Landcare Farming Overview 

Landcare farmers: putting the ‘green’ in ‘clean and green’ for Australian agriculture production.

Australian farmers have a long and proud history of achieving exceptional landcare outcomes in environmental stewardship, innovative land management practices and validating new research that improves farm productivity – and protects the health of our soil, water and biodiversity.

The Landcare Farming Program vision is to continue this legacy and strengthen the connection between our farmers and Australian agriculture stakeholders, and help build industry and community resilience in a changing climate.

The 2019 – 2023 Landcare Farming Program (Phase 1) is a national, federally funded program, designed to increase the awareness, knowledge and participation in the adoption of best practice and leading research and extension outputs.  Our aim is to strengthen the connections between Landcare and the agricultural sector, and increase our contribution to agricultural and community resilience across Australia.

The Landcare Farming Program will also provide easy access and support for farmers to connect with leading university and industry-led research programs, partnership opportunities, tools and resources. Our strategy is to invest in and partner with like-minded stakeholders to develop projects and activities that increase adoption of practices that improve soil and water health, that maintain or increase biodiversity.

To help us identify and align the right research and resources required for Australian producers, we have developed a set of six themes. The themes set out the core areas of focus for producers and industry to maintain or improve soil, water health, and/or improve biodiversity outcomes amongst Australian land managers and their respective industry advisors.

Our program will help demonstrate best-practice, identify suitable industry training and support opportunities, to build the awareness and uptake of trusted resources, such as decision support tools peer-to-peer interviews, and case studies.

Landcare Farming Themes

The Landcare Farming Program has aligned its approach to create and promote opportunities that align with the Commonwealth’s Agriculture Stewardship Package core objectives. The program’s Steering Committee and our key stakeholders have co-designed a strategy to pilot a series of projects/products using six common themes, best practice principles and measurable reporting.

During Phase 1, we will pilot the Landcare Farming Program strategy and demonstrate the alignment of best practice research, market needs and government policy. In doing so we will be able to build industry awareness and understanding of the six core themes – with participation and uptake leading to increased adoption during the remaining LFP investment.

The six Landcare Farming themes underpin the philosophical approach of the Landcare Farming Program, and the extensive network it supports.  Using these themes, we seek to develop projects and products that demonstrate our participation in agriculture best management practices that support the resilience of Australian grass-roots farming communities.

The six themes have grown from an extensive review of Australia’s agriculture sustainability strategies and objectives, and their individual soil water and biodiversity targets. Together, aligned with United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), we have created a set of themes aligned to the Australian government, agriculture industry and commercial sustainability reporting strategies. The six themes identified are:

VEGETATION

Vegetation provides habitat for animals, plants and other organisms and is a renewable natural resource for the Australian economy. Healthy ecosystems can influence and improve the climate at a local and landscape scale, as well as playing a major role in improved hydrological and soil condition. Loss or degradation of native vegetation may include biodiversity decline, dryland salinity, decline in river and wetland health, reduced water quality and quantity, difficulty in flood control, increased erosion, increased greenhouse gas emissions, reduced ecosystem functioning, loss of pollinators, decline in ecosystem resilience, reduced productivity, and impact cultural and spiritual identity. The Australian agriculture sector relies on productive and healthy native ecosystems, and the crucial role they play in sustaining ecosystem function and process, such as protecting our soils and streams. The Landcare Farming Program themes and principles promote practices that build ecosystem resilience, whilst recognising practices that improve the productive capacity of the landscape.

MANAGING PASTURE

Better management of ground cover can reduce run-off and increase the rainfall available for plant growth, resulting in possible increases in productivity. Maintaining a high percentage of ground cover to slow run-off and increase infiltration can increase rainfall available for plant growth by up to 150mm per year. Optimised growth, composition and practices improve animal production – and reduces the threat of land degradation, erosion, weeds and pest animals, as well as safeguarding and enhancing biodiversity across the property. The Landcare Farming Program themes and principles seek to increase your understanding of the capacity and limitations of your land types, and promote best management practices that are critical for good grazing management and, ultimately, the productivity and sustainability of your grazing business.

MANAGING CARBON FLOWS

With Australian agriculture seeking carbon neutral strategies, there is a lot of attention focussed on soil carbon and sequestering carbon to offset emissions. However, carbon takes different forms and different roles and changes at different rates in a healthy farm ecosystem. Good land management is the ability to maintain carbon in its many forms in the landscape for rural profit and environmental outcomes, including greenhouse gas reduction. Understanding the role of carbon, how it changes and relationships with management practices is critical for sustainable land management. Landcare Farming principles and practices focus on building carbon in the landscape towards a surplus rather than drawing down the reserves within the natural resource base. Use of the surplus carbon ensures adequate carbon stocks remain ‘charged’ and able to support future animal production and building ongoing ecosystem and business resilience.

BUILD DROUGHT RESILIENCE

Periodic drought is a characteristic of Australian farming, and impacts the productivity, profitability and environmental sustainability of Australian farmers. Drought has significant social impacts which affects the health and wellbeing of farmers, their families and communities. Management decisions made during drought when under stress can lead to higher operating costs and reactive or risky decision making. Whilst improved technology and research is making it easier to identify climatic cycles and manage the impact, planning for drought before it impacts your business is critical. Planning for the next drought whilst the seasons are good will ensure good farm management practices are not abandoned in favour of short term income. The Landcare Farming Program themes and principles provide clear consideration for understanding the capacity and limitations of your land types, and promote drought planning and management practices that are critical for the health and sustainability of you and your farming enterprise.

ME AND MY PEOPLE

Good farmers are not always good farm managers. Improving farm business management skills has been identified as a crucial element for farmers to maintain business sustainability, addressing performance and resource limitations within their business. Successful farm management integrates financial and production information in order to evaluate costs, risks, expenses and revenues based on appropriate units of production, as well as the human and infrastructure costs associated with these. Isolation, long work days, climate change and globalisation further add to make farming a vulnerable occupation for incurring mental health issues. These ongoing and evolving demands place enormous pressure on today’s farmers, and requires business owners to participate in training to strengthen their own and their employees’ personal ability, skills and industry networks for improved performance. Landcare Farming principles guide the best management practices for productive and sustainable businesses, with healthy, engaged and connected farmers.

INCREASED BIODIVERSITY

Healthy farmland offers a high level and diverse range of biological activity. The quality of exchanges and connections between the living and non-living components of the environment contributes to a healthy, functioning and diverse ecosystem, which assists in maintaining the air we breathe, regulates the weather and climate, production of fresh water, builds soils, cycle nutrients, and disposes of wastes. In altered or degraded land, the ecosystem continues to function but with a reduced capacity to supply the goods and services (food, fibre, clean water, habitat and natural amenity) we rely on. Therefore, your farm management practices are critical in maintaining or improving the health and biological variety of flora, fauna, micro-organisms, the ecosystems and interactions they inhabit. The Landcare Farming Program themes and principles promote best management practices that ensure ecosystem health and the on-going provision of ecosystem services.

Due to the scale and complicity of agriculture systems, markets and their networks we have created a common set of performance indicators for each of the themes. The six themes use common indicators of best management practices aligned to the six core issues impacting day to day business for Australian farmers – and align with key stakeholders RDE&A initiatives.

The Landcare Farming Principles simply identify management practices that maintain or improve soil and water health, and increase on-farm biodiversity. When these principles and themes are aligned with on–farm participation and common reporting metrics, we will provide robust and repeatable evidence and outputs to support the individual industry sustainability reporting.

Landcare Principles

Between 2018 – 2023 the Australian Government has allocated $134 million to support the development and uptake of best practice management, tools and technologies that help farmers and regional communities improve the protection, resilience and productive capacity of our soils, water and vegetation, and in turn support successful primary industries and regional communities.

Australian farmers are globally recognised as innovative and productive. Increasingly, our customers are asking for evidence of our environmental performance. Australian agriculture industry stakeholders have responded by creating multiple sustainability strategies, different measures, principles and themes. This system does not recognise the individual for their landcare.

Farmers often feel frustrated and forgotten when customers and consumers criticise their industry – and feel their land management and stewardship is going unnoticed.

To address this shortfall for farmers, a single set of soil, water and biodiversity indicators that identify common soil, water and biodiversity indicators has been developed from existing agriculture sustainability strategies, including cotton, beef, horticulture, grains, dairy and others has been created – these are the Landcare Farming Principles.

The Landcare Farming Principles  are a set of common performance indicators to help producers demonstrate the six Landcare farming themes. These indicators are not definitive – we focus on demonstrating uptake of practices to address the six themes – and maintain or improve soil and water health, and increase on-farm biodiversity. Importantly, the Landcare Farming Principles will provide on-ground demonstration of participation and impact to any given agriculture sustainability strategy or customer.

VEGETATION

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MANAGING PASTURE

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INCREASED BIODIVERSITY

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MANAGING CARBON FLOWS

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BUILD DROUGHT RESILIENCE

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ME AND MY PEOPLE

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The Landcare Farming Program will use principles to underpin our projects, align our communication and case studies, and provide reporting outputs to provide on ground participation evidence to support the individual industry sustainability reporting. This alignment will be central in providing a coordinated demonstration of tangible environmental performance of Landcarers to their particular agricultural industry, and assisting them in promoting continual improvement.

The value proposition to RDCs and industry bodies is based on Landcare Farming Program project outputs providing a coordinated demonstration of tangible outcomes to the agricultural industry, and assisting them in promoting continual improvement. Additionally, given the established Landcare network, our ability to deliver these outcomes would ensure Landcare producers are at the forefront of future research demonstration projects, new market niches or agricultural stewardship programs. 

Meet Landcare Producers

Australian farmers have such a strong spirit of innovation and ingenuity, and a commitment to continually adapting and improving their farming practices. This has seen Australian farmers take their place amongst the most productive and efficient primary producers in the world. Meet some of our Landcare Farmers:

DAVID MARSH

Boorowa farmer

SIMON FALKINER

Victorian farmer

TONY ROSSI

Musgrave Farmer
Do you know a producer who should be here? Let us know. Fill in the form here.

The Landcare network is extensive – and or long history of successful projects and community engagement demonstrates our ability to deliver these outcomes would ensure Landcare producers are at the forefront of future research demonstration projects, new market niches and agricultural stewardship programs.

MANAGING CARBON FLOWS

BUILD DROUGHT RESILIENCE

ME AND MY PEOPLE

VEGETATION

MANAGING PASTURE

INCREASED BIODIVERSITY

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