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Managing the grazing landscape: Insights for agricultural adaptation from a mid-drought photo-elicitation study in the Australian sheep-wheat belt


  • Sherren, Kate
  • Fischer, Joern
  • Fazey, Ioan


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Sherren, Kate & Fischer, Joern & Fazey, Ioan, 2012. "Managing the grazing landscape: Insights for agricultural adaptation from a mid-drought photo-elicitation study in the Australian sheep-wheat belt," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 106(1), pages 72-83.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:106:y:2012:i:1:p:72-83
    DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2011.11.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Müller, Birgit & Quaas, Martin F. & Frank, Karin & Baumgärtner, Stefan, 2011. "Pitfalls and potential of institutional change: Rain-index insurance and the sustainability of rangeland management," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(11), pages 2137-2144, September.
    2. Barry Smit & Mark Skinner, 2002. "Adaptation options in agriculture to climate change: a typology," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 85-114, March.
    3. Castleden, Heather & Garvin, Theresa & First Nation, Huu-ay-aht, 2008. "Modifying Photovoice for community-based participatory Indigenous research," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(6), pages 1393-1405, March.
    4. Alfaro-Arguello, Rigoberto & Diemont, Stewart A.W. & Ferguson, Bruce G. & Martin, Jay F. & Nahed-Toral, José & David Álvarez-Solís, J. & Ruíz, René Pinto, 2010. "Steps toward sustainable ranching: An emergy evaluation of conventional and holistic management in Chiapas, Mexico," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 103(9), pages 639-646, November.
    5. Stéphane McLachlan & Melisa Yestrau, 2009. "From the ground up: holistic management and grassroots rural adaptation to bovine spongiform encephalopathy across western Canada," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 299-316, April.
    6. Ben Edwards & Matthew Gray & Boyd Hunter, 2009. "A Sunburnt Country: The Economic and Financial Impact of Drought on Rural and Regional Families in Australia in an Era of Climate Change," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 12(1), pages 108-131, March.
    7. Badini, Oumarou & Stockle, Claudio O. & Jones, Jim W. & Nelson, Roger & Kodio, Amadou & Keita, Moussa, 2007. "A simulation-based analysis of productivity and soil carbon in response to time-controlled rotational grazing in the West African Sahel region," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 87-96, April.
    8. Roger Jones & Paul Dettmann & Geoff Park & Maureen Rogers & Terry White, 2007. "The relationship between adaptation and mitigation in managing climate change risks: a regional response from North Central Victoria, Australia," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 12(5), pages 685-712, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Briske, David D. & Ash, Andrew J. & Derner, Justin D. & Huntsinger, Lynn, 2014. "Commentary: A critical assessment of the policy endorsement for holistic management," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 50-53.


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