Peak Oil, Agriculture and energy Use: A Comparative Analysis of Organic and Non-Organic Dairy Farms in Australia

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Lyons, Kristen

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Burch, David

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2012
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Abstract

The question of fossil fuel depletion represents a significant contemporary agricultural problem. Once humans deplete the resources on which agriculture and food production depends, we will be daunted by the complexities of remaking the agricultural system, and faced with the consequences of our failures in the past. Arguably, no other single factor can affect future food production prospects as much as energy supply. In this context, there are growing debates about the extent to which diverse farming systems – including conventional and organic farming systems – may represent more energy efficient and productive systems. This thesis makes a contribution to this debate, by undertaking a case study of energy use on conventional and organic dairy farms in South-East Queensland. To do this, this thesis undertakes an energy audit of four farms; and in so doing, articulates the energy requirements related to milk production, and a starting point for addressing energy efficiencies and controlling energy use on the farm. This thesis then compares data across the four case studies to identify the effect of different management practices upon energy use and sustainability of individual enterprises. The results presented in this thesis demonstrate that along with concerns regarding diminishing fossil fuel reserves, and the need to re-design energy inefficient agriculture and food systems, rising energy costs have also resulted in a re-evaluation of energy use, leading many farmers to seek alternative – low energy – agricultural practices. Reducing on-farm energy consumption is recognised by many farmers as a vital step in ensuring the long-term viability of their farms. One of the outcomes of these circumstances has been an increased farmer interest in monitoring energy use patterns and quantifying energy use. Knowledge of the patterns of energy flows on the farm will act as important tools for farmers to assess the overall sustainability of their farming activities and lead to improved management practices, conservation of fossil fuels and an increase in profitability.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

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School of Biomolecular and Physical Sciences

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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Subject

Energy use in agriculture

Technology in agriculture

On-farm energy consumption

Dairy industry South-East Queensland

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