Land Use in Australian Agriculture
By: Jon Smith, Blue River Valley Jr/Sr High School; Mt. Summit, IN, 6/15/1997
To teach students about the relationship between land use and physical landscapes in Australia.
Grade Level: 7th grade Social Studies (Eastern Hemisphere)
Geography Standards addressed:
Upon completion of this activity, students will be able to
1. read a map of Australia describing regional Australian agricultural practices,
2. discuss the physical landscape of Australia, regionally, and
3. understand the influence of the physical landscape on economics.
1. Distribute the outline maps of Australia to all students.
2. Students will research and map agricultural practices of Australia.
3. Ask students the following questions and discuss as a class:
a. Why does land use intensity decrease as you move inland? (Australia’s interior is arid)
b. What are three major land uses in Australian agriculture? (intensive horticulture [fruit picking], mixed wheat and sheep belts, and extensive cattle lands)
c. In what parts of Australia would you locate extensive cattle raising? Why? (northeastern, north central and few spots in Western Australia)
d. In what parts of Australia would you locate wool and lamb production? Why? (mostly in the southeast with little in the southwest)
e. Where would you expect to find fruit and vegetable production? Why? (southeastern corner and little in southwest - near urban centers and fresh water)
4. Next, distribute the comments "Agriculture in Australia" (see attached) Have the students read the article and respond to the following questions as a class:
a. How important is wool as an export? (Australia produces 35% of world’s wool; more than 97% of this wool is exported; so, economically, wool is vital to the Australian economy)
b. To what countries is wool exported? (mainly Japan; former Soviet countries, and Western Europe)
c. How important is beef to the Australian economy, and where is it exported? (Australia is the leading beef exporter of the world; most Australian beef is exported to Japan and the United States; much is utilized by "fast-food" franchises)
d. In what climate are most dairy farms located? And where are most dairy farms located in relation to people? (wetter regions, such as Victoria and Tasmania and near population centers)
e. Where does most of Australia’s wheat production take place? (Wheat is raised on 60% of Australia’s farmland; the "wheat belt" is located on the plains west of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria and New South Wales, but wheat is grown in all regions of Australia)
f. Where are sugar, rice and cotton grown? (mainly in coastal Queensland and New South Wales)
g. What types of fruit are grown along the coast of northeastern Queensland? (bananas, pineapples & other tropical fruits)
h. What crops are grown in the humid, subtropical and Mediterranean climates? (citrus fruits, olives and grapes)
j. Are other crops grown? Where? (corn, peaches, apples, pears grown in the Maritime climate region along the southeastern coast and in Tasmania)
k. What factors have contributed to Australia’s self-sufficiency in terms of food crops? (small population, efficient farming practices and the variety of climates)
l. What specific problem makes farming in Australia risky? (lack of fresh water)
m. Do American farms face such risk? (yes, but fresh water is more accessible; U.S. depleting accessible fresh water supplies rapidly)
Agriculture in Australia
Wool is one of Australia’s major exports. Australia produces 35% of the world’s wool supply. More than 97% of the wool is exported, mainly to Japan, the former Soviet countries and Western Europe. In the wetter, eastern regions of Australia, sheep are raised for mutton and lamb, which are meat products. Much of this meat, as well as many live sheep, is exported to the Middle East.
Australia’s cattle industry is also important. Australia is the leading beef exporter in the world. Most beef is exported to the United States (for "fast-food" franchises) and to Japan. Beef cattle and sheep are usually raised on expansive ranches, called "stations". Most dairy farms are located in wetter climates, such as Victoria and Tasmania, and near large urban centers.
Because of its dry climates, only 6% of Australia’s land is suitable for farming. However, Australian farmers are considered to be quite efficient. Only 6% actually raise agricultural crops; yet the country ranks among the world’s leading wheat exporters. Wheat, the major crop, covers about 60% of Australia’s farmland. The wheat belt lies along the plains west of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria and New South Wales.
Australia’s major export crops are sugar, rice and cotton, which are grown mainly in coastal Queensland and New South Wales. Bananas, pineapples, and other fruits are grown along the northeastern coast. Citrus fruits, as well as olives and grapes, are grown in the humid subtropical and Mediterranean climate regions. Crops such as corn, apples, peaches and pears are grown in the maritime climate zones along the southeastern coast and in Tasmania.
Despite its limited amount of arable land and accessible fresh water, Australia is nearly self-sufficient in terms of food crops. Its small population, efficient farming practices and many climate regions have contributed to Australia’s self-sufficiency.
[annotation by Jon Smith]