Department of Agriculture and Food dairy research officer Bronwyn Edmunds says Western Australian farmers and agricultural researchers have an important role to play in increasing public and government awareness of the importance of grasslands in agriculture.
Dr Edmunds attended the 22nd International Grasslands Congress in Sydney where concern was expressed that the significance of grasslands in agriculture needed more promotion worldwide.
“Delegates pointed out that grasslands occupy 54 per cent of the world’s ice-free surface and are invaluable for food production, carbon sequestration and livelihood of much of the world’s regional communities,” Dr Edmunds said.
“In Australia, grassland production systems contribute 40 per cent to gross agricultural production value and utilise more than 50 per cent of our land area.
“Worldwide, the role of grasslands extends from agricultural production to livelihoods and climate sustainability. Grasslands feed our livestock, fix carbon and nitrogen, sustain biodiversity, maintain soil health and stability, and have a largely unrecognised aesthetic value.
“Congress speakers pointed out that production had to be increased by 70 to 100 per cent to successfully feed the world’s population by 2050. Meeting this challenge would require growing new species and applying new technologies to existing systems not only to increase production but to reduce risk associated with climate variability.”
Dr Edmunds said one of the largest challenges to farmers was intra and inter-seasonal climate variability.
“There was a large emphasis at the Congress on species diversity and incorporating a wider variety of species, with various maturity stages and adaptability traits such as drought tolerance, into our pastures to reduce risk associated with climate variability and to reduce the summer/autumn feed gap,” she said.
“Pasture is one of the cheapest sources of feed for livestock and optimising utilisation will enhance profitability and reduce risk in a time where terms of trade are in decline.
“Our farmers have an important role in ensuring pastures as a feed source for grazing livestock are utilised more efficiently with active monitoring and management. Researchers will be working together with farmers to embrace new and upcoming innovations such as precision irrigation, satellite technologies and spatial measurement, and trying new pasture species to increase pasture use efficiency,” Dr Edmunds said.
“In addition to technical innovation and adoption, delegates strongly supported better communication and collaboration within and between industries and research groups.
“In Western Australia, this could involve more communication and idea exchanges between the dairy, beef and sheep industries, as well as between various research agencies and funding bodies.”
Dr Edmunds said there was still ample room for farmers to benefit from good pasture management.
“But taking advantage of this will be difficult without continued research, development and extension. This is why it is so important that we recognise and pool our resources and skills,” she said.
Dr Edmunds attended the International Congress with funding from Western Dairy, and support from the department.
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