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Agricultural transition and land-use change: considerations in the development of irrigated enterprises in the rangelands of northern Australia

McKellar, Lisa, Bark, Rosalind H., Watson, Ian
The Rangeland journal 2015 v.37 no.5 pp. 445-457
beef cattle, business enterprises, case studies, grazing, irrigated farming, irrigation, irrigation water, land use change, learning, rangelands, Queensland
The factors affecting the adoption of irrigation by landholders, using a case study of a government-managed irrigation water release in north-west Queensland, Australia, where current land use is dominated by extensive beef-cattle production, were investigated. The study was based on multiple data sources – interview data from family-owned agricultural enterprises, historical and contemporary documents and contemporary media analysis, workshop participation and field work. The study revealed multiple drivers and constraints, which affect the rate, timing and location of adoption of irrigation by family-owned grazing enterprises. The key finding was that there are individual, group and regional interests in irrigation development but that considerable social and individual learning is required for adoption of irrigation to occur. It was found that there is a prominent role for knowledge brokers — as individuals, irrigator groups, and trusted brokers of science information — in facilitating learning and change. An insight, relevant to governments that support irrigation developments is that interventions that aid and support learning can play a role in facilitating the land-use transition for individual grazing properties to irrigated agriculture.