Scenarios for Australian agricultural production and land use to 2050
Grundy, MJ and Bryan, BA and Nolan, M and Battaglia, M and Hatfield-Dodds, S and Connor, JD and Keating, BA, Scenarios for Australian agricultural production and land use to 2050, Agricultural Systems, 142 pp. 70-83. ISSN 0308-521X (2016) [Refereed Article]
Australian agricultural land use and production have evolved within an economic and environmental context that may change substantially in terms of productivity rates, resource scarcity and degradation, greenhouse gas abatement policy, climate change, and global demand. We used an integrated systems modelling approach to explore the response of Australian land use and agricultural production to these changes from 2013 to 2050. We found potentially large transitions in spatial and temporal patterns of land use, agricultural production, output rates, and profitability. New land uses such as carbon plantings, biofuels and bioenergy, and environmental plantings competed with food and fibre production, reducing its area. Global outlooks, including the strength of action on climate change and population assumptions, had a strong influence. Capacity constraints and adoption inertia reduced and delayed land use change. Agricultural production and land use were sensitive to productivity assumptions. Despite the competition for land from new land uses, agricultural production increased under most settings, with greatest impact from land use transitions concentrated on livestock production. Agricultural profits also increased under most settings due to higher prices and output rates. Negligible land use change was observed with carbon payments below $50 per tCO2-e, and significant change did not occur before 2030 in any but the unconstrained, high-abatement scenarios. We conclude that transformative land use change is plausible but high levels of food/fibre production can co-exist with non-food land uses motivated by market responses to global change and domestic policy. Thereby, the Australian land sector can continue its significant contribution to global food security while responding to new economic opportunities. Policy settings can influence these outcomes through reducing infrastructure constraints, strategies for enhancing adoption, and research and development in agricultural technology and productivity. Due to the long time frames required to change attitudes and land use and management practices, consideration of the possible impacts of global change on agriculture and potential policy responses is timely.