How well Australian farmers manage their catchments and the nutrients that leak off their farms may one day determine their ability to export into top markets, according to John Williams, deputy chief of CSIRO Land and Water.
Dr Williams says getting landscape management right will give Australia an immediate international lead in clean, green food exports.
"We already have quality assurance (QA) programs for things like consumer quality and freedom from pesticides. QA emphasising environmental management is now more than a possibility."
Dr Williams says that the 'Green Dove Awards' granted under the international standard ISO 14000 are gaining worldwide acceptance for products which embody environmental care in their production.
He said the dilemma for Australian farmers is that more than ever fertilisers are being used to raise productivity while little or nothing is known about the ultimate fate of those nutrients in the landscape.
"We now know that nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, dissolved organic matter, solutes and dispersed clays are entering our streams, rivers and wetlands from farming sources, leading to degradation of water quality.
"But we need to understand a lot more clearly how this happens, both at the paddock scale and at the total catchment scale, so we can take the right action," Dr Williams says.
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