Investing in sustainable agricultural resource use in Western Australia – reference metrics

Page last updated: Tuesday, 10 January 2023 - 8:54am

This page summarises the opportunity costs for each resource theme in the Report card on sustainable natural resource use in agriculture (the Report card), and provides linbks to a report identifying the management options and details for each theme.

The metrics and information linked from this page can be used to support discussions on investment in agricultural resources. The Report card provided a ‘health check’ on the state of land and water resources in the broadacre agricultural region of Western Australia (WA).

This information is important to anyone investing in resource sustainability in Western Australia

The report Investing in sustainable agricultural resource use - reference metrics is a companion to the Report card on sustainable natural resource use in agriculture (the Report card), which 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.

Opportunity costs of land degradation in the pastoral rangelands of Western Australia

Land degradation in WA’s pastoral rangelands is a significant cost for pastoral businesses, leading to ongoing and persistent loss of income. Using a similar methodology as used for the south-west agricultural region, DPIRD estimated the opportunity cost of degradation in the pastoral rangelands. This estimate doesn’t include the off-site impacts of degradation such as flood damage (erosion and sedimentation) to infrastructure such as roads, buildings, horticultural precincts, harbours and fisheries.

Table 1 Estimated annual opportunity costs of land degradation in the WA pastoral rangelands
Estimated annual opportunity costs 2009–10 to 2013–14 Estimated annual opportunity costs 2014–15 to 2018–19
$50,507,400 $75,981,200

Opportunity costs of land degradationin the South-West agricultural region

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.  We have since updated the original values, using the Herbert methodology using financial and production figures from Planfarm and ABARE. The results are in Table 2.

Table 2 Summary of the estimated annual opportunity costs of soil constraints for 2009–10 to 2013–14, and 2014–15 to 2018–19 for the agricultural areas of south-west Western Australia

Soil constraint

Estimated annual opportunity costs 2009–10 to 2013–14*

Estimated annual opportunity costs 2014–15 to 2018–19

Subsoil acidity






Soil salinity



Subsoil compaction



Water repellence



Transient salinity



Wind erosion



Waterlogging & inundation



Water erosion



For more information


Contact information

Anne Bennett
+61 (0)8 9368 3863