Article – CSIRO talks food bowl

11 September 2014
Farm Weekly
AUSTRALIA’s potential to satisfy growing global food demand was on the menu at the 30th annual Brodie-Hall Memorial Address this month.
Almost 250 guests heard from CSIRO land and water flagship research director Peter Stone.
Dr Stone discussed CSIRO’s contribution to the agriculture industry in WA, which included the development of the South West and northern Australia.
Asia’s significant economic growth combined with concerns over global food security puts northern Australia in the spotlight.
He said the CSIRO has a long and accomplished history of actively fostering development in northern Australia.
Since its beginnings in agriculture, CSIRO’s research has expanded to include work supporting the development of minerals and energy, tourism, defence and fisheries industries and the potential carbon economy – each of which intersects with the growth in agricultural potential.
“The north of today has a 130-year agricultural history and the CSIRO has played a leading role for more than half that time,” Dr Stone said.
Northern Australia’s 120 million hectares represents 20 per cent of the continental land mass and its $30 billion economy equates to 2pc of national GDP.
If northern Australia was a country, then it would be the seventh largest beef exporter in the world.
“It’s already a food bowl. It’s the full mixed grill, a carnivore’s delight,” Dr Stone said.
“What’s really up for discussion here is the size of the side salad it offers.”
If northern Australia reaches its full potential it has the capacity to feed a further 7.5m people each year, equivalent to feeding Perth’s population four times over or 0.2pc of Asia’s.
“Given Asia’s population growth of around 42m per year, that’s enough to feed that portion of the population that will be born in the next 65 days,” said Dr Stone.
He noted that the most limiting factor is a lack of useable water for irrigation.
“The opportunities of the north can’t be realised without imaginative and persistent science and the CSIRO has been doing that since 1946.
“Some examples include: identifying the opportunity for the Ord River scheme, adapting insect-resistant cotton, introducing tick-resistant cattle and introducing dung beetles.”

Courtesy of Farm Weekly