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2020 Autumn - Evolving conservation agriculture

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FPJ1701B - Sevenster, M, Ogilvy, S & Kirkegaard, J (2020), Conservation agriculture in a new world of enterprise-level sustainability metrics

FPJ1701B - Sevenster, M, Ogilvy, S & Kirkegaard, J (2020), Conservation agriculture in a new world of enterprise-level sustainability metrics, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 17, no. 1, Autumn 2020, pp. 4-13, Surry Hills, Australia.

There is increasing awareness of the need for sustainable intensification of agriculture to address environmental issues whilst feeding growing human populations. To help achieve this, markets increasingly require farmers to apply quantitative frameworks to demonstrate sustainable outcomes to gain market access, financing and social licence. As a result of decades of research and innovation partnerships between Australian scientists and farmers, Australia is well-placed to respond. More than 80% of Australian winter crops are grown using conservation agriculture (CA). As a result, profitability has been maintained while reducing soil disturbance, increasing ground cover and increasing crop diversity. However, recent evidence has challenged claims that present CA practice also increases crop yields and builds up soil carbon. This indicates that practice evolution is required. This paper explores the potential for the two leading sustainability quantification frameworks, life-cycle assessment (LCA) and natural capital accounting (NCA) to assist scientists and farmers to both evolve CA practice and to demonstrate resulting sustainability outcomes. It uses a case study to demonstrate the accounting principles of these frameworks and how these can be combined to create opportunities for entities throughout the agriculture sector to collaborate to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes as well as to address community concerns.

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