The area of land devoted to agriculture in Australia continues to decline, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
A total of 52pc of Australia’s land area was managed by agricultural businesses in 2009-10, according to the ABS, a drop of 4pc in the two years since 2007-08.
The data is contained in the ABS’ 2009-10 Agricultural Resource Management Survey.
Queensland had the highest proportion with 75pc of land area under farming or grazing activities, while Tasmania was the lowest with 24pc.
The most significant change in the two year period according to the report was the Northern Territory, in which land used for agricultural purposes decreased by 13pc. The ABS offers no explanation for the significant two-year decline it reports.
Of the 52pc of Australia’s land area that is managed by agricultural businesses, 88pc is used for grazing and 8pc is using for cropping.
Nationally, 78pc of agricultural businesses were engaged in grazing activities, an 8pc increase since 2007-08, and 88pc of agricultural land was used for grazing. Of this, 15pc was on improved pasture and 73pc on other agricultural land.
Almost half (48pc) of all agricultural businesses in Australia reported engagement in cropping activities, a decline of 7pc since 2007-08.
Agricultural businesses reported that 8pc of land was used for crops, ranging from less than 1pc in the Northern Territory to 37pc in Victoria.
Of agricultural businesses grazing livestock on crops or pasture, 71pc monitor the amount of ground cover in paddocks and 34pc of these have established a minimum ground cover level target.
Queensland reported the highest proportion (45pc) of agricultural businesses with a target for minimum ground cover levels, while in Tasmania only 21pc reported minimum ground cover targets.
By far the most common method undertaken by agricultural businesses for monitoring ground cover was visual estimates, with 86pc reporting using this method. The Northern Territory had the highest proportion (5pc) of use of photo monitoring standards (comparison with photos of known ground cover levels) to monitor ground cover.
In 2009-10, just under 60,000 agricultural businesses prepared land for crops or horticulture covering 25.1 million hectares. The majority (54%) of these businesses reported that they did not undertake cultivation. Almost half (29,000) of businesses undertook two cultivations passes or less, with only 19% (11,000 businesses) reporting three or more cultivations.
Nationally 19 million hectares was prepared using zero-till compared with 5 million hectares prepared using one or two cultivation passes. Western Australia performed zero-till on the largest area of land prepared for crops and pastures (7 million hectares) and the Northern Territory the smallest area (1,000 hectares).
The ABS wound up the information collecting phase of the 2011 agricultural census last week and expects to deliver preliminary findings in November, and a full report in mid-2012.