Project Update: Surveying farm practices

News | Posted Aug 01,2019

At the workshop at North Central CMA

Project: Surveying on farm practices

Project Leader: Dr Hanabeth Luke – Southern Cross University

Program: 1

Duration: Two years

Famers manage 60% of Australia’s land. Hence, the collective behaviour of individual farmers can have a significant impact on the broader health of the economy and natural resources of Australia.

This project will survey a range of land managers. The aim is to better understand their current practices, the various influences on their decision-making and how they believe they will be farming in the future.

Six regions related to existing grower groups and NRM partners will be surveyed. This project will complete the first of these, and develop the instruments and approach for two more. The data from this project will be used for future Soil CRC projects by enabling more targeted strategies and initiatives.

Dr Hanabeth Luke explaining why their survey is unique.

Project Update

The research team, led by Hanabeth Luke, Allan Curtis and Catherine Allan, started work some months ago developing the first farmer survey in partnership with the North Central CMA in Victoria. This involved running three workshops. Attendees at the first workshop included North Central CMA staff and CEO of the Soil CRC Michael Crawford. They identified some of the major areas of interest that they wanted to cover in the survey and came up with a draft survey. A few weeks later they returned to pre-test the survey with farmers.

The first survey was sent to over 2,200 farmers at the end of July, and they are expecting to get a 50% response rate. From this, they hope to develop a good understanding of on-farm management practices influencing soil health and productivity, as well as the drivers of farmer decision-making on a range of topics. Because the random-sample is spatially referenced, they will be able to cross the social data with other GIS data layers available, from soil type to weather patterns.

In June, Hanabeth visited the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, hosted by David Davenport of PIRSA. In those few days, she was able to see some field trials and which helped her to gain insight into some of the different soil types across the Eyre Peninsula. She learned about some of the changes in practice which have led farmers to increase their productivity and also some of the present challenges they face.

She presented a short overview of the survey project at the Eyre Peninsula Agricultural Research Foundation (EPARF) and Lower Eyre Agricultural Development Association (LEADA) committee meetings, to establish whether they would like to collaborate to develop a survey. This was met with enthusiasm, so work will begin in partnership with these groups in September.  

In South Australia, the survey has some natural synergies with other Soil CRC projects, which they will be collaborating with for the benefit of farmers, EPARF, LEADA and researchers across other programs of the Soil CRC.

Next Steps

The project team will head further west to meet with Western Australian No-Tillage Farmers Association (WANTFA) and other groups to discuss how they can make the best use of the surveys in Western Australia. This could also be as early as September, depending on the best time for the farming groups.


Southern Cross University
Charles Sturt University
North Central CMA
NSW Department of Primary Industries
Primary Industries and Regions SA
Western Australian No-Tillage Farmers Association