||Technology in Australia 1788-1988
Table of Contents
I Groping In A Strange Environment: 1788-1851
II Farmers Take The Initiative: 1851-1888
III Enter Education And Science: 1888-1927
IV Agricultural Science Pays Dividends: 1927-1987
V Examples Of Research And Development 1928-1988
VI International Aspects Of Agricultural Research
VII Future Prospects
Future Prospects (continued)
Nevertheless, confidence in the future successes of agricultural research can be based on two considerations. First, scientific knowledge and research techniques that are currently available have by no means been exhausted in terms of their potential application or importance in farming practice. There are still enormous opportunities for making substantial improvements to the efficiencies of plant and animal production through the further development of ongoing research programs on farm pests and diseases, the nutrition and genetic improvement of crops and stock, the management of water and soil, and the design of farm equipment and machinery. The list of such potentially important programs is extremely long and includes topics as varied as: the use of epidermal growth factor for the biological shearing of sheep; the ecological, biological or chemical control of introduced weeds such as ragwort, St. John's wort, Paterson's curse, common heliotrope, blackberry, docks, sorrels, spiny emex, salvinia, water lettuce, water hyacinth, alligator weed, giant sensitive plant, hyptis, various thistles, and silver-leaf nightshade; the development and use of microcomputerised remote sensing technologies for soil mapping, land classification and weather forecasting; new strategic drenching programs and vaccinations for the control of animal parasites; the genetic control of blowflies and the use of pheromones in the control of horticultural and orchard insects; and so on.
The second reason for confidence in the future achievements of agricultural research is based on the expected growth of radically new and excitingly different scientific opportunities that have recently become available to research scientists. The results of basic research continually serve to open up new possibilities for the applied scientist, and the most outstanding contemporary examples of this dependence of technological progress upon more theoretical advances are found in the application in farming of computerised simulation models and recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (genetic engineering).
Because the biological and economic risks in farming are so high and profit margins are increasingly small, it is extremely important that management decisions should be correct and that, in making them, the vast and ever-increasing mass of available technical information should be appropriately taken into account. Although it is not possible to accommodate all the interacting components of any particular farming system within a single management policy or program, research has already demonstrated that it is possible to identify the most important factors and to assess and relate them through a series of mathematical equations. When computerised and used by a farmer, the resulting model can indicate the impact that a change in one aspect of the system will have on the production and profitability of the system as a whole.
Research undertaken jointly by the NSW Department of Agriculture and CSIRO, for example, has resulted in the development of a computerised management system, called SIRATAC, which is now used in making management decisions which affect a large part of Australia's total cotton production. Field studies have shown that SIRATAC-managed crops yield as well as conventionally managed cotton, but involve fewer insecticidal sprays and result in higher profits.
Similar mathematical programs are now being introduced for the more efficient management of irrigated and dryland crops and pastures throughout many parts of Australia. For example, SIRAGCROP is being developed to assess the optimal management requirements of irrigated wheat and associated summer crops, particularly in relation to the control of salinity in the MurrayDarling Basin. GRAZPLAN has been designed to rationalise and evaluate the long-term decisions taken by graziers when managing their cattle and sheep. LAMBALIVE quantifies the effects of climate, ewe conditions and reproductive performance on the survival rates of lambs born at specific times of the year. GRASSGRO predicts the effects of climatic changes on pasture growth, while GRAZFEED relates pasture availability to the nutritional needs of specific classes of grazing animal. The number and accuracy of such simulation models will certainly increase in the future and, in doing so, will enable the managers of differing farming systems to incorporate the most up-to-date and essential information, biological and economic, in their decisions.
Organisations in Australian Science at Work - CSIRO; N.S.W. Department of Agriculture
© 1988 Print Edition pages 63 - 64, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher