Farm facts to drive environmental strategy
Thursday, 19 July 2007
University of Adelaide PhD student Greg Lyle hopes his research will lead to clear, economically sound decision-making about the implementation of environmental regeneration strategies in Australia's wheatbelt.
Mr Lyle is investigating the correlation between data gathered in the paddock on grain yields with regional spatial information provided by GIS satellite technology. He will use this correlation to map the potential costs and benefits of revegetation and land restoration in real grain-growing areas.
Mr Lyle's research has won him one of the inaugural national scholarships awarded by the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, a national group of scientists involved in advancing solutions to secure the long term health of Australia's land, water and biodiversity. Mr Lyle is the only South Australian to be awarded one of the 2007 Wentworth Group Science Program Scholarships.
"In Australian grain-growing areas the need to improve environmental outcomes is of increasing priority," Mr Lyle said. "Strategies such as land revegetation or restoration have had limited success among grain growers because uncertainty exists whether these strategies can be implemented while still maintaining both individual farm and regional economic viability.
"Implementation of revegetation or restoration strategies takes place on individual farms at a sub-paddock or paddock scale yet environmental issues and policy decisions are concerned with broader landscapes, where limitations within farms are difficult to anticipate.
"With the advent of detailed precision farming data and broad coverage satellite imagery, we now have environmental and economic information that spans decision-making scales from paddocks to regions. Using both together helps to understand the trade-offs necessary to provide environmental benefits in Australia's grain-growing regions. We can now identify areas where a strategy of revegetation and restoration might provide the most cost efficient environmental benefits."
Professor Mike Young, Wentworth Group member and Professor of Water Economics and Management at the University of Adelaide, said: "The approach that Greg's research is taking is helping to build a more sustainable future for Australian agriculture and Australian landscapes. The Wentworth Group is committed to finding real solutions for Australia - solutions that withstand the test of time."
The Wentworth Scholarship will provide Mr Lyle with funds to conduct stakeholder meetings with growers and local catchment authorities to identify potential issues that could arise in applying this innovative technique to an actual grain growing area.
As part of the Wentworth Group science program Mr Lyle will also attend science master classes in cities around Australia and will be mentored by some of Australia's leading scientists.
The Wentworth Group Science Program Scholarships are funded by the Purves Environmental Trust.