Australia agriculture faces climate upheaval -scientist

Tue Aug 3, 2010 6:32am GMT

* Australia's fragile soils vulnerable to climate change

* Marginal cropping areas might become pasture lands

* Technological changes could offset global warming impacts

By Bruce Hextall

SYDNEY, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Land available for agriculture in Australia, one of the world's largest food exporters, is in danger of shrinking because of climate change, a leading scientist said on Tuesday.

More grain was also likely to be grown in the north as climate change cuts production in the drier south with more marginal areas turned over to pasture, threatening Australia's position as the world's fourth largest grain exporter.

The country's mostly infertile and fragile soils made the agriculture industry particularly vulnerable to climate change, said Andrew Ash, director of the Climate Adaptation Flagship project of the government-backed research organisation CSIRO.

"We've had a fairly strong drying trend over the past 12 years or so and we think now there is a climate change signal associated with that," Ash said in a telephone interview after an address to the World Congress of Soil Science in Brisbane.

He said major changes in land management were needed to keep the 60 percent of Australia's land mass now used for agriculture from shrinking.   Continued...

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