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Sustainable Agriculture Flagship: CSIRO

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on April 22nd, 2010

Source: Cleanfood, the Future Climate newsletter

CSIRO’s National Research Flagships tackle Australia’s major research challenges and opportunities through large-scale multidisciplinary partnerships.    The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship’s goal is to secure Australian agriculture and forest industries by increasing productivity by 50% and reducing carbon emissions intensity by at least 50% between now and 2030.

CSIRO’s research brings together many different scientific disciplines to address the economic, environmental and social sustainability of agriculture and forestry.  Australian agriculture and forestry are entering an era where it must cope with rapidly changing global markets for commodities, changes to water allocations, rising input costs, skills deficiencies, environmental pressures and meet consumer expectations for sustainable land management and healthy, ethical food production.  These land use goals cannot be simply traded off against each other.

The national challenge for the Flagship is to develop rural land use systems that deliver the highest value benefits to the Australian economy and society and address the major global issues of food security and greenhouse gas abatement.

Ecosystem health

Helping to develop a national environmental monitoring system and new markets for environmental services to deliver biodiversity conservation, landscape amenity and other ecosystem function benefits from managed production landscapes.


Establishing the scientific basis for total factor productivity gains by 2015 via efficiencies in land, labour, water, energy and nutrient use in Australia’s agriculture and forestry sectors and deliver an increase in total factor productivity of 50% over 20 years.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Developing scientifically verifiable tools and analyses to support carbon neutral Australian agriculture and forestry sectors through a 50% reduction in direct and indirect emissions and biosequestration in forests and soils.

Global food security

Initiating new partnerships to deliver large international projects through knowledge based services for agriculture, forestry and land management to help address global challenges in achieving food and fibre security.

Greenhouse gas management and carbon storage in land use systems

We are working to reduce emissions from Australian lands and to protect carbon sinks to ensure that any captured carbon is stored securely.  We are measuring greenhouse gas emissions from land use and carbon stocks to predict the effects of changes in management practices and land use, including the establishment of new forests as carbon sinks and feedstocks for bioenergy production.  Under the national Soil Carbon Research Program, CSIRO and its research partners are working to understand and assess the carbon storage potential of Australian agricultural soils.  Our livestock research is seeking to reduce the methane emissions from livestock per unit of product.

Advancing agricultural productivity and environmental health

Our scientists are working to achieve innovative yet practical and reliable systems for food supply with increasingly limited resources. Research is based on the better matching of land-use, improved management, new plant and animal genetics and capturing key ecosystem services.

Research targets include:

- Increasing synergies between novel plant and animal genetics and innovative management practices.

- Developing efficient and effective technologies for irrigated and rain fed agriculture.

- Supporting multi-functional biodiverse landscapes and healthy soils for sustainable farming systems.

- Developing predictive tools for enhanced farm business prosperity and multiple agribusiness systems.

Landscape systems and trends

Our scientists are working to provide innovative observation and knowledge systems to build an improved national capacity in observation and prediction of trends in agricultural and forestry landscapes. We aim to increase the adaptability, flexibility and responsiveness of Australian land management. We are advancing the research frontiers in environmental sensing and monitoring systems, information engineering and management, land evaluation, analysis and modelling tools and participatory research. Researchers will develop and integrate modelling infrastructure and remote sensing systems. We will use these to establish and enhance data systems to forecast trends and develop new options for the productivity and sustainability of agriculture and forestry.

Partnering for International Food and Fibre Security

There is an international imperative to increase the production of major food and tree crops, as well as meat and milk products, in order to keep pace with projected increases in population.  Australia has a critical role to play in contributing to the global response to the food and fibre security challenge. CSIRO is developing strong international research partnerships that can help rural communities raise agricultural and forest productivity, while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the unintended impacts of production practices.

Source: Cleanfood

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