Agricultural System Research to support intensification of cool temperature agriculture


 Field Trip and Panel Session


 Field Trip 3

  • Emerging systems issues in Tasmanian agriculture.

Panel Session, Concurrent Session 5

  • The potential of Agricultural Systems Research to support the intensification of cool temperate agriculture.


The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture at the University of Tasmania (TIA/UTAS) in partnership with the Tasmanian Government invite you to share your knowledge and expertise with us on the potential for agricultural systems research to support the intensification of cool temperate agriculture.

Field trip

This field trip will set the scene for the panel session by introducing participants to the systems issues emerging from the irrigation-based intensification of agriculture in Tasmania’s southern midlands.

Participants will visit several farms in the Midlands and meet with farmers and their advisers to learn about issues arising from intensification using irrigation on fragile soils. Participants will have an opportunity to share their expertise of how agricultural systems research can help to create practical management responses to these emerging issues.

Through the farm visits, participants will get farmers’ perspectives on  the role of irrigated cereals, dual purpose wheat and fodder crops in the profitability and sustainability of Tasmania’s diverse farming systems, and the potential impacts of irrigation on fragile soils. A visit to a farm undergoing a dairy conversion will support discussion of successful model development and application in this growing industry. The group will also meet with young farmers and agronomists to hear their views on the issues around intensification, and some of the research that is being undertaken in Tasmania and New Zealand.

The group will also visit the Callington Mill, a working Georgian windmill that produces speciality flours and see some of the dams being built to support the Midlands irrigation scheme.

Panel session

This panel session will engage all participants in a discussion about the challenges of intensifying cool temperate agriculture, and the potential for agricultural systems research to address these challenges.

The scene for a 45 minute discussion will be set by four 10 minute presentations from global, regional and local perspectives.

Associate Professor Rohan Nelson
Leader, TIA Irrigation Program
The potential of agricultural systems research to support the irrigation-based intensification of Tasmania agriculture
Professor Martin Kropff
Director General, CIMMYT
The global experience  – the role of systems thinking in the sustainable intensification of cool temperature agriculture
Dr Peter Thorburn
Research Group Leader: Sub-Tropical Agriculture, CSIRO
Delivering value from agricultural systems research: some examples of success and new challenges for systems modelling
Dr Jo Sharp
Team Leader – Systems Modelling
The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited
The New Zealand experience – systems approaches to sustainably intensifying  cool temperature agriculture

The 45 minute discussion session that follows will be chaired by Dr Michael Battaglia, Research Group Leader: Adaptation and Mitigation, Agriculture and Global Change, CSIRO.


This field trip and panel session is part of an ongoing CSIRO/TIA project responding to requests from industry and government to critically evaluate and communicate the potential of agricultural systems research in Tasmanian agriculture. The project is part of the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture’s Irrigation RD&E Program which has been established to help realise the societal benefits of a $500 million public and private investment in irrigation infrastructure across the state.

More than 55% of the value Tasmania’s agricultural outputs comes from intensive irrigated agriculture. High value crops such as poppies, vegetables and seed crops can return gross margins of more than $5000 per hectare, and are embedded in farming sequences with high yield cereals and pasture forages. These mixed cropping and pasture farming systems share the landscape with an expanding high value dairy industry.

The ongoing expansion of small-catchment irrigation schemes across Tasmania has focused attention on proactively managing a range of emerging agricultural systems issues. Strategic foresighting with more than 30 industry stakeholders in April 2014 identified 160 emerging issues across four themes:

  • RD&E that enables more productive, profitable and viable farms and rural communities;
  • RD&E to attract investment in agricultural industries across value chains including production, processing, manufacturing and exporting;
  • RD&E to sustain productivity through better management of natural resources; and
  • RD&E to establish commercial and innovation networks that enhance productivity, profitability and sustainability.

The application of agricultural systems research in to address these issues in Tasmania has been low, with the notable exception of the dairy industry. This project is exploring the agronomic, business and cultural conditions under which this approach has supported industry decision making in some Tasmanian industries (notably dairy), and in other relevant agricultural industries across Australia and internationally. It will explore the extent to which similar decisions and decision making contexts exist in the Tasmanian midlands, and make inferences about the potential contributions that agricultural systems research could make into the future.