Problems ahead: researcher

21 Aug, 2002 10:00 PM
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DECLINING terms of trade, soil acidification, salinity, water logging, herbicide and drench resistance would remain major problems for farmers as they faced the future according to researcher Julia Fry.

She was speaking at last week's Kojonup Merinotech Forum, but she also added climate change, increased bio-security threats and the decline of farming as a lifestyle as new problems that farmers would encounter in the future.

The Agriculture Department report analysing farming systems in the southern medium to high rainfall zone was being compiled by Julia to help identify key areas for future research and development and apart from listing problems it also highlighted the gradual evolution of change that would open new opportunities for farmers.

Listed in the report was increased demand for wheat and barley, improved cropping conditions for the high rainfall area as a result of drier climate, biotechnology that could introduce "nutraceutical" benefits to crops, more global marketing opportunities as a result of e-commerce, and new opportunities for corporations to invest in farming.

Farmers responded to her appeal asking for their views on the changes they could foresee.

A priority for local famers was urgent help to identify the diseases that were decimating jarrah, flooded, red and white gums in their districts.

Farmers were concerned that the susceptibility of trees to insect attack and, in the case of white gums, aerial fungus, was the result of stress on the trees and there was a fear it would be blamed on agriculture.

Better use of water was seen as inevitable and the greater self-sufficiency in water and electricity were also a future trend.

They also perceived better land use would eventuate from identifying areas with special soil attributes and micro-climate and leasing them to people with the expertise to develop the area for specialised export horticultural crops.

The distrust of multinational companies and the desire by consumers to know and develop a relationship with a product was seen as an opportunity for farmers and there was a hope, that in their demand for a better environment, consumers would be prepared to pay more, knowing that farmers would not be forced to farm unsustainably.

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