Investing in sustainable agricultural resource use: reference metrics

Page last updated: Tuesday, 12 November 2019 - 10:47am

This page summarises the metrics for each resource theme in the Report card on sustainable natural resource use in agriculture (the Report card). The attached metrics report is a reference document – to be used with the Report card – to support discussions on investment. The Report card provides a ‘health check’ on the state of land and water resources in the broadacre agricultural region of Western Australia (WA).

This report is important to anyone investing in resource sustainability

This companion report to the Report card on sustainable natural resource use in agriculture (the Report card) includes management options for each theme and a relative rating of the investment characteristics of each theme.

Note:  Application of technically feasible management options for the themes for specific sites can be altered by a range of factors: season, soil type, market prices and management. In addition, ameliorating one theme can result in the improvement or worsening of another.

Improving resource condition can result in higher productivity for farmers and therefore a potentially more profitable agricultural sector for WA. Resource condition can be improved through adopting certain land management practices.

The Report card focuses on natural resource themes: soil acidity, wind erosion, water erosion, soil organic carbon (SOC), soil compaction, soil water repellence, dryland salinity, nutrient status, nutrient export, and acidification of inland waterways.

In 2009, we published Opportunity costs of land degradation hazards in the South-West Agricultural Region: calculating the costs of production losses due to land degradation (Herbert 2009). Allan Herbert, the author, calculated costs for salinity, subsurface compaction, soil acidity, water repellence, wind erosion, waterlogging and inundation, soil structure decline and water erosion.

Herbert's 2009 analysis used 2004/05 to 2008/09 financial and production figures from Planfarm and ABARE.  The updated values below are for the period 2009/10 to 2013/14. Some average differences between farms in the later time period compared to those in the earlier time period are:

  • farms became slightly bigger
  • a larger percentage of the farm was allocated to cropping
  • crop and pasture returns were higher
  • operating costs increased.

The methodology and limitations of the analysis are outlined in Herbert (2009).

Summary of the estimated annual opportunity costs of soil constraints in the periods 2004/05–08/09 and 2009/10–13/14 for the agricultural areas of south-west Western Australia
Soil constraint Estimated annual opportunity cost 2003/04 to 2008/09 Estimated annual opportunity costs 2009/10 to 2013/14

Subsoil acidity



Soil salinity



Subsoil compaction



Water repellence



Wind erosion



Waterlogging/ inundation



Soil structure decline



Water erosion



For more information

Download Investing in sustainable agricultural resource use - reference metrics (PDF 1.76MB) and see the Report card on sustainable natural resource use in agriculture.

Contact information

Anne Bennett
+61 (0)8 9368 3863