FINANCIAL and environmental concerns are the key drivers influencing the adoption of sustainable farming practices in Australia, a new study has found.
The study, by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, is based on a national survey of more than 1300 farm managers conducted in 2010-11 that examined land management practices across cropping, grazing, native vegetation and weed management.
ABARES executive director Paul Morris, said the results provided an important foundation for the development of effective policies and programs in government, NGOs and the private sector.
"ABARES examined four key motivating factors: financial, environmental and personal concerns as well as the availability of support networks," Mr Morris said.
"There is a strong awareness of the issues and an understanding of the imperatives for sustainability across all sectors of the Australian farming community, with lack of funds the main factor limiting farmers' ability to change their management practices, followed by available time and workload."
Environmental factors, including reducing soil loss and run-off were the main drivers of change within the horticulture sector, while broadacre and dairy farmers were more strongly motivated by financial concerns, with preservation of the natural resource base a key driver across all industry sectors.
External support networks play a key role in the development of new management practices, though support networks played a secondary role to financial, environmental and personal motivations in influencing the adoption of natural resource management activities.
Where the availability of support networks was identified as a driver of change, a wide spectrum of providers played an important role, ranging from Landcare and production groups to private consultants, regional natural resource management facilitators and government programs.
"Learning and development through training courses, workshops, pilot trials and agribusiness initiatives were also found to play a key role in influencing the decision to change," Mr Morris said.
"Productivity improvement is also important and there are very close ties between natural resource management and productivity improvement."
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