ACIAR’s Soil and Land Management program focuses on projects with a systems approach to conservation agriculture. This requires research on adapting established interventions in tillage and water management, nutrient management, and choice of crop rotations to local conditions.
In wealthier regions, the emphasis is on reducing costs of production and minimising environmental damage through using water and other inputs more efficiently. In more marginal regions, the emphasis is on improving livelihoods through raising yields and developing labour efficient production systems.
Limited availability of arable land, increasing population growth, and competition from urban and industrial uses are forcing more smallholder farmers to farm marginal lands. Inappropriate farming systems and over-exploitation of vegetation and soil resources are degrading land, by eroding soil, depleting nutrients, and accelerating soil acidification, salinisation and desertification. Rising populations, particularly in the developed world, necessitates increased food production. Ensuring that agricultural production is sustainable—and benefits smallholder farmers—is a key challenge for long-term food security.
Feeding a growing global population will require boosting production at large- and particularly small-scale farming enterprises. Increased productivity offers smallholder farmers both enhanced food security and the opportunities that come from selling surpluses of high-value and staple (cereals, horticulture and root crops) crops. Achieving food security entails boosting productivity of soils within the complex interactions with water resources, socio-economic conditions, policy settings and sustainable systems.
The program will continue to emphasise an integrated approach in identifying promising soil and crop management practices within cropping and farming systems, and targeting specific agro-ecological zones. This will intersect with ongoing consideration of socio-economic factors to help develop technologies that allow farmers to optimise the use of local resources to intensify crop production.
Research Program Manager: Dr Robert Edis