiling a region under the full SEEA AFF framework.
This article includes two maps for the SA MDB region. A land cover map based on the National Vegetation Information System (Department of the Environment and Energy) displays cleared and not cleared land cover. A land use map based on the Australian Land Use and Management (ALUM) Classification (ABARES) displays land used for agricultural (including forestry) and non-agricultural purposes.
The referenced land account tables are sourced from the ABS Land Account: South Australia, Experimental Estimates, 2006-2011 (cat. no. 4609.4.55.001). Please see the Explanatory Notes section for further information on the methodology and data sources used for both maps and land accounts.
Map 1 presents the level of cleared and not-cleared land. Significant areas still maintain some degree of not-cleared land cover, which partly relates to the presence of reserves such as the Chowilla Game Reserve and large plantations of vineyards. These findings are not necessarily an indication of the underpinning habitat or ecosystems, rather the amount of cover at the time the images were taken (2010-11). It is useful to note that 2010-11 was an significantly wet period and vegetation stocks may be over represented compared to other years. These types of maps can give an indication of where particular environmental assets may be located and where land is cleared for natural or economic purposes.
Map 1: Land Cover, Clearing Status, SA MDB NRM, 2009-11
The asset account for land cover (see Table 28.2 in the Downloads tab) describes opening and closing stock, as well as changes to different types of land cover, between 2005-06 and 2010-11 (based on the Geoscience Australia Dynamic Land Cover Dataset). This dataset summarises Earth surface observations to provide a dominant land cover class. Over the time period there was a 15% increase in the land used for Rainfed pasture and a 6% decrease for both Irrigated cropping and Rainfed cropping.
The land use for the NRM is predominately agriculture (Map 2). Many of the non-agricultural areas correspond to reserves, national parks and urban environments. For the purposes of SEEA AFF agricultural land use includes land used for forestry.
Map 2: Land Use, Agriculture, SA MDB NRM, 2010-11
The asset account for land use (see Table 28.1 in the Downloads tab) describes opening and closing stock, as well as changes to different types of land use between 2006 and 2011 (based on SA Valuer General data). In the SA MDB NRM, 82% of the land was used for agricultural purposes, half of which was used for mixed farming and grazing. Between 2006 and 2011 the amount of land used for agricultural cropping decreased by 4.3% (2,200 hectares), the largest decrease, in percentage terms, of any of the agricultural land uses.
Since 2010-11 the value of wheat has been declining in the region, while the value of fruit and nuts crops were increasing. Over the period 2010-11 to 2015-16, wheat production decreased by 57%, and land devoted to wheat production decreased by 32% in the region. Wheat crops occupied 358,000 hectares of SA MDB agricultural land in 2015-16. Grapes occupied less than 10% of the region's total land area given over to wheat, with 29,000 hectares used for grapes. The wheat crop in SA MDB NRM had an estimated gross value of $115 million in 2015-16, which was $249 million less than grapes (please see Table 29.1 in the Downloads tab).
As of 2015-16, agriculture in the SA MDB NRM is dominated by grape growing:
As a Murray-Darling Basin irrigated agricultural area, SEEA compliant water tables are useful for identifying the supply and use of water in the SA MDB NRM by industry.
Currently water data with an ANZSIC industry classification is not available at a regional NRM level. However, water use data from an activity based perspective is available for selected commodities at an NRM level in the Water Use on Australian Farms (cat. no. 4618.0) publication. The SEEA AFF framework allows for a combination of factors to be taken into account when analysing water consumption.
Graph 1 shows a selected commodity perspective of water use in the SA MDB in 2015-16. Grapes and fruit and nut trees account for the majority of total irrigation water applied to agriculture in the region, accounting for 43% and 35% respectively. Grapes use less than 1% of total agricultural land in the region.
GRAPH 1. WATER APPLIED, selected commodity groups, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, 2015-16
Value of Agricultural Production and Employment
Graph 2 shows a time series of the value of selected commodities from 2010-11 to 2015-16. In 2015-16 grape production had the highest value of all commodities in the SA MDB region. Grapes had an estimated gross value of $364 million, of which 98% was from grapes used for wine production. The gross value of grapes in 2015-16 was up by 54% from its 2013-14 value.
In 2010-11, wheat accounted for the largest estimated gross value of all agricultural commodities in the SA MDB region. The following year, the gross value of wheat produced in the region dropped by 49%. In 2015-16 the gross value of wheat was surpassed by almonds, meat poultry and oranges - all of which increased in production from the preceding year.
GRAPH 2. GROSS VALUE, Selected agricultural commodities, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, 2010-11 to 2015-16
According to the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry employed an estimated 6,776 people, accounting for 5% of total employment in the SA MDB region. Agriculture makes up the majority of employment in the industry accounting for an estimated 6,249 people. Grape growing had the highest number of employees, recording 982 people (16% of total agriculture employment), followed by the Sheep and lamb industry which employed 552 people (9% of total agriculture employment).
Physical flow accounts
The 2015-16 physical flow account for crops for SA MDB region (Table 29.2 in the Downloads tab) indicates that grapes used for wine production are the most produced commodity in physical terms, with an estimated 562,000 tonnes produced (Graph 3). This was followed by wheat, accounting for 456,000 tonnes of production, despite wheat production having decreased by 57% between 2010-11 and 2015-16. In contrast, fruit production has become more prominent in the region with melon, mandarin and orange production increasing by 224%, 62% and 49% respectively between 2010-11 and 2015-16.
GRAPH 3. PHYSICAL PRODUCTION, Selected crops, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, 2015-16
In terms of physical production for livestock products, the SA MDB region produces significantly more pig meat than cattle or sheep and lamb meat. In 2015-16, 34,000 tonnes of pig meat was produced, compared with 19,000 tonnes of sheep and lamb meat and 14,000 tonnes of cattle meat. However, pig meat production has decreased by 29% since 2013-14. Sheep and lamb meat and cattle meat production remained relatively stable (Graph 4).
GRAPH 4. MEAT PRODUCTION, Selected livestock, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, 2010-11 to 2015-16
Plantation and livestock assets
Graph 5 shows the total area of land used by selected commodities in the SA MDB region in 2015-16. It indicates that despite a drop in production, wheat crops occupy the most land of all plantations in the SA MDB region, at 358,000 hectares. Barley was the other main commodity in terms of land use, accounting for 220,000 hectares. Grapes grown for wine production took up 29,000 hectares of land in the region, which is 329,000 hectares less than wheat, despite having the region's highest production estimates for value and physical production (see Graph 2 above).
GRAPH 5. AREA OF PLANTATION, selected commodities, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, 2015-16
The plantations asset accounts for the SA MDB from 2011-12 to 2015-16 (Tables 29.8 to 29.12 in the Downloads tab) show that the land used for wheat decreased by 32% since 2010-11. The net change, from 2014-15 to 2015-16, in land area stock for wheat was -26,000 hectares, which was the largest decrease recorded in the 2015-16 asset account. However, in percentage terms potatoes had a larger decrease of 16%, compared to a decrease of 7% for wheat. The land dedicated to cereal cut for hay and barley had the largest increase in stock in 2015-16, with an increase of 16,000 hectares and 9,000 hectares respectively (see Graph 6).
GRAPH 6. NET CHANGE IN STOCK, selected commodity, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, 2015-16
Graph 7 shows the total number of trees for selected commodities in the SA MDB. In 2015-16, oranges had the most trees of all fruit and nut trees, with an estimated 1.62 million trees. Almonds were close behind with 1.58 million trees. Almonds have recently experienced a significant increase in tree stock, increasing by 735,000 trees (or 87%) during 2015-16.
GRAPH 7. TOTAL NUMBER OF TREES, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, 2010-11 to 2015-16
The main food crops in the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin (SA MDB) NRM are grapes (for wine), oranges, almonds, wheat, potatoes, and barley (refer to Table 29.1 in Download tab). Wheat and barley are wind-pollinated, but all fruit and nut crops require pollination by insects and other organisms. Native pollinators such as solitary bees and flies are known to be effective pollinators of grapes and almonds, while native stingless bees are thought to benefit the pollination of citrus. Together, these pollinated fruit and nut crops accounted for $672 million (36%) of total agriculture gross production value for the SA MDB in 2015-16.
By reducing pest numbers, insectivores have a role in delivering crop quality and quantity. Insectivores important to the SA MDB NRM include the Little Mastiff Bat (Mormopterus planiceps), which has been known to consume up to 80% of their diet on the Rutherglen bug (a pest of canola, wheat and other crops) (Churchill, 2008). Of the selected insectivores for this NRM, one species is listed by the Red List as Near Threatened. The SA MDB NRM hosts 28 insectivorous species that are listed as decreasing, 30 species are considered stable, and 13 species are considered to be increasing (refer to Table 28.4 in the Downloads tab).
At a resource management level, biodiversity indicators can show the impact of changes in the environment on invertebrates like pollinators, insectivores and on habitats for these important agricultural security agents.
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