Sci­en­tists call for fu­ture proof­ing

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

Sci­en­tists call to fu­ture-proof Aus­tralia’s farm­ing sec­tor

Aplan to es­tab­lish a $100 mil­lion fund to boost Aus­tralian agri­cul­ture and pro­tect it from cli­mate change and dis­ease has been re­leased by the Aus­tralian Acad­emy of Sci­ence.

The 10-year plan is one of five de­vel­oped by the acad­emy and out­lines a va­ri­ety of strate­gies to cap­i­talise on emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies to cre­ate digital pad­docks that op­ti­mise plant­ing, wa­ter, fer­tilis­ers and her­bi­cides for crops by draw­ing from a range of data sources.

This, it says, would help boost pro­duc­tiv­ity and prof­itabil­ity while fu­ture-proof­ing Aussie farm­ers against cli­mate change fac­tors and ma­jor dis­ease out­breaks.

Dr Jeremy Bur­don, the chair of the acad­emy’s Na­tional Com­mit­tee for Agri­cul­ture, Fish­eries and Food, says the pro­posed trans­la­tion fund, if sup­ported by pri­vate and pub­lic equities, will fast-track in­vest­ment into the in­dus­try’s de­vel­op­ment of ap­pli­ca­tions.

The pro­posal also out­lines plans to strengthen Aus­tralia’s agri­cul­tural re­search to im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity and ef­fi­ciency while fac­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges.

“Aus­tralia has re­peat­edly faced in­va­sions of plant and an­i­mal dis­eases that once es­tab­lished con­sume large amounts of re­sources in or­der to re­gain con­trol,” Bur­don says. “Yet there are, unfortunately, plenty more to come.

“We know, for in­stance, that it’s only a mat­ter of time un­til we see an out­break of an ag­gres­sive in­va­sive species such as the Var­roa de­struc­tor mite that would dev­as­tate bee colonies and crop pol­li­na­tion.”

The Acad­emy’s re­port says that the key re­search ar­eas most likely to con­trib­ute to the ad­vance­ment of Aus­tralian agri­cul­ture in the com­ing decade are: de­vel­op­ment and ex­ploita­tion of ge­nomics, agri-in­tel­li­gent tech­nolo­gies, big data anal­y­sis, clever chem­istry, cop­ing with cli­mate vari­abil­ity and change, and meta­bolic engi­neer­ing.

In­te­gra­tion of these ac­tiv­i­ties will see four ma­jor sci­ence-based out­comes: in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity through in­te­grated farm­ing sys­tems, en­hanced biose­cu­rity, main­te­nance of a sus­tain­able re­source base, and in­creased value through qual­ity and mar­ket ad­van­tage.

“If the sta­tus quo is main­tained, Aus­tralia will be un­able to mar­shal well-co­or­di­nated re­search teams to pre­pare for and re­spond to these kinds of shocks,” Bur­don says. “This will dra­mat­i­cally im­pact the agri­cul­ture min­is­ter’s vi­sion to turn our agri­cul­tural sec­tor into a $100 bil­lion sec­tor by 2025.”

The de­vel­op­ment and ex­ploita­tion of ge­nomics has al­ready seen suc­cess in the cot­ton in­dus­try, with the cre­ation of boll­worm-re­sis­tant cot­ton thanks to the help of ge­nomics.

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