The productive and environmental implications of farm consolidation and fragmentation
Processes of farm consolidation and fragmentation are transforming agricultural land ownership patterns in rural Australia with vital implications for environmental management, the operation of agricultural systems and the social sustainability of rural communities. Consolidation occurs when owners of agricultural land increase their holdings, typically by purchasing neighbouring properties. Fragmentation refers to the processes by which agricultural lands are subdivided into smaller holdings, occasionally (but not always) for quasi-productive lifestyle blocks. While both processes are transforming land usage and management, little or no data exist on their various impacts.
This research, funded for four years by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) aims to repair this information gap, by providing an analytical approach to assess the scope, intensity and implications of farm consolidation and fragmentation.
Associate Professor Bill Pritchard
Bill is an economic geographer within the School of Geosciences. His research and teaching addresses the ways that economic, social and cultural processes intermesh with one another to create the specificities of place and space.
Dr Melissa Neave
Mel is a physical geographer within the School of Geosciences. Her main area of interest is in the field of biophysical interactions in fluvial systems with a focus on arid/semiarid hillslope processes.
Deanne is a physical geographer in the School of Geosciences, specialising in GIS. Her research utilises spatial methods to examine changes in the landscape, focusing on vegetative habitats.
Stage 1 - Pilot Study
In 2008, a pilot study was undertaken to develop an analytical approach to identify the spatio-temporal occurence of farm consolidation and fragmetnation. In this study, farm holdings in Mid Western Regional and Lachlan Shire local government areas (LGAs)were investigated.
Stage 2 - NSW Analysis (Current)
The methodolgical approach developed in the pilot study is currently been applied to all NSW rural LGAs. On completion of this analysis spatial statisitcs will be applied, identifying hotspot areas of consolidation and fragmentation.
Stage 3 - National Investigation
In the second half of 2009 the project will expand beyond NSW, with investigations commencing in Victoria and South Australia.
Processes of farm consolidation and fragmentation are driven by changes in farm holding ownership. The farm holding concept defined in this study represents an accumulation of lots, based on ownership and identified for each local government area.
Honours and Postgraduate Research
There are currently two student projects linked to this research;
Alex Collie (Honours Project)- The effects of land holding ownership change on vegetation in rural New South Wales
Deanne Hickey (PhD Project) - Assessing the effectiveness of land use planning in managing future farm consolidation and fragmentation
Prospective Honours Projects
Honours research questions examining socio-economic implications of farm consolidation and fragmentation may include:
- Are consolidated farms associated with changes in supply chain strategies?
- Is consolidation associated with foreign ownership?
- What is the relationship between rates of consolidation and change in average holding size?
- Are fragmented holdings sold with detached water licenses?
- Is water licensing a driver for the consolidation of rural land holdings?
For more information contact
Honours research questions examining environmental implications of farm consolidation and fragmentation may include:
- Are consolidated land holdings associated with less intense farming practices?
- Do fragmented landscapes present an elevated bush fire hazard?
For more information contact
There is also scope to examine other land use planning issues associated with fragmentaiton and consolidation hot spots throughout NSW.
Proof is in the Paddock, Lachlan CMA Science Forum 2009
AgriFood Research Network XVI Conference, Auckland
ARCRNSISS Methods, Tools and Technologies Workshop, Newcastle
ARCRNSISS National Conference, Adelaide 2008
AgriFood Research Network XV Conference, Sydney 2008
ARCRNSISS Methods, Tools and Technologies Workshop, Newcastle 2008