The Australian grain industry needs to get on the front foot to mitigate climate variability and reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of production to maintain its position a rapidly changing world, according to Grains Research and Development Corp. (GRDC) Chairman, John Woods.
Addressing the GRDC Grains research update in Perth, Australia, Woods said that the GRDC, in collaboration with CSIRO, would be directing investment to support the nation’s grain industry to better measure and reduce its GHG emissions.
He said agriculture around the world was facing increasing pressure on issues of climate variation, adaptation, emissions and carbon footprint: “There is a bunch of pressure, but these are the macro pressures. The dynamic has changed so quickly […] It will impact how Australia manages crops, how it breeds for heat, drought and frost and how the farming systems are managed. Those challenges are going to become more exacerbated over time.”
“Agriculture in Australia is a AUS$60 billion industry: grains make up approximately AUS$15 - $17 billion of that. Grains are around a quarter or more of the action in agriculture.”
Regulation, capital, market access
Woods said the shift in consumer sentiment was already impacting the grain industry in three key areas: regulation, access to capital and market access.
“It is clear that future capital investment in the grains sector will be influenced by the ability to develop effective mitigation strategies and approaches to accountability,” he said. “The third thing shifting is market access. Markets internationally and domestically are now starting to ask the Australian grain industry what its emissions profile is and what is being done about it? Its canola market in the EU relies on sustainability metrics. That is going to get harder and harder. What the emissions profile is needs to be clearly demonstrated.”
Investing in emissions reduction
Woods explained how the 18-month investment by GRDC and CSIRO would provide baseline data about the current level of greenhouse emissions in the grain industry, explore opportunities for mitigation and shape a realistic plan for emission reduction.
“The baseline of 2005 is going to be identified, which is the international benchmark for emissions. Then, the grain industry will reflect on that as to how it operates today in 2020. The industry will also look at what the available mitigation measures growers can implement are to both reduce emissions and increase profitability. The R&D that needs to be done to accelerate that will also be looked at,” he commented.
Woods said the investment outcomes would be essential in supporting and enabling the work by the wider grains industry to develop a Grains Industry Sustainability Framework, being led by Grain Growers Ltd.
“This investment will build on previous work undertaken through industry collaborations such as the Climate Research Strategy for Primary Industries (CRSPI) and the Managing Climate Variability Program collaboration, as well as investments to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer and explore soil carbon sequestration opportunities.”
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