Opportunities and conflict in agriculture and natural resource management in the Australian Tropics

Lawn, Bob (2011) Opportunities and conflict in agriculture and natural resource management in the Australian Tropics. In: Presentations from Crawford Fund 2011 State Parliamentary Conference. pp. 1-17. From: Crawford Fund 2011 State Parliamentary Conference: a food secure world - challenging choices for our North, 6 April 2011, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

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Compared with most tropical regions, northern Australia is endowed with an enormous natural resource base and a remarkably small human population. Not surprisingly, ever since early European settlement, there have been many optimistic assessments of the region's food production potential. Particularly as Australia's population surged through post-war immigration during the second half of the 20th Century, this optimism fed into several large agricultural projects in hitherto remote locations. Apart from the sugar industry, however, the record of large-scale agricultural projects in northern Australia often has not matched either the vision of their architects or the successes of the Brazilian cerrados.

Over recent decades, the agricultural potential of northern Australia’s natural resource base has become highly contested, with some markedly more pessimistic assessments than in earlier times. In part, this re-assessment reflects several confluent trends: the mixed success of past developments; more detailed scientific assessment of the challenges in managing the region's soil and water resources for agriculture -particularly the often infertile and fragile soils and the usually uncertain weather patterns; greater awareness, based on southern Australian experience, of the vulnerability of natural ecosystems to human activity; competing economic uses for NRM; and importantly, changing perceptions of the value of natural environments in the nation’s increasingly urbanised community.

The challenge for science, and in particular agricultural scientists, is to provide objective information to decision-makers in relation to the first four issues, recognising that future community values will ultimately depend on the interplay of a diversity of additional issues. These might include but will not be limited to environmental values, competing economic uses, food security, rising food costs and commodity values, climate change, rising energy costs, and national and regional population pressures.

Item ID: 16965
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Keywords: tropics, agriculture, environment
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This article was prepared as background to an address to the Crawford Fund 2011 Queensland State Parliamentary Conference ("A FOOD SECURE WORLD: Challenging Choices for our North") held at Parliament House Brisbane, April 6, 2011. See http://www.crawfordfund.org/conference/Qldconf/presentations.html

Funders: The Crawford Fund
Projects and Grants: Tropical Crop Science Unit
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2011 01:02
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0703 Crop and Pasture Production > 070399 Crop and Pasture Production not elsewhere classified @ 50%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070108 Sustainable Agricultural Development @ 50%
SEO Codes: 82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8298 Environmentally Sustainable Plant Production > 829899 Environmentally Sustainable Plant Production not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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