Agriculture accounts for around 80% of the regional land use in the Southern Grampians Shire and is the largest employer.

Southern Grampians Shire Council supports the productive use of agricultural land and values the new opportunities and additional income streams diversification brings to our agricultural sector.

Southern Grampians Shire Council has completed a research project which aims to encourage greater diversification of the agricultural land and to explore the long term capabilities and suitability of land in the region. Stage 1 of the project was funded via a grant from the Victorian Government under the Victorian Adaptation and Sustainability Partnership (VASP) program and was completed by researchers at Deakin University.

Stage 2 was co-funded by the Glenelg Hopkins CMA with the support of the Australian Government National Landcare Programme, Southern Grampians Shire Council and Deakin University.

The project mapped and modelled a total of 24 agricultural commodities deemed suitable for growing in the Greater Hamilton region based on the growing factors of soil, water and topography using the current and projected climatic conditions of 2050 in the Southern Grampians Shire.

It found the rich soils in the region offered growers the capacity to further develop production in the area, which can accommodate large and small-scale developments within close proximity to markets and a labour force container. Additionally, an intermodal facility, which has the capacity to handle refrigerated containers, is about to be opened in Hamilton.

In stage 1 the 8 agricultural commodities chosen were categorised into 3 groups: cropping (wheat, canola and flaxseed); pastures (phalaris and perennial ryegrass) and vegetables (brassica oleracea, lettuce and onions).

In Stage 2 a further 16 commodities were modelled, in 3 separate reports

  1. Broadacre crops: barley (autumn sown), red wheat (autumn sown), quinoa (spring and autumn sown), chickpeas (autumn sown), faba beans (autumn sown), mustard seed (autumn sown), sunflower seed (spring sown) and industrial hemp (spring and autumn sown).
  2. Horticulture: fruit: citrus, berries, stone fruit (early), stone fruit (late), pome fruit (early), and pome fruit (late).
  3. Pastures: grasses: perennial ryegrass (winter active), phalaris (winter active) and panic grass (summer active); herbs: plantain (winter active); and legumes: lucerne (summer active).

These commodities represent both currently grown and potential commodity options for the region. To both support population growth and to facilitate and support value adding, diversification and innovation within the agriculture sector.

The methodology for each model was formulated and applied at a regional/level. The biophysical land suitability analysis maps were developed and presented with a spatial resolution of five square kilometres and as such, the maps should not be used to infer current and future conditions below the five square kilometre resolution.

Changing weather patterns in the last 20 years has altered agricultural land use particularly with cropping occurring further south of traditional growing areas. Through this project, an informed understanding of the likely effects of climate change upon agricultural activities was learnt.

The project indicates that the region is well suited to agricultural production, now and into the future. We are ripe for horticultural investment!