Agricultural Consultant, Buddina, Queensland, Australia.
By the year 2000 over 95% of the pastoral areas of northern Australia will still consist of native pastures. Previous studies show, that in Queensland, about 50–60% of native pastures are in good condition; 30% require low key management inputs to improve them and the remainder will need a major capital outlay to restore them. Research inputs into native pastures fall well below those required. In addition to current work described at this Conference, an assessment of the present condition and health of the grazing lands, together with an ongoing program to monitor trends, particularly in high risk areas, is urgently needed. Management packages directed at specific needs for local areas are required.
An optimistic scenario for development of introduced pasture over the next decade is that sown and naturalised pastures will increase from the present 9.8 to 13.4 m ha. Areas of fodder crops will increase from 500 000 to 1.0 m ha and clearing of woodlands and control of woody weeds will continue at least at the present level of 500 000 ha per year. Most of this development will be on the more fertile soils in the above 600 mm mean annual rainfall areas south of Townsville. Research emphasis should now move away from species development to developing management systems for optimal productivity and stability.
Scientists and advisors have not been successful in developing sound guidelines on the development and management of pastoral systems sustainable on a whole property basis up to the present time. Producers are more advanced in their thoughts and actions on sustainable systems and their knowledge and experience should be accessed before any new work is undertaken.
An over riding influence on long term work on sustainable pastoral systems is the shortage of funds and resources. Administrators and research leaders will need to make some tough decisions on research priorities.