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Redesigning Agriculture for Australian Landscapes (RAAL)

1997 - 2001

Many current Australian agricultural production systems are not ecologically sustainable in the long term because they are not able to make full use of available rain or soil moisture. As a consequence water containing salt and nutrients leaks from these systems. This is a primary cause of dryland salinity, soil acidification and nutrient exports to watercourses.

The Redesigning Agriculture for Australian Landscapes (RAAL) R&D Programme is compared current agricultural systems with the native plant communities that they have replaced. By doing so the Programme identified novel design criteria which could be used to modify existing agricultural systems or develop new systems, which are more in tune with the Australian landscape.

Goals and strategies 

The objective of the RAAL Programme was : 

To design agricultural systems which ensure economic production and ecosystem and landscape function, by matching these systems to the unique biophysical characteristics of the Australian environment.

Phase 1 of RAAL ran from 1997 to 2000 as a first step to design new agricultural systems for Australia. RAAL has made substantial progress in understanding water and nutrient leakage in agricultural and native systems. Phase 1 identified broad principles necessary to redesign agricultural systems.

Phase 2 of the RAAL Programme commenced in 2000 and is used the outputs of Phase 1 to explore the design concepts, criteria and broad options to redesign agricultural systems.

Collaborating Organisations 

Lead agencies

Land & Water Australia and CSIRO


  • In 2000 - 2001, work at two major field studies near Wagga Wagga in Southern NSW and at Moora and Kalannie in Western Australia provided ongoing and challenging insights into the role of water and nutrients in agricultural and natural systems. A third site, on the wet tropical coast near Atherton in far North Queensland, has also been established to focus on rainforest, horticultural and pasture systems. At each site, work is comparing the ability of native and agricultural systems to use water and nitrogen.
  • Modelling project based on Agricultural Production Simulation (APSIM) conducted in conjunction with the field studies completed June 2001. The project has demonstrated the capability of tools such as APSIM to contribute to the redesign process at both a conceptual and farm scale.
  • Two new projects have been undertaken as a part of the second phase of the Program: Concepts of Landscape Design project and Review of Farmer-Initiated Innovative Farming Systems.
id: 3185 / created: 15 April, 2009 / last updated: 13 August, 2009