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The potential contribution of forage shrubs to economic returns and environmental management in Australian dryland agricultural systems


  • Monjardino, Marta
  • Revell, Dean
  • Pannell, David J.


In face of climate change and other environmental challenges, one strategy for incremental improvement within existing farming systems is the inclusion of perennial forage shrubs. In Australian agricultural systems, this has the potential to deliver multiple benefits: increased whole-farm profitability and improved natural resource management. The profitability of shrubs was investigated using Model of an Integrated Dryland Agricultural System (MIDAS), a bio-economic model of a mixed crop/livestock farming system. The modelling indicated that including forage shrubs had the potential to increase farm profitability by an average of 24% for an optimal 10% of farm area used for shrubs under standard assumptions. The impact of shrubs on whole-farm profit accrues primarily through the provision of a predictable supply of 'out-of-season' feed, thereby reducing supplementary feed costs, and through deferment of use of other feed sources on the farm, allowing a higher stocking rate and improved animal production. The benefits for natural resource management and the environment include improved water use through summer-active, deep-rooted plants, and carbon storage. Forage shrubs also allow for the productive use of marginal soils. Finally, we discuss other, less obvious, benefits of shrubs such as potential benefits on livestock health. The principles revealed by the MIDAS modelling have wide application beyond the region, although these need to be adapted on farm and widely disseminated before potential contribution to Australian agriculture can be realized.

Suggested Citation

  • Monjardino, Marta & Revell, Dean & Pannell, David J., 2010. "The potential contribution of forage shrubs to economic returns and environmental management in Australian dryland agricultural systems," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 103(4), pages 187-197, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:103:y:2010:i:4:p:187-197

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pannell, David J., 1997. "Sensitivity analysis of normative economic models: theoretical framework and practical strategies," Agricultural Economics of Agricultural Economists, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 16(2), May.
    2. Michele John & David Pannell & Ross Kingwell, 2005. "Climate Change and the Economics of Farm Management in the Face of Land Degradation: Dryland Salinity in Western Australia," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 53(4), pages 443-459, December.
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    4. Abadi Ghadim, Amir & Kingwell, Ross & Pannell, David, 1991. "An economic evaluation of deep tillage to reduce soil compaction on crop-livestock farms in Western Australia," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, pages 291-307.
    5. World Bank, 2009. "Building Response Strategies to Climate Change in Agricultural Systems in Latin America," World Bank Other Operational Studies 12473, The World Bank.
    6. O'Connell, Michael & Young, John & Kingwell, Ross, 2006. "The economic value of saltland pastures in a mixed farming system in Western Australia," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, pages 371-389.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kragt, Marit Ellen & Pannell, David J. & Robertson, Michael J., 2011. "Easy winnings? The economics of carbon sequestration in agricultural soils," 2011 Conference (55th), February 8-11, 2011, Melbourne, Australia 100575, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    2. Doole, Graeme J. & Pannell, David J., 2013. "A process for the development and application of simulation models in applied economics," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 57(1), March.
    3. Monjardino, M. & MacLeod, N. & McKellar, L. & Prestwidge, D., 2015. "Economic evaluation of irrigated forage production in a beef cattle operation in the semi-arid tropics of northern Australia," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, pages 122-143.
    4. Finlayson, J.D. & Lawes, R.A. & Metcalf, T. & Robertson, M.J. & Ferris, D. & Ewing, M.A., 2012. "A bio-economic evaluation of the profitability of adopting subtropical grasses and pasture-cropping on crop–livestock farms," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, pages 102-112.
    5. Thamo, Tas & Addai, Donkor & Pannell, David J. & Robertson, Michael J. & Thomas, Dean T. & Young, John M., 2017. "Climate change impacts and farm-level adaptation: Economic analysis of a mixed cropping–livestock system," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, pages 99-108.
    6. Finlayson, John & Real, Daniel & Nordblom, Tom & Revell, Clinton & Ewing, Mike & Kingwell, Ross, 2012. "Farm level assessments of a novel drought tolerant forage: Tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa C.H. Stirt var. albomarginata)," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, pages 38-47.
    7. Nasca, J.A. & Feldkamp, C.R. & Arroquy, J.I. & Colombatto, D., 2015. "Efficiency and stability in subtropical beef cattle grazing systems in the northwest of Argentina," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, pages 85-96.


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