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2023 Grains Research Update: Farming systems balance key to profitable low emission crop production

Released on

Released on:
Monday, 27. February 2023 - 15:45

Broadacre farmers seeking to reduce emissions need not always compromise profitability or risk, according to a recent analysis profiled at the 2023 Grains Research Update in Perth today.

The analysis of where and how changes to farming systems can help growers reduce emissions was undertaken by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) FutureSheep program.

The results of the analysis with the Economic Valuation of Alternative Land Use Sequence (EVALUS) model show net margins can be improved by making changes to the ratio of pasture to crop in different Western Australian agricultural regions.

DPIRD research scientist Sud Kharel said in the northern grainbelt net margins declined when pasture production was increased, while in the southern grainbelt net margins increased – to a limited extent – with an increase of pasture production.

“These results show that in some southern regions, it is feasible to alter rotation selection, yet maintain farm profitability, while at the same time reducing agricultural emissions,” he said.

“Northern region emissions can be reduced and net margins increased by altering the crop to pasture ratio to more crop dominant options, however, this may make returns more volatile because of higher upfront costs associated with cropping enterprises.

“The findings reflect the climatic conditions in the regions, with crop-based farming systems in the north and more pasture-based sheep production enterprises in the south.”

The EVALUS model uses the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre (PICCC)  tool and includes scope 1 (on-farm), scope 2 (electricity) and scope 3 (before farm gate) emissions.

The paddock level analysis generated net margins and emissions for 18 locations in WA’s grainbelt using a variety of commonly practised rotations.

Mr Kharel said farmers could use the findings of this research as a guide to considering the management of their own farm emissions.

“Reducing emissions does not have to reduce productivity,” he said.

“This modelling provides an overview of what can be achieved, by refining farmers’ expertise to economically optimise either cropping or pasture and sheep production.

“More research is necessary on commercial feasibility of low emission synthetic fertilisers and anti-methanogenic feeds or pastures.”

DPIRD is now undertaking similar analysis examining the use of legume grains and nitrogen management strategies.

MLA sheep and goat productivity manager Joe Gebbels the research would contribute to FutureSheep investigations, assessing the impact of projected climates on business performance.

“This modelling will help to inform future climates and how crop and livestock systems, and the balance between, can adapt to changing climates,” he said.

“From an emissions perspective, it will help us to better understand how to increase efficiencies and reduce emissions of a current given enterprise mix."

Two men in front of a computer looking at a document.
DPIRD research scientist Sud Kharel (left) briefed the 2023 Grains Research Updates on his research with business analyst Christophe D’Abaddie examining changes to farming systems that could help growers to reduce emissions.

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