A three-year on-farm monitoring program involving 60 to 75 crop producers will seek to measure best farm-practice in light of new and emerging challenges.
The "deep-dive" investigation will cover key bioregions and soil types across Australia.
The program funded through GRDC is being run through Southern Cross University's regenerative agriculture unit, co-ordinated out of Lismore by Dr Adam Canning and Dr Hanabeth Luke, the project's socio-economic research lead.
"We want to find out what grower practices are making a difference," Dr Luke says.
"And also what sorts of measurements are most useful for measuring success that is in line with farmer goals for their land and enterprise."
The project will begin with an online survey asking questions about farmer goals and management practices. At the same time the researchers will be looking for croppers interested in participating in on-farm monitoring.
"Regenerative agriculture has become a topical issue in Australia in recent years, however, there is no regulatory or widely accepted definition of the practice," she says.
The survey will want to know who is investing in practices such as cover cropping, multi-species planting and no-till cultivation.
"We already know that just by maintaining ground cover and not disturbing your soil you are building soil biology and that is doing it a massive favour," she says. "A lot of croppers are already building landscape health but may not click with the term regenerative farming."
Dr Luke has extensive experience interviewing farmers in this manner, conducting Soil CRC social benchmarking studies across six farming regions, including Central Western NSW communities in 2021.
An on-going, 25-year social benchmarking study in Victoria's Wimmera has recently undertaken its fifth survey.
Another implemented on the Eyre Peninsula, SA, is unearthing the truth about keen next-generation farming interest.
The data is spatially-referenced and will hopefully provide government and industry with the right facts to back up policy.
The studies already prove that there are some quite big differences across regions, in management styles, and varied issues from a reduction in full-time farmers in the landscape, to changing weather patterns and succession planning.
On the latter, Dr Luke says family units that make decisions as a team tend to have whole-of-farm plans and are more able to navigate delicate situations like succession, leading to over-all better resilience and wellbeing.
"We hope that through this ongoing body of work we can develop sound and more holistic measures of success on farms," says Dr Luke.
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