Shaping the future of agriculture

21 March 2017

Agricultural thought-leaders from Australia and China discuss mutual environmental challenges, exchanging sustainable, innovative farm practices.

Nine people standing in a field.
The Australian-Chinese delegation for the ‘Sustainable agriculture in Australia and China: Innovation exchange for farmers’ program visited innovative Australian farms in Collector, New South Wales, to see how farmers are using new approaches to enhance sustainable farming. Credit: National Farmers’ Federation.

Agricultural innovators from Australian and China are developing new networks for sharing knowledge as part of an agricultural exchange program supported by the Australia China Council and the National Farmers’ Federation. The program connects young farmers, agronomists and scientists who will shape the future of agriculture in their respective countries.

Sustainable agriculture is a key priority for Australia and China with farmers from both countries facing similar environmental challenges including the frequency of droughts, floods and bushfires which can dramatically impact food and fibre production.

Both Australia and China have managed to increase agricultural production with finite land and water resources.  This success is based on the progressive work of agricultural research and innovation organisations.  Australia is a world leader in efficient water usage in crops such as cotton, rice and grain, while Chinese research in hydraulic engineering agriculture builds on centuries of practice.

A stronger relationship between Australian and Chinese agriculture can provide a wealth of benefits for both countries. Supported by bilateral commerce and trade foundations, the project aims to increase understanding among Australian and Chinese farmers, scientists and agronomists by developing long-term research and innovation links.

The program includes an essay competition for young farmers, sustainability workshops, farm and R&D organisation visits in Australia and China, bilingual blog and podcast on farmers.org.au, and a report comparing sustainable farming practices in Australia and China.

The initial program workshop, held in Australia in October 2016, took representatives from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and young Australian farmers to two innovative farms in New South Wales.

One of the farms engages in regenerative agriculture, significantly improving soil and pasture health and reducing animal husbandry requirements. The other farm practices pasture cropping – a technology that sows seeds into existing pasture to enrich the nutritional profile for grazing animals.

Dr. Shane Norris, the head of Landcare Services at Landcare Australia, provided a seminar for the delegation outlining how Landcare Australia approaches big land management issues such as water crisis and the loss of agricultural land.

Essay competition winner, Ellen Grinter, an agronomist and farmer from Kaarimba in North Central Victoria, and a passionate member of the Victorian Young Farmers Club, writes in her essay:

‘All the innovation in the world cannot stop the forces of mother nature, droughts, floods, insect plagues. These devastating forces will be with us forever, so the best we can do is adapt where we can. Great advances have been made with selective breeding and genetic modification, and cultural practices to reduce risk, improve yields and increase sustainability but there is much more to be done. We must also carefully preserve every grain and drop of milk to help survive the tougher times, and be able to pay our farmers fairly. Globally our farmers are doing a great job of growing our food and fibre, but they need more innovations to move forward towards a more sustainable future.’

The Australia-China Council was established by the Australian Government in 1978 to promote mutual understanding and foster people-to-people relations between Australia and China.

Grant rounds opened in February 2017 for projects deepening connections between Australia and China.

Last Updated: 21 March 2017