Innovation underpins the global competitiveness of Australian agriculture

​​​7 March 2017

Innovation has underpinned a steady increase in wheat yields over the past decade—despite the impact of climate conditions on overall production levels, according to new data released today by ABARES.

ABARES acting Executive Director, Peter Gooday, said the data provided more evidence that agricultural innovation not only underpins the creation of new opportunities and markets, but would be essential to protect markets we already have.

“Two of the big challenges Australian agriculture is facing at the moment are climate variability and increased competition in key export markets,” Mr Gooday said.

“Innovation in Australian agriculture is working to address both issues.

“For example, while wheat production rises and falls with seasonal conditions, some of our recent work shows that underlying wheat yields have improved significantly since the mid-2000s when the effect of climate variation is accounted for.

“Climate adjusted wheat yields have grown from 1.8 tonnes per hectare in 2005-06, to reach 2.2 tonnes per hectare in 2014-15.

“This is important because it means that technological progress is offsetting the effects of deteriorating seasonal conditions, which will be essential if we are to remain globally competitive.”

Mr Gooday said that as the technology responsible for past productivity growth in Australia became accessible in countries with developing agricultural industries, continued innovation would be essential.

“Innovation is not just about technology-driven productivity improvements though,” Mr Gooday said.

“Recent work by ABARES has identified that policy reforms and infrastructure investments by South American beef exporters are likely to boost their competitiveness in some of our key markets.

“Supply chain innovation will be essential if Australia is to keep pace—particularly given the distance our produce often has to travel to market.

“It is likely that private sector investment in R&D will become increasingly important, including adapting innovations developed in other countries and in other sectors.

“Increased use of data, automation, genetics and communications technologies all present opportunities but they all come with challenges we must solve.”

Mr Gooday presented the analysis at ABARES Outlook 2017, held in Canberra on Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 March. Australia’s leading forum for public and private decision-makers in agriculture, Outlook marks its 47th annual conference this year with expert analysis of innovation in agriculture.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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