New research to boost sustainable agriculture in the Pacific

A new research project will apply expertise from the School of Agriculture and Food to assist farmers in Pacific nations sustainably intensify agricultural production and adapt to a changing climate.

The research project, “Conservation agriculture and sustainable intensification of smallholder farming systems in Pacific countries as a pathway to transformational climate change adaptation and reducing GHG emissions”, is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) and is a collaboration between the University of Melbourne, Lincoln University in New Zealand and local partner organisations.

The research will draw on the expertise of sustainable agriculture researchers based at the University’s Dookie agricultural campus and is led by Dookie Professor in Residence Timothy Reeves.

The researchers will review two major agricultural systems in Pacific countries, identify the potential climate change effects and mitigation options, and propose a systems typology for prioritising sustainable intensified conservation agriculture, climate adaptation and mitigation research.

For two important and contrasting smallholder farming systems, the project will model the multiple benefits of proposed conservation agriculture-based innovations on-farm, with flow-on benefits to local and regional communities and societies. These will include economic, nutritional, social and environmental outcomes.

As Pacific Island nations have lower land availability for agriculture and greater vulnerability to climate change, Professor Reeves says it is vital for Australia to ensure its neighbours have a secure food supply and sustainable and productive agricultural systems.

“Our overall aim is to undertake a targeted assessment to explore opportunities for implementing conservation agriculture and sustainably intensifying smallholder farming systems to adapt to climate change in selected countries of the Pacific,” he says.

“Local knowledge and participation is vital to the success of international agricultural research, so we will partner with key stakeholders to select the two farming systems to be explored. We’ll also investigate the research priorities, technologies, infrastructure needs, and the social and policy settings necessary to make local farming systems more resilient, productive, profitable and climate-adapted.

“The project will draw on previous ACIAR research into conservation agriculture and sustainable intensification and develop a typology for Pacific agriculture to inform future research and engagement in the region to improve food security, economic development, nutrition and sustainability.”

The project team includes: