Pastures in Australia’s dryland agriculture regions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapter


Most of the Australia’s sheep (90 %) and cattle (55 %) are reared on rainfed pastures in the agricultural belt, also known as the Intensive Landuse Zone (ILZ). Sheep numbers have declined by 55 % since 1990, and cattle numbers have increased by 5-10 %. The total area of grazing land in the ILZ has declined from an estimated 74 to ~ 60 Mha, of which 20 Mha are sown pastures and 40 Mha are modified native grasslands or grassy woodlands. Better returns from dryland crops than pastures have reduced the inputs to pastures on mixed farms and increased cropping in higher rainfall zones. Two national pasture audits (1994 and 2011) found that one-third of pastures is in poor condition. Less than 20 % of pastures have received adequate fertiliser, lime or reseeding in the past two decades. Soil nutrient imbalance or deficiency is common. Estimates of carrying capacities are the same or lower today than in the 1990s except on exotic grass and legume swards in temperate, higher rainfall regions. Much of the grazing land in the ILZ is underused representing poor asset utilization, but current and emerging technologies exist for improving productivity if markets provide the needed stimulus. Rationalisation of the red-meat value chain and market expansion offer potential for significant on-farm productivity gain when combined with new farm business systems.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInnovations in dryland agriculture
EditorsMuhammad Farooq, Kadambot H.M. Siddique
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783319479286
ISBN (Print)9783319479279
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2017

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