ECOS3997 Stream 3
Interdisciplinary Impact in Economics 2021
School of Economics
Photo: Angela Pattison
Dr Shauna Phillips
R549 Social Sciences Building
Dr Abigail taylor
Photo: Tina Bell
Lecture & tutorial times
› Lectures: scheduled Thursdays 4pm 2 hrs
› Remotely delivered and available in Recorded Lectures folder on
CANVAS. Lecture slides available under Modules on CANVAS
› Tutorials: Fridays 12 (weeks 3-7 & weeks 10-12)
– If you chose on campus enrolment: Econometrics Lab 1 & 2. Social Sciences
– If you chose on remote option: tutorials are recorded for remote delivery.
Available in Recorded Lectures folder around 2pm Fridays.
– Solutions will be posted in Modules
– Shauna Phillips: Anytime by appointment- Zoom or email.
– Abigail Taylor: TBA
ECOS3997 Unit schedule
Week Lecture Tutorial/computer lab
1 Introduction and background
2 Interdisciplinary lecture (Dr Angela Pattison –
agricultural scientist/plant breeder & Callum Craigie);
Representative farm Introduction to linear
3 Linear programming: data, activities. Lab 1 Using Solver
4 Linear programming constraints- rotations,
Lab 2 Basic model
5 Balance sheet for indigenous business. Lab 3 Basic model native grasses
6 Final model. Lab 4 Basic model with indigenous business
7 Sensitivity analysis. Lab 5 Putting it all together- final model &
8 Written communication: report brief.
10 Principles of clear communication. Rhetorical situation activity
11 Advanced research techniques. Conducting research activity
12 Assembling a professional product. Media product activity
Broad objectives of the unit
› To introduce students to:
– the basic concepts of applied research;
– framing real-world problems through the lens of economics;
– interacting in an interdisciplinary context;
– communicating economics concepts and ideas to non-economics
– interacting in a team context
› Build on economic theory and mathematical tools to solve
› Provide skills to:
– Understand key concepts
– Construct, interpret and solve dynamic models
› Use case study of native grasses for grains in Narrabri NW
› By the end of this unit a student will be able to demonstrate:
– the ability to apply economic principles to problems in an interdisciplinary
– the ability to apply appropriate quantitative techniques to generate and
interpret results for interdisciplinary research problems;
– an understanding of insights provided by economics as they apply to realworld problems;
– the ability to communicate research in an interdisciplinary context; and
– an understanding of the nature and implications of assumptions and value
judgments involved in interdisciplinary research.
Whilst there is no prescribed textbook these key references which will assist you
throughout the unit of study. They are held in Closed Reserve in Fisher Library:
› Alford A., Griffith. G. and O. Cacho, (2004). A Northern Tablelands Whole-Farm Linear Program for
Economic Evaluation of New Technologies at the Farm-Level, NSW Agriculture. Economic Research
Report No 13.
› Ampt, P. & Pattison, A. (2017). Harvesting Knowledge.
› Debertin, D.L. (1986) Agricultural Production Economics, Macmillian, New York.
› Kaiser, H.M. & Messer, K.D, (2011). Mathematical Programming for Agricultural, Environmental, and
Resource Economics, Wiley, New York
› Pannell, D.J. 1997, Introduction to Linear Programming, Wiley, New York.
› Paris, Q. 1991. An Economic Interpretation of Linear Programming. Ames: Iowa State University Press.
› New readings system in Canvas
– Online reading list management tool
› Unit of Study Reading Lists
› Final report (3000 words) 60% 21 May (week 11)
› Media presentation (1500-word equivalent) 40% 4 June (week 13)
› Note; late penalty will be 2% per day of your final mark for an assignment
› For example, for a Friday due date, if you submit the report the Sunday after the
deadline, you lose 4%.
Written report format (3000 words excluding
› Write a report for the Department of Primary Industries on the economic
feasibility of introducing native grass production to a farming system in
Narrabri. The report will assess whether:
– Production of native grasses is optimal economically
– What is the best technique for production (cool burning? pasture cropping?)
– Can this production be linked to a small local indigenous grass seed business
› Individual assignment – uses quantitative results from models built in
› 60% of final total mark; Online submission
› Suggested format:
– Introduction (background and problem statement, aim)
– Modelling approach and results
Report structure (3000 words is approx. 5-6 pages)
› Intro and background: brief section on background that links into the main
aims of the report. And brief statement on how you will answer the
› Empirical model – briefly present the model (parameters and detail can be
in an appendix). Clearly define the scenarios that are estimated. Tabulate
and interpret the results.
› Discuss the results and make some broad recommendations that follow
directly from the results. Make sure any policy implications arise directly
from the modeling.
› Also present any caveats.
› You will be assessed on your ability to articulate your quantitative analysis
with reference to economic theory and your empirical evidence in the
applied context of native grain production.
› You will be assessed on your written communication – read Dr Godden’s
“Literary Crimes and Other Abominations” posted on Canvas.
› You will not be able to write this the night before submission – good writing
is a skill – takes time and practice. Leave yourself time to re-edit the
document a few times.
› A rubric for this assignment will be posted on Canvas.
Rubric: written report
Assessment Against Criteria Weighting
Clear and coherent exposition of
background to focus issues/management
problem is framed in terms of core
economic concepts and principles. HD D C P F 20
Analysis of empirical results is framed
and justified in terms of core economic
concepts and principles. HD D C P F 40
Writing: appropriate style, free of spelling
and grammatical errors. HD D C P F 30
Quality of references excellent satisfactory unsatisfactory 2.5
Relevance of references excellent satisfactory unsatisfactory 2.5
Correct and consistent referencing
a few minor
major errors or
omitted altogether 2.5
Clear and appropriate formatting of brief
a few minor
major errors or
omitted altogether 2.5
HD=85+; D=75-84; CR= 65-74; P=50-64; F=0-49
› TBA by Dr Abigail Taylor, but will be on topic.
– Podcast? 1,500 word script
– Individual assignment
– 40% of final mark
– Format TBA
What this unit is/is not
› In ECOS3997 we are not doing a thesis.
› ECOS3997 is an exercise in applying economic analysis to an
interdisciplinary problem – view a real problem through the lens of
economics and use concepts/principles to analyse it.
› ECOS3997 is also an exercise in interdisciplinary communication.
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Narrabri – North West region of NSW
› Narrabri lies in the wheat-sheep belt and is a diverse agricultural area
› Mixed farming: crops and livestock
– grazing on improved/modified pastures e.g lucerne (there are non-native grasses)
– cotton, wheat, sorghum, faba beans, barley
› Recent research identified a range of agronomic factors affecting farm productivity:
– increasing resistance to herbicides
– soil-borne pathogens
– declining soil fertility
› Recent drought
– producers need to find more ecologically sustainable
ways of farming.
Figure 1: New England and the North
West Region Source ABARES (2016).
Tindale’s Arc (Tindale 1974)
› Narrabri also lies within the Indigenous grain belt
› Bread made from grass grain was produced in the Indigenous grain belt known as
Tindale’s Arc (Tindale 1974) of which the Gomeroi country is part.
› Growing interest in producing native grass seed for developing and
commercialising Indigenous food for human consumption (Pascoe 2014; Lee &
Courtenay 2016; Vernon 2019).
Map of ‘Tindale’s Arc’
Native grass production in context
› Native grasses are a potential substitute for improved/introduced species
of grass (pasture). However, native grasses are not as productive as
introduced grass species.
› Growing interest in production of native grasses:
– ecological purposes
– productive purposes in farming (Waters et al. 1997; Reseigh et al. 2008;
Hancock et al. 2020).
– native grasses require less fertiliser and are adapted to low rainfall and interest in
natives will intensify as climate change drives transformation of agricultural land.
– native grass production can be viewed as part of regenerative agriculture that
aims to maintain agricultural productivity as well as promote ecosystem
– non-native grasses have been shown to be a threat to biodiversity
– native grasslands have a role in restoring biodiversity (Godfree et al. 2017;
Dorrough et al. 2008).
Potential native grass species
› Mitchell grass (Astrebla spp.)
› Kangaroo grass (Themeda australis)
› QLD bluegrass (Dichanthium sericeum)
› Native millet (Panicum decompositum)
› Warrego grass (Paspalidium jubiflorum)
› Current cost of seed is usually between
$100 and $600 per kg depending on species.
› Seed is generally sown between 5 and 10 kg/ha.
› Multiple species grass mix: food ecosystems.
Potential outputs from native grasses
– Native grass seed for sale to variety of markets (human consumption,
revegetation market (government & mining companies), biodiversity offsets, etc)
– Pasture cropping allows for a crop of faba beans
› Indirect output as providing feed for cattle grazing/fattening
Local Indigenous grass seed business
› Opportunity exists for Indigenous business in grass seed sales to the
revegetation and rehabilitation markets.
› There is consequently great potential for programs to promote Indigenous
involvement and related literature suggests the need for economic viability
is a key consideration (Gorman et al. 2020).
› On-farm native grass production can be connected to local Indigenous
native grass enterprises
Farm adoption of new varieties
› Farming is inherently risky
› Research and extension required to determine and demonstrate that
native grass production can be profitable
› Farmers seek information from a variety of formal & informal channels
› Farmers need to know:
– Is it profitable?
– What is the best way to produce (economically and in terms of the biological processes)?-
that is what is the best management technique or option?
› Range of management options for native grass:
– cool burning
– pasture cropping
Potential production techniques of native grasses
› On farm native grass production allows multiple outputs (vertical stacking): pasture
cropping, cattle production, native grass seeds, increased biodiversity, improved
soil structure and carbon storage.
Techniques: cool burning
› Cool burning is an Indigenous practice to manage the biomass
Cool burning is expected
to generate a slightly
Cool burning takes place
over 2 days in June.
No fertiliser, herbicide or
Mix of species: Mitchell
grass, Queensland Blue
Grass, Kangaroo Grass
› Pasture cropping involves sowing a winter crop into summer growing
native perennial grass.
› Pasture is not grazed.
› Faba beans are cropped.
› Grass seed crop is harvested during the
Feb- April period.
› No fertiliser, herbicide or pesticide.
Pasture cropping in Australia (Source: ABS Cat No 4627.0, 2017)
Location Estimated area
% total area
No. of farms
NSW 56,923 1 694
VIC 53,720 2 589
QLD 11,958 0.5 139
SA 62,187 2 234
WA 18,235 0.2 116
TAS 1,479 1 62
NT 227 1 3
Total 205,000 1 1837
› Monoculture operations:
– Grow only 1 species of grass eg. Mitchell Grass
– Production techniques same as for improved pastures ( use ground preparation,
fertiliser, herbicides etc).
– The pasture is crash grazed after the seed is harvested
– Higher seed yield due to intensive management practices.
› Production technique similar to those of sorghum production (Drew
Penberthy, Narrabri agronomist)
Production is on
nonarable land and
grazed by beef cattle.
Grass growth is
minimal over Winter,
at a maximum in the
Mix of species:
Potential marketing opportunities for native grass
a. Unthreshed seed sale GM: $45/kg- sold to the revegetation/rehabilitation market
b. Threshed seed sale $7/kg – threshed seed sold for human consumption.
c. Harvest of native seed by local indigenous business GM $10/kg
Paddock to plate
Concept of a representative farm.
› Representative farm model will be built in Excel to explore the potential for
native grass production.
› Use solver in Excel to find optimal farm plan (one that maximises farm
› Linear programming model.
› Essentially farm producer aims to maximise total gross margin (“profit”)
subject to limited farm resources (land, labour, capital etc) by choosing a
production activity mix (crops and livestock production).
› Relationship to basic microeconomics – production possibilities frontier.
Representative farm concept
› Model the decision of a producer on a representative farm for the Narrabri
› Assume they maximise profit (this can be changed).
› Characterise a farm in terms of typical :
– Production mix choices
– Soil types
– Labour availability
– Land topography
› Linear programming (LP) is a well-established framework for
evaluating the possibility of new activities in a whole-farm context.
› The approach allows for the determination of an optimal mix of
farm activities to maximise total farm gross margins for a given set
of farm resources on a representative farm.
› LP can be used to model the choice of production of native grasses
by different methods, and can also allow for different
marketing/sales alternative of the seed (e.g. unthreshed seed for
the revegetation market versus threshed seed for human
› The general LP framework can be extended to incorporate the
potential for framers to generate carbon credits for soil organic
carbon and biodiversity credits.
LP model structure
› We will slowly build this model in the tutorials / labs
› Develop an understanding of how the model works
› Develop expertise in constructing, solving, interpreting & reporting.
› Sensitivity analysis.
ABARES (2016). Land use in Australia.
Dorrough, J., Stol, J., & McIntyre, S. (2008). Biodiversity in the paddock: a land managers guide. Future Farm
Godfree, R., Firn, J. Johnson, S. Knerr, N., Stol, J. & Doerr, V. (2017). Why non-native grasses pose a critical
emerging threat to biodiversity conservation, habitat connectivity and agricultural production in multifunctional rural
landscapes. Land Ecology, 32, 1219-1242
Gorman, J.T., Bentivoglio, M., Brady, C., Wurm, P., Vemuri, S. & and Sultanbawa, Y. (2020). Complexities in
developing Australian Aboriginal enterprises based on natural resources. The Rangeland Journal, 42 (2), 113-128
Hancock, N., Gibson-Roy, P., Driver, M. & Broadhurst, L. (2020). The Australian Native Seed Sector Survey Report. Australian
Network for Plant Conservation, Canberra
Lee, L.S., & Courtenay, K. (2016). Enrichment plantings as a means of enhanced bush food and bush medicine plant
production in remote arid regions – a review and status report. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in
Social Contexts [Special Issue: Synthesis & Integration], 19, 64-75.
Pascoe, B. (2014). Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture. Magabala Books.
Reseigh, J., Brown, W., Laslett, T., Foster, P., Myers, R.J., & Carter, M. (2008). Native Grass Strategy for South
Australia 1: Broadacre Adoption and Seed Production of Native Perennial Grasses in Agriculture, Rural Solutions
Tindale, N.B. (1974). Aboriginal tribes of Australia – their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits, and
Vernon, C. (2019). In conversation with Bruce Pascoe. Greater Sydney Landcare Organisation.
Waters, C. M., Loch, D.S. & Johnston, P.W. (1997). The role of native grasses and legumes for land revegetation in central and
eastern Australia with particular reference to low rainfall areas, Tropical Grasslands 31, 304-310.
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