The Indigenous Aboriginal tribes of Australia were mainly hunters and gatherers and did not practice farming. After European settlement began in Australia, the farms usually developed around the settlements in the early periods. The land grants were first started in the year 1787 following the instructions from the Queen of England to prisoners who were freed. Thereafter grants were also made to free migrants and mariners. The total grant was not supposed to exceed 100 acres but this rule was not always strictly followed.
The setting up of the railway line in the 1850ís was a major booster to the agricultural produce as more and more farmers could now sell their produce in the urban markets. With the help of railways, the farm products could be transported at a much higher speed than in previous days. More and more areas came under agricultural production with the passage of time. The first significant agricultural industry in the region was the wool industry. The greatest hindrance to the Australian farmers was and has been water scarcity and droughts.
During the 1900ís wool along with wheat dominated the agricultural scenario as productions rose. In the initial days, most of the crops were produced in the eastern states but then Western Australia became the leader in grain production by the year 1905. By the beginning of the 20th century, agricultural production in Australia had grown by leaps and bounds and was exceeding the local demands. As a result of this, Australia became a major producer of agricultural products. Despite the two World Wars and the Great Economic Depression, Australian agriculture had managed to flourish during the first half of the 20th century.
The agricultural sector has witnessed a downfall in the latter half of the 20th century with just 3% of the total population being engaged in farming. At present, about 370,000 people are engaged in farming in Australia. Although agricultural sector has witnessed a decline from its position in the 1970ís, it still contributes a lot to the Australian economy. There has been an increase of 7.1% in the primary agricultural products from the year 2001. In 2005 even, Australia was one of the largest exporter of beef and wool in the whole world and the third largest of wine and wheat.
The greatest problems faced by the farmers of Australia are droughts and water scarcity. Australian rivers have an extremely irregular pattern of flowing as they pass through cities, forests and mountains and wetlands. Many rivers are now regulated by dams and dykes. Moreover, most parts of Australia are covered by deserts and it is the driest continent on earth. Droughts are also very common in Australia as rainfall is very unevenly distributed in the entire continent. Soil erosion and salinity are other challenges faced by the farmers. Pests and rabbits are also a headache for Australian farmers.
Despite all these challenges, Australian people are still proud of their agricultural tradition. While technological advancements have brought rapid changes in agriculture produce, some of the ancient tools and techniques are still followed by the Australian farmers. Agriculture was and still remains to be the heart of Australian economy.