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

Page last updated: Tuesday, 18 May 2021 - 3:08pm

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 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 1. This table is from Bennett A (2021) A review of the economics of regenerative agriculture in Western Australia.

Table 1 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 (from Bennett A (2021))

Soil constraint

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

Estimated annual opportunity costs 2014–15 to 2018–19

Subsoil acidity

$1507m

$1718m

Sodicity

$577m

$744m

Soil salinity

$519m

$686m

Subsoil compaction

$517m

$656m

Water repellence

$362m

$461m

Transient salinity

$91m

$97m

Wind erosion

$50m

$62m

Waterlogging & inundation

$35m

$46m

Water erosion

$3m

$3m

For more information

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Contact information

Anne Bennett
+61 (0)8 9368 3863