Australian Actions to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation

National Report by Australia on Measures Taken to Support Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
Commonwealth Intergovernmental Working Group for the UNCCD, April 2002

Desertification related activities currently supported by the Australian Government through ACIAR

Title Country Duration
Total Budget
($ Aust)
Lucerne adapted to adverse environments in China and Australia China Jan 2001 -
Dec 2004
$938 899
High yielding anthracnose-resistant Stylosanthes for agricultural systems in India and China Brazil
China
Colombia
India
July 1998 -
June 2004
$897 222
Traits for yield improvement of chickpea in drought-prone environments of India and Australia India July 1998 -
June 2004
$735 679
More efficient breeding of drought resistant peanuts in India and Australia India July 1998 -
March 2002
$551 423
Salinity management in southeastern Australia, northeastern Thailand and Laos Laos
Thailand
Jan 2001 -
Dec 2003
$743 496
Integrative technologies for assessing the extent and cause of degradation in arid community rangelands India July 2000 -
Dec 2003
$372 807
Development of technologies to alleviate soil acidification in legume-based production systems in the tropics of Asia and Australia China
Thailand
July 2000 -
June 2004
$712 810
Water resources and salinity management in agricultural areas of inland Northern China and Northern Australia China Jan 2001 -
Dec 2004
$993 358
Sustainable mechanised dryland grain production China July 1997 -
Dec 2002
$795 566
Enhanced resource-use planning for tropical woodland agro-ecosystems Zimbabwe Jan 1999 -
Dec 2002
$819 558
Capturing the benefits of seasonal climate forecasts in agricultural management Indonesia
Zimbabwe
India
Jan 1999 -
Dec 2002
$982 927
Improving the productivity and sustainability of rainfed farming systems for the western Loess Plateau of Gansu Province China Jan 2001 -
Dec 2004
$1 372 554
Conjunctive water management for sustainable irrigated agriculture in South Asia Pakistan July 1998 -
June 2002
$625 818
Integrated nutrient management in tropical cropping systems: improved capabilities in modelling and recommendations Kenya
Zimbabwe
July 1999 -
June 2002
$434 130
Training program on the principles and practice of sustainable cropping systems India
South Africa
Zimbabwe
Jan 1999 -
Dec 2001
$180 000
Drill modification for rice-wheat with straw retention India June 2001 -
May 2002
$37 200
Total $11 193 447
Unrestricted core funding to international agricultural research centres
ICARDA - International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas $250 000
ICRAF - International Centre for Research on Agroforestry $200 000
ICRISAT - International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics $600 000
IWMI - International Water Management Institute (incorporating IBSRAM - International Board for Soil Research and Management) $500 000
TOTAL $1 550 000

China and Australia: Lucerne adapted to adverse environments in China and Australia

Commenced Jan 2001; estimated completion Dec 2004

Forage production is one of the key limiting factors to increased animal production across vast areas of China. Fertile areas are almost exclusively cropped, with pasture production restricted to marginal areas. Factors such as overgrazing, salinity and waterlogging or acid soils are prevalent, and result in poor pasture production. A well-adapted, deep-rooted perennial is urgently required to maintain productivity and arrest soil problems in these areas. Lucerne has great potential to alleviate these problems in both China and Australia and research is currently under way for expanded areas in Australia, including the cereal zone. However, there is a specific need to develop varieties with high levels of tolerance to factors such as salt, acid/aluminium soils, waterlogging or drought.

China and India: High yielding anthracnose-resistant Stylosanthes for agricultural systems

Commenced July 1998; estimated completion June 2004

The pasture legume, Stylosanthes plays a vital role in mitigating fodder shortages, improving soil fertility under agropastoral systems, and in the restoration of degraded lands. However, the economic utilisation of Stylosanthes is threatened by Anthracnose disease. The objective of this project is to select germplasm with improved anthracnose resistance and herbage and seed yield for adaptation in contrasting agro-ecological regions, and also to develop a genetic map for Stylosanthes as a basis for the development of cultivars with high yield, persistence and multiple sources of resistance. Anthracnose epidemiology will also be studied to better respond to changes in Stylosanthes.

India: Traits for yield improvement of chickpea in drought-prone environments

Commenced July 1998; estimated completion June 2004

Chickpea is an important protein-rich crop in India, West Asia and North Africa. In Australia it is useful as a high-value export crop, and a source of nitrogen and a disease break when planted prior to cereal or oilseed crops. But when grown in drought-prone areas, its yields are only 0.5-0.8 tonnes per ha, and this project aims to lift those yields. Scientists will define the limitations to yield under dryland conditions then breed lines with physiological characteristics most able to withstand drought. They will develop breeding populations to test the best methods for screening superior characteristics and determine whether they can use molecular technologies for improving the efficiency of breeding for drought resistance.

India: More efficient breeding of drought resistant peanuts

Commenced July 1998; estimated completion March 2002

Peanut is widely sown in many of the world's semi-arid cropping regions, including areas of India and Australia. However, even though it is a fairly drought-tolerant plant, production can fluctuate considerably as a result of rainfall variability. Much work has been carried out in both countries to improve the performance of peanut under drought conditions. A previous ACIAR project identified a number of traits of the plant that were closely correlated with the yield of nuts. Some lines showing these attributes were selected for. The present project aims to select from these populations for lines that are drought-tolerant and high-yielding. The scientists will apply a new breeding approach in an attempt to improve the efficiency of selection in large-scale breeding programs.

Southeastern Australia, northeastern Thailand and Laos: Salinity management

Commenced Jan 2001; estimated completion Dec 2003

Dryland salinity causes major land degradation and economic loss in Thailand and Australia. Lao PDR currently has only a small area of land affected but there is potential for much larger areas to be affected if they are poorly managed. This project will refine and apply groundwater mapping and modelling technologies to describe recharge and discharge processes in selected catchments of northeast Thailand, central Laos and southeast Australia. Scientists will estimate the relative effect of trees in plantations and other configurations in comparison with alternative land uses on groundwater recharge and discharge. They will also predict the local and regional impact of current and proposed reforestation projects on groundwater hydrology of the selected catchments. In addition, an economic study will highlight the social and economic consequences of the hydrological impacts associated with various reforestation scenarios, and of the increased use of saline groundwater resources within the cultural context of each country.

India: Integrative technologies for assessing the extent and cause of degradation in arid community rangelands

Commenced July 2000; estimated completion Dec 2003

Grazing lands in semi-arid and arid regions throughout the world are suffering degradation or desertification, with serious consequences for subsistence farmers. Better land management is needed if productivity is to be maintained. However, it is difficult to distinguish between the effects of land use and natural variation in productivity. This project aims to determine the extent of land degradation in communal rangelands in India in order to develop strategies for more sustainable land management. By applying new remote sensing methods developed in central Australia, scientists will be able to discriminate between rainfall variation and degradation in extensive areas of the communal rangelands. The findings will be shared with villagers, who will be involved in deciding how to prevent further land degradation, thus encouraging commitment to improved land use.

China, Thailand: Development of technologies to alleviate soil acidification in legume-based production systems in the tropics of Asia and Australia

Commenced July 2000; estimated completion June 2004

Because of their capacity to fix atmospheric nitrogen and break down into organic matter in the soil legumes are commonly used in farming systems to improve soil fertility. Yet increasing use of legumes with inappropriate management practices can lead to the problems of soil acidity, and soils with a high degree of acidification show poor fertility and low pH buffering capacity that result in low productivity. The overall objective of this project is to reverse the negative impacts of accelerated acidification and nutrient depletion through the development of new ways to prevent or limit these processes.

China: Water resources and salinity management in agricultural areas

Commenced Jan 2001; estimated completion Dec 2004

This large project will collect and analyse hydrological, agronomic and soil quality data in the heavily irrigated Songnen and Yinchuan Plains of China and the Ord River Irrigation Area of Western Australia. The aim is to produce management options to avoid the long-term damaging consequences of heavy irrigation and groundwater use. The scientists will also assess new irrigation techniques and will compare crop production under different scenarios so as to develop detailed management options to ensure long-term viability of all resources. Work will take place on determining the mechanisms of water-logging, and quantifying groundwater discharges of salt and nutrients, so as to prepare detailed maps for planning and management.

China: Sustainable mechanised dryland grain production

Commenced July 1997; estimated completion Dec 2002

The agricultural system in Northwest China is rapidly becoming mechanised but conservation tillage is rare and soil compaction is a problem. In Australia, conservation cropping systems are common for grain production, but there are still problems. This project will assess models of mechanised conservation tillage by using data from China and Australia. In China, it will assess the effects of crop residue, soil tillage and wheel traffic on soil properties and the growth of wheat and maize. It will also evaluate the cost of conservation tillage and controlled traffic systems and compare precision-controlled traffic systems with conventional crop production systems.

Zimbabwe: Enhanced resource-use planning for tropical woodland agroecosystems

Commenced Jan 1999; estimated completion March 2002

Rural communities are constantly faced with decisions about how they develop or conserve the resources they manage. The consequences of these decisions will have an impact beyond the immediate area and may be felt far into the future. Poor decisions have contributed to many current degradation problems, and so this project has been initiated to help improve the decision-making process used in southern Africa and northern Australia. The project will focus on the management of tropical woodlands. The aim is to develop and trial a framework of processes and tools for decision-making which will result in effective community-based planning for sustainable resource management.

India, Indonesia and Zimbabwe: Capturing the benefits of seasonal climate forecasts in agricultural management

Commenced Jan 1999; estimated completion Dec 2002

Climate variability affects agricultural production, human health and the well being of communities throughout the world. Seasonal climate forecast tools are under development, but need testing. This project will evaluate alternative seasonal climate forecast signals and statistical methods in Australia, Zimbabwe, Indonesia and India. The project will determine relationships between climate indicators and impacts on agriculture and assess the value of forecasts at key decision points in the agricultural system. The scientists will also develop and apply a range of decision support systems including workshops and learning packages, agricultural models and an international version of the Australian Rainman software package.

China: Improving the productivity and sustainability of rainfed farming systems for the western Loess Plateau of Gansu Province

Commenced Jan 2001; estimated completion Dec 2004

This project will undertake research on tillage and cropping systems to reduce erosion, improve fertility and increase economic return for wheat-based cropping. Project sites are a loess plateau region in eastern Gansu Province and areas in southern Australia. The project targets two regions in Gansu - Dingxi with 400 mm annual rainfall and colder winters, permitting only spring wheat growing, and further east Xifeng, with 560 mm rainfall and warmer winters allowing growth of winter wheat.

There are four objectives: to develop conservation tillage systems based on crop residue retention; to integrate legumes including lucerne and fallow replacement legumes such as soybean and mung bean into the wheat rotations; to adapt the existing simulation model (APSIM) to Gansu conditions and cropping systems to permit extrapolation of results in time and space; and to build up Gansu (Gansu Agricultural University, Gansu Grassland Ecological Research Institute) research capacity. The project also plans to promote the improved cropping methods amongst extension workers and farmers.

Pakistan: Conjunctive water management for sustainable irrigated agriculture in South Asia

Commenced July 1998; estimated completion June 2002

Conjunctive water management refers to the management of waters from all sources within a water basin and leads to an increase in the amount of available water. At the present time, South Asia does not have the capacity to carry out effective conjunctive management. This project aims to identify and test combinations of technologies, institutions and management tools to conjunctively manage surface and subsurface water. The project's objectives are to maximise short, medium and long term agricultural productivity of water, facilitate water savings and ensure environmental sustainability of irrigated areas in South Asia.

Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya, Philippines, Vietnam, Zimbabwe: Integrated nutrient management in tropical cropping systems - Improved capabilities in modelling and recommendations

Commenced July 1999; estimated completion June 2002

Farmers in the tropics rely to a large extent on organic inputs and biological processes for managing soil fertility yet organics are not part of fertiliser recommendations. Because of the variable, but predictable, effect of organics on nutrient availability, links with models are essential. Another major gap in soil fertility recommendations for the tropics is that of phosphorus management. Soil phosphorus dynamics and indicators of phosphorus availability are complex yet no crop or ecosystems model has adequately captured phosphorus dynamics for estimating crop (or ecosystem) production.

The objective of this project is to use data from a range of sites in the tropics to test and improve the capability of the Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM) to predict the decomposition of various organic inputs, the dynamics of N and P in soil and crop yields (including P deficient situations). The project will be implemented through the Combating Nutrient Depletion Theme of the Soil, Water and Nutrient Management Consortium (SWNM) of the CGIAR.

India: Drill modification for rice-wheat with straw retention

Commenced June 2001; estimated completion May 2002

The objective of this small project is to develop and test in India conventional modifications to the Pantnagar drill and to the bed former cum drill which permit zero till seeding of rice into wheat residue and of wheat into rice residue, the former implement for flat seedbeds and the latter for raised bed conditions. It is proposed to develop within 12 months a locally-produced systems that works satisfactorily, so that at the least field plot work testing of the effect of residue retention can commence and innovative farmers can be attracted to begin trials. This implies drill operation in up to 6 t/ha of evenly distributed crop residue, whether anchored, or loose and chopped. The outputs will comprise design plans for the machinery modifications, and at least two prototype drills, one for the flat and one for raised beds.