Sustainable Farming

A focus on global, national and regional sustainability

There are increasing global pressures for more grain, livestock and fibre to be produced from diminishing areas of high quality land – in fact, two to three times current production within just 45 years.

There is a profound challenge for farming to go beyond the benefits of the green revolution with advanced and profitable livestock, grain and fibre production systems that also provide ecosystems services that support the natural land and water resources and biodiversity of the planet.

With increasingly competitive international markets, the long-term success of Australian food producers will depend largely on their capacity to develop certifiable systems, which are environmentally sustainable and which will assure consumers of that sustainability and food safety.

It is clear that, with improved management of water, increased inputs of nutrients and appropriate species/cultivars, the level of crop, pasture and livestock production can be increased.  However, the question remains, can such gains be made in a sustainable manner?   To what extent can diversified, integrated, farming systems contribute to achieving sustainability?

The Sustainable Farming group is clearly focused on the key global, national and regional issues of water, soils, pastures, crops, livestock, biodiversity, nutrients and energy and how they interact in viable, profitable and sustainable whole farm systems.

Research Areas

System integration

Measuring the sustainability and profitability of farming systems

Quantifying how ‘sustainable’ and profitable one system is versus another has been a challenge faced by our researchers.  The concept of measuring the component layers of the farm system over time has led to the development of indices integrating each of the components and time trends.

This work has been extended to working with farmer groups to investigate farm system performance  at a scale which has been found to be credible to farmers  , and yet small enough to allow for a realistic level of data acquisition by researchers.

Understanding the complexity of sustainable farming

This is what the Sustainable Farming group is all about.  By engaging with farmer groups, we aim to bring about more profitable and environmentally benign farming systems.


  • Understanding complex systems through measurement at a credible scale.
  • Assessment of integration issues through experimentation and modelling.
  • Resolving conflicts between environmental and economic goals.


Staff at UNE with a commitment to sustainable farming

Dr. David Backhouse - disease management
Mr. Craig Birchall - sustainable grains production
Prof. Oscar Cacho - optimal production and environmental outcomes
Prof. Peter Gregg - integrated pest management
A/Prof. Chris Guppy - soil fertility and fertilisers
Prof. Geoff Hinch - animal behaviour and welfare
A/Prof. Robin Jessop - sustainable grains production and plant improvement
A/Prof. Paul Kristiansen - organic agriculture and farming systems
A/Prof. Lalit Kumar - remote sensing and environmental modelling
Prof. David Lamb - applied optics and precision agriculture
Dr. Lisa Lobry de Bruyn - soil health and adoption of sustainable practices by farmers
Dr. Peter Lockwood - understanding soil contamination and soil chemistry
Prof. Jim McFarlane - reproductive physiology of livestock
Dr. Julian Prior - enhancing extension methods
Dr. Romina Rader - plant-animal interactions, ecosystem service provision
Prof. Nick Reid - sustainable land management, ecosystem services
Prof. Brian Sindel - integrated weed management
Dr. Rhiannon Smith - ecosystem management
Dr. Matthew Tighe - soil chemistry
Dr. Nigel Warwick - drought physiology
Dr. Janelle Wilkes - sustainable irrigation practices
A/Prof. Brian Wilson - plant:soil interactions, soil carbon
Dr. Susan Wilson - understanding soil contamination and remediation

See the School of Environmental and Rural Science staff listing for more details.

For more details on our sustainable farming research, please contact:

Professor Nick Reid
Ecosystem Management
School of Environmental and Rural Science
Phone: +(61 2) 6773 2759