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Land Management and Farming in Australia

Information on Australian agricultural businesses management practices, including soil enhancers, fertiliser use, cropping and pasture management

Reference period
2016-17 financial year

Land use

Key figures

Land use on farms, Australia, year ended 30 June 2017

 2016-17Change since
  2015-16
  %
AGRICULTURAL BUSINESSES AND LAND AREA
Agricultural businesses (no.)88 0732.8%
Area of agricultural holdings ('000 ha)393 7976.1%
Total land area ('000 ha) (a)769 202 
LAND USE FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION ('000 ha)
Land use for agricultural production372 7218.5%
Crops31 0742.3%
Grazing340 7639.1%
- Improved pasture35 567-4.5%
- Other grazing land305 19611.0%
Forestry (b)774-12.5%
- Plantation forest193-19.5%
- Native forests581-9.9%
Other agricultural purposes110-23.1%
Land not used for agricultural purposes15 4476.2%
- Land set aside for conservation/protection purposes7 4207.3%
- Other land not used for agricultural production8 0275.2%
a. Total land area supplied by Geoscience Australia
b. Total area of Land used for forestry now includes the area of both Plantation and Native forests.
 

Key points

  • Agricultural businesses operated across just over half (51%) of Australia's total land area during 2016-17.
  • At 30 June 2017 there were 394 million hectares of agricultural land in Australia, a 6% increase on the previous year. Coinciding with this increase in agricultural land, there were 2,400 more agricultural businesses at 30 June 2017, a 3% increase on 2015-16 estimates.
  • Favourable weather conditions across much of the country saw the area of land used for crops in Australia increase to 31 million hectares in 2016-17. The increase was driven by South Australia and Western Australia, up 8% and 4% respectively on last year's estimate. South Australia, in particular, saw a resurgence in agriculture production after a poor year in 2015-16 with record high yields for many crops and farmers taking advantage of the conditions by planting additional areas of crops.
  • Of the 394 million hectares of land operated by agricultural businesses in Australia, 341 million hectares (or 87%) was used for grazing, a 9% increase when compared to 2015-16. An estimated 65,000 agricultural businesses (or 74%) of all agricultural businesses, reported grazing land, a 6% increase from the previous year.
  • Queensland continues to be the largest contributor to the area of grazing land, with an estimated 129 million hectares of land used for grazing in 2016-17.
     

Grazing land area, hectares (millions), 2016-17 by National Resource Management regions

Map: Grazing land area

Grazing land area, hectares (millions), 2016-17 by National Resource Management regions

Area set aside for conservation or protection purposes, hectares ('000), 2016-17 by National Resource Management regions

Map: Area set aside for conservation or protection purposes

Area set aside for conservation or protection purposes, hectares ('000), 2016-17 by National Resource Management regions

Crop and pasture management

Key figures

Crop and pasture management, Australia, year ended 30 June 2017

 AreaMovement since
 ('000 ha)2015-16
CROP AND PASTURE CULTIVATION
Cultivation for crops and/or pasture  
Total area cultivated (including no cultivation apart from sowing)23 1914.2%
No cultivation apart from sowing18 0477.1%
One cultivation3 059-4.8%
Two cultivations1 271-4.0%
Three or more cultivations813-5.8%
Crop land sown to pasture  
Crop land sown to pasture for less than six months of the year58615.7%
Crop land sown to pasture for six months or more of the year81412.2%
INTERCROPPING PRACTICES
Mixed inter-row/strip cropping360-37.8%
Relay cropping26116.2%
Row alley cropping29-45.6%
Cover cropping189-6.0%
Pasture cropping205-1.4%
Other intercropping practices42523.9%
 

Key points

  • Agricultural businesses reported cultivating 23 million hectares of land for crops and/or pasture during 2016-17, a 935,000 hectare (or 4%) increase on 2015-16. The most common land cultivation practice for crops and pasture continues to be zero or minimum till where farmers undertake no cultivation apart from sowing or planting.
  • Of the 20 million hectares of crop land cultivated 79% (or 16 million hectares) received no cultivation, apart from sowing or planting, a 16% increase on 2015-16. Similarly, 70% (or 2 million hectares) of the 3 million hectares of pasture land cultivated received no cultivation, apart from sowing, which was a 33% decrease in area on the 2015-16 estimate.
  • Western Australia continues to have the largest area of land cultivated for crops and/or pastures, with 8 million hectares, followed closely by New South Wales (including the ACT) with 6 million hectares.
  • Nationally, 5,000 agricultural businesses undertook some form of intercropping practices on 850 thousand hectares of land in 2016-17. While the number of business undertaking intercropping increased by 5% the area on which intercropping practices were undertaken decreased by 20%, driven by a 32% drop in Victoria's area of intercropping (down to 206,400 hectares). New South Wales (incuding the ACT) continues to be the main state reporting intercropping practices with 320 thousand hectares, or 38% of the nation's total area on which intercropping was undertaken.
  • The area on which Mixed inter-row/strip cropping was undertaken decreased to 359,700 hectares (down 38%) in 2016-17. Despite this fall, it remained the most common form of intercropping, accounting for 42% of agricultural land using any form of intercropping, down from 55% in 2015-16.
     

Total area of intercropping undertaken by hectares ('000), 2016-17 by Natural Resource Management regions

Map: Percentage of cropping businesses undertaking intercropping

Total area of intercropping undertaken by hectares ('000), 2016-17 by Natural Resource Management regions

Crop stubble and/or trash management practices

Key figures

Crop stubble and/or trash management practices, Australia, year ended 30 June 2017

 2016-17Movement since
  2015-16
 '000 ha%
Area of crop residue managed  
Grazed off3 004-28.9%
Incorporated into the soil1 721-8.9%
Removal by cool-moderate burn2 16937.9%
Removal by hot burn1 41255.8%
Retained standing5 277-31.9%
Retained on ground5 72922.9%
Windrowed and left191-3.5%
Windrowed and removed6733.6%
 

Key points

  • In 2016-17 an estimated 25,600 agricultural businesses undertook some form of crop stubble and/or trash management practices over an area of 21 million hectares.
  • The most common crop stubble and trash management practices were retained on ground, undertaken on 5.8 million hectares of crops; retained standing, undertaken on 5.3 million hectares; and grazed off , undertaken on 3 million hectares.
  • Western Australia had the largest area on which crop stubble and/or trash management practices were carried out (6.4 million hectares). New South Wales (including the ACT) had the second largest area, with 5.6 million hectares.
     

Crop stubble and/or trash management, hectares ('000), 2016-17 by Natural Resource Management regions

Map: Crop stubble and/or trash management

Crop stubble and/or trash management, hectares ('000), 2016-17 by Natural Resource Management regions

Soil enhancer use

Key figures

Soil enhancer use, Australia, year ended 30 June 2017

 2016-17Movement since
  2015-16
 ha%
Compost209 072-5.0%
Green manure49 648-30.5%
Mulch14 549-39.3%
Lime (including lime sand and stone)2 178 253-2.1%
Dolomite113 306-18.7%
Gypsum1 271 75025.3%
Biochar4 319-50.2%
Biodundar91 302n.a
Poultry manure254 485-9.5%
Other soil enhancers418 358-37.3%
All soil enhancers4 605 042-1.0%
n.a not applicable (Data on biodundar use was not collected separately in 2015-16)
 

Key points

  • Of all agricultural businesses in Australia, 33% (or 28,800) applied soil enhancers on 5 million hectares of land in 2016-17. There was a 26% increase in the number of agricultural businesses applying soil enhancers. Despite this, the area that soil enhancers were applied to decreased slightly (down 1%) compared to 2015-16.
  • New South Wales (including the ACT) continued to have the largest number of businesses applying soil enhancers in 2016-17 with 8,100 businesses, a 22% increase since 2015-16.
  • Western Australia continued to have the largest area to which soil enhancers were applied with 1.7 million hectares followed by New South Wales (including the ACT) with 1.2 million hectares.
  • Lime (including lime sand and stone) continues to be the dominant soil enhancer used by both area of application and number of businesses applying it. Used to reduce soil acidity, the area on which lime was applied (2.2 million hectares) in 2016-17 accounted for 47% of the total area on which all soil enhancers were applied and was applied by 14,500 businesses, or half of all businesses applying soil enhancers.
  • Agricultural businesses in Western Australia continue to be the largest users of lime, applying it to 1.2 million hectares of land in 2016-17.
     

All soil enhancers applied, tonnes ('000), 2016-17 by Natural Resource Management regions

Map: All soil enhancers applied

All soil enhancers applied, tonnes ('000), 2016-17 by Natural Resource Management regions

Fertiliser use

Key figures

Fertiliser use, Australia, year ended 30 June 2017

Fertiliser typeArea applied toMovement sinceAmount appliedMovement since
  2015-16 2015-16
 ('000 ha)%('000 t)%
Nitrate slow release fertiliser1 6355.9151-8.8
Urea slow release fertiliser2 471103.129177.3
Other slow release fertiliser87733.185-8.9
Urea11 174-5.01 3870.2
Ammonium sulphate1 464-14.5146-15.2
Urea ammonium nitrate3 484-11.5nana
Anhydrous ammonia261-19.735-10.9
Potassium nitrate158-43.125-47.7
Ammonium phosphates13 192-8.2963-13.6
Other nitrogen based fertilisers2 08255.928836.2
Single superphosphate5 3176.9700-5.0
Double and/or triple superphosphate1 57523.417621.8
Other phosphorous-based fertilisers3 75230.735937.2
Muriate of potash and/or sulphate of potash1 872-19.2140-24.1
All other fertilisers1 068-73.6125-66.5
All fertilisers50 383-4.34 873-4.4
 

Key points

  • An estimated 57,300 agricultural businesses applied 5 million tonnes of fertiliser to a total of 50 million hectares of agricultural land across Australia in 2016-17, a 4% decrease in the area to which fertilisers were applied.
  • By area, ammonium phosphates continued to be the most widely used fertiliser in 2016-17. However, the area to which it was applied decreased by 8% to 13 million hectares and the tonnes applied decreased by 14% to 963,000 tonnes.
  • Urea continues to be the most applied fertiliser in 2016-17, both by the amount applied and the number of businesses using it. While the area on which urea was applied decreased 5% to 11 million hectares, the amount applied was virtually unchanged from 2015-16 at 1.4 million tonnes. Nationally, 21,800 agricultural businesses applied urea in 2016-17, a 2% decrease from 2015-16.
  • Agricultural businesses in Western Australia continued to fertilise the largest areas of land with 19 million hectares reported in 2016-17 or 37% of Australia's total area of agricultural land fertilised. Both Western Australia and New South Wales (including the ACT) used the largest amounts of fertiliser during 2016-17 with both applying just over 1 million tonnes.
     

All fertiliser applied by tonnes ('000), 2016-17 by Natural Resource Management regions

Image: All fertiliser applied by tonnes

All fertiliser applied by tonnes ('000), 2016-17 by Natural Resource Management regions

Data downloads

Land management and farming in Australia, state and territory and NRM - 2016-17

Land management and farming in Australia, state and territory and NRM - 2016-17 (.csv file)

Survey material

To view the 2016-17 Rural Environment and Agricultural Commodities Survey sample form click here

To view Maps: Land management and farming in Australia click here 

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4627.0.