Managing the grazing landscape: Insights for agricultural adaptation from a mid-drought photo-elicitation study in the Australian sheep-wheat belt
Globally, and under uncertain climate conditions, the agricultural sector will need to feed more people without degrading the ecosystem services on which production depends. Eastern Australia, coming out of a decade of drought, is at the leading edge of this challenge. Measures to adapt agriculture to increasing climate variability are urgently sought. One particularly promising measure is an adaptive grazing decision-making practice called holistic management (HM), typically involving high-intensity, short-duration rotational grazing and the encouragement of pastures with low chemical input needs. Here, we use photo-elicitation to compare the landscape perceptions of HM graziers with those of more conventional graziers, based on their choice of photo targets and the stories those photographs elicited. During that process, HM graziers described their use of adaptive farm management techniques to gain outcomes for production and ecosystems alike, demonstrating a system-based understanding of their farms conducive to farming under increased climate variability. We conclude that HM grazing should be encouraged so as to adapt the industry to climate change. More widespread uptake of HM practices – for public benefit as well as personal – depends on incentives to reduce start-up costs and expand the instruction of HM principles, first targeting those with high adaptive capacity, and removing policies that delay adaptation.
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