Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


Farming is facing its greatest challenges ever. Given the hard work, trials and tribulations of our pioneers and predecessors this may appear to be a somewhat bold statement, but I nevertheless believe it is true.

Rapidly changing market requirements, corrupted markets, declining terms of trade, financial deregulation, world recession and land degradation have combined together during the past decade to cause major disruption of the farming world. As a result the rate of adjustment out of farming could well be 10 or 20 times greater than the average for the preceding 40 years.

Given this scenario, it is a natural flow-on that the challenge for agronomists has also never been.greater than it is today, and for the foreseeable future. Australia's claim to have the most efficient farmers in the world, whilst still partially true, is eroding. In the race for increased productivity, product quality and market share we certainly cannot afford to fall behind, yet at the same time urgently needed profits must be achieved within environmentally sustaining (or should it be enhancing?) systems.

The challenges for agronomists have not only been exacerbated by the external factors affecting agriculture generally but also by major developments in research and extension.

In research, molecular biology and other innovative technologies are rapidly developing. Agronomists have the dual responsibilities of ensuring that these approaches are brought to bear on high priority practical problems and opportunities, and that the products of such research are effectively integrated into appropriate solutions that can be readily adopted. Australia cannot afford an 'us' and 'them' approach between agronomists and molecular biologists.

Extension in agronomy and related areas has been revolutionised during the past decade through the initial steady decline of Government-based extension services. followed by massive upheavals in most States during the past 2-3 years. with the result that former extension networks have dramatically changed.

The results are however, a new and exciting network where vibrant farmer groups (including Landcare), consultants, commercial agronomists and resellers are very successfully teaming with the remnants of government extension services to not only maintain technology transfer, but significantly enhance it. The challenge for all agronomists is to recognise and embrace the 'new order'.

In this Conference, 'Farming - From Paddock to Plate', we have attempted to address these challenges. The plenary sessions present the issues of marketplace, productivity and sustainability, together with examples from those who are already successfully meeting these challenges. In the Farmer Forum a `Hypothetical' approach teases out the delicate balances producers face in looking after their land and water resources whilst producing goods needed in the marketplace.

Hopefully the papers in these Proceedings will be another valuable tool in the ongoing quest for profitability, productivity and sustainability.

On behalf of the Committee

Tim Reeves
President, Australian Society of Agronomy

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page